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Alberta United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney closed out the weekend's Manning Networking Conference in Ottawa by suggesting the oil industry is "under massive attack."
The opposition leader, who was a member of Stephen Harper's cabinet and a keynote speaker at the national gathering of conservatives, argued the industry is under fire from a federal government aiming to change how it oversees development, British Columbia's provincial NDP government, and well-funded environmental organizations.
"For much of the past 25 years (the oil and gas industry) has been, year after year, the largest creator of not just jobs, but high-paying jobs of any industry in the country," Kenney said.
“That engine of our prosperity is under massive attack."
Kenney's comments came days after the Trudeau government announced it plans to overhaul the National Energy Board and the Environmental Assessment Agency. New oversight of energy projects is expected to better account for environmental, social, health, Indigenous, economic and gender concerns.
Kenney said he believes the new policy "will make it impossible to get approval for a major pipeline in this country ever in the future.”
While in the Harper government, Kenney was part of a cabinet that introduced dramatic changes to reduce federal oversight of industry, while launching stinging political attacks that attempted to demonize conservation groups. The era provoked a climate that led to widespread public opposition to major industrial projects, stalling the expansion of pipelines needed by the oilpatch.
"It is time for us to demonstrate respect"
In a speech that seemed to be aimed at rallying the troops, Kenney also mentioned Alberta's NDP Premier Rachel Notley. When someone in the crowd booed, he paused, and pointed out the "danger of negative populism."
"One of the reasons we lost the last election federally is because we made it too easy to depict us as the nasty party," Kenney cautioned. "It is time for us to demonstrate respect, to be happy warriors."