Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s right-hand man made his first speech in Calgary since last week’s arrest of Alberta Premier Rachel Notley’s son for alleged drug trafficking, touting the Alberta economy as bright “if not the brightest” in the country.
“Alberta is back and Calgary is the hub of that,” Jason Kenney, who won the Progressive Conservative leadership in May, told the Calgary Chamber of Commerce on Friday.
“Come 2019, and on the day that we’re all relieved that this disastrous caper of a government is out of power, and this group of over-taxed, over-unionized, under-representing socialists are in power,” he said.
Last week, Notley’s son was arrested on drug trafficking charges. His wife and five of their seven children had been at a remote property the previous weekend to hunt for elk.
Kenney said he believed those accusations to be politically motivated, and suggested the charges are likely to go against the Notley family.
“The reality is, there are more Wildrose MLAs here in Calgary than in any other province of Canada,” he said. “I hope Rachel Notley is here with me.”
Notley’s chief of staff, Brian Topp, described the prosecution as an anomaly when asked about Kenney’s charge.
“I’m just focused on getting the justice system back on its footing,” he said.
Kenney and the Conservatives formed a loose alliance after Monday’s election win, which gave the Tories their first majority government in 80 years.
Kenney said he planned to begin focusing on unification discussions as early as next week.
“You know we have agreements on issues like resource revenue sharing, and we really need a united team to effect change in Alberta,” he said.
The Conservatives have long touted their success in enacting a major pipeline expansion between Alberta and British Columbia, the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion.
The expansion is stalled in the B.C. legislature, but Kenney hopes the defeat of Notley’s government will help push through the expansion.
“It’s an exciting time in Alberta,” he said. “And I’m thrilled to be a part of it.”
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the main business lobby in Washington, praised Notley for introducing a gas-gulping carbon tax to fight climate change, while the Canadian Chamber of Commerce said the carbon tax was a “stain” on Alberta’s economy.
Kenney also hit at the Trudeau government on a number of fronts during his speech to the Calgary Chamber, arguing Canada needed to address NAFTA’s uncertainty, and defend free trade in order to compete with President Trump’s administration.
“The truth is we didn’t get here on a Canadian ‘long weekend,’ but the Trump administration,” he said. “We need to be aggressive at home and we need to be aggressive on the global stage.”