In the wake of Teck Resources cancelling a massive oilsands project, Alberta plans to directly invest in energy projects and put into law stiffer penalties for protesters like those that have setup rail blockades across the country in recent weeks.

On the heels of a surprise move that saw an application for a $20.6-billion oilsands project pulled at the last minute, Premier Jason Kenney announced he’ll table a bill on Tuesday to create “stiff penalties” for anyone who “riots on or seeks to impair” significant infrastructure in Alberta, including railways. It will be Bill 1, the Critical Infrastructure Defence Act.

Kenney put the blame for the cancellation at the feet of rail blockade protesters across the country who have been choking transportation for nearly three weeks, as well as the federal government for not acting quick enough during the regulatory process for the project.

Teck Resources Ltd. publicly announced over the weekend it would be ending its application for the Frontier project in northern Alberta, which was days away from a federal decision on whether or not to approve it.

On Monday, Kenney said “there is absolutely no doubt” that the blame for the decision lies with the federal government and called for action from Ottawa to restore investor confidence in the province.

Kenney blamed the railway blockades that have choked the transportation of goods and passengers over the past couple of weeks as protesters mobilized across the country to oppose the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline in northern B.C., standing in solidarity with some hereditary chiefs from the Wet’suwet’en First Nation.

“This should have been a straightforward and automatic approval,” he said of the project slated to provide billions in revenue for Alberta, along with thousands of jobs.

But Kenney, who had high political hopes for the now abandoned project, also said his government was prepared “to invest directly and support companies and Indigenous groups, when necessary, to assure the future of responsible resource development, and we rule nothing out in that regard.”

When asked if that included picking up the Teck Frontier project, Kenney didn’t rule it out.

The Teck project mine was expected to create around 7,000 jobs during construction, and 2,500 in the following 41-year lifespan.

Kenney said Sunday’s news was part of a pattern of cancelled energy projects and said he’s aware of a “mass of uncertainty” from investors interested in Alberta.

The news came just hours after the Alberta government announced it had signed agreements with the Mikisew Cree and Athabasca Chipewyan First Nations regarding the project.

In a press release, Kenney tied the announcement to issues of national unity, in part blaming the federal government’s “indecision” on the project to Teck’s move. Kenney said he would look to create “greater control and autonomy for Alberta” moving forward.

 

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