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.

Jason Kenney
Jason Kenney rallied participants in the Manning Networking Conference in Ottawa on Feb. 10, 2018. Photo by Alex Tétrault

"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."

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“That engine of our prosperity is under massive attack."
And rightly so. Decades of violating landowners, the environment, and "demonize conservation groups", does not give the industry the right of any respect until they put their house in order.

The supposed revamping announced a few days ago of the CEAA (Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency) and the NEB (National Energy Board) into the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada (IAAC) and the CER (Canadian Energy Regulator) respectively, will not work if the same cozy relationship exists between industry and the regulator.

Perpetuation of the industry favourable and environment damaging mindset will occur if staffing of the regulator and the perspective of the impact agency remains status quo.

For once, I wish that Jason Kenny was right. Getting out of fossil fuels is the only way to avoid the disastrous effects of climate change. We not only have to attack the fossil fuel industry, we also have to make drastic changes to the way we consume. The oil industry is very happy to provide us with their products as long as we encourage them to do so (e.g. in the last few years, the number of pickup trucks and large SUVs has gone up significantly, pushing up CO2 emissions from the transportation sector in Canada). The real massive attack on the industry will only come when people decide to change. Unfortunately, our representatives at different level of government are not helping. Shame on you Jason.

All people need to come on board and realize how we are molded and manipulated to buy what we buy and accept what we accept as the only way of doing things, so I would say shame on us. Should the Kenny gang be the next government in Alberta, I expect that they will be responsible for turning more people off with their last century rhetoric and tactics.