Rachel Notley estimated the TransMountain pipeline project will receive federal approval in May, and declared shovels will be in the ground this fall.

“The fact of the matter is this — we’ve done our homework, we’ve been pushing,” Notley told reporters at the Alberta Pipe Trades College. “I feel confident that it’s going to happen.”

But the campaign event in the city’s northwest didn’t tout any new information about the project. Instead Notley’s projection is based on the timeline laid out by Ottawa.

The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion was a pillar issue for her government, and as expected it has been a focus of her election campaign. Notley has told audiences across Alberta the pipeline has been the “fight of my life.”

The stalled project was hindered by two issues when a Federal Court of Appeal quashed its approval last August.

The National Energy Board (NEB) was given 22 weeks to redo an environmental review in order to take into account the impact of additional oil tanker traffic off the coast of B.C. Second, pipeline approval depended on doing proper consultations with Indigenous groups — a process that didn’t have a firm deadline.

In February, the NEB added 16 new recommendations for federal government action in addition to the conditions laid out for the project’s initial approval in 2016. Then in March, federal Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi said Indigenous consultations were progressing well and he expected the process to wrap up by May.

The moves suggested the pipeline is getting back on track, though no significant developments are expected before Albertans head to the polls April 16.

“I’m willing to bet my political future on it,” Notley said. “Albertans need to have faith that we will get this done.”

Ottawa made a $4.5-billion investment to purchase the existing Trans Mountain pipeline. The expansion, which would twin 980 kilometres of pipe, is pegged at an additional $7.4 billion. 

It would boost capacity to 890,000 barrels per day from 300,000 barrels per day in the line to carry diluted bitumen from Strathcona County, just outside of Edmonton, to Burnaby, B.C.

Turning off the taps to B.C.

Kenney reiterated Monday that if elected, a United Conservative government would consider using legislation to turn off the taps to B.C.

The first action of his cabinet would be to bring an NDP law into force, he said.

Notley’s government passed legislation last May that gave the energy minister licensing authority over exporting crude oil, natural gas and refined fuels. The bill, which was given royal assent, gives Alberta the power to throttle its exports to B.C.

Bill 12 — the Preserving Canada’s Economic Prosperity Act — included a sunset clause to restrict the energy minister’s powers to two years.

The NDP had introduced the bill in response to B.C. Premier John Horgan’s promise to use every tool possible to block the pipeline, citing environmental concerns.

Kenney said Monday the NDP bill was a “bad act of political theatre.

“They never intended to use it,” he told reporters in Medicine Hat. “We’ll turn it into a real law.

“This is a very strong point of leverage.”

He also slammed Notley’s claim that the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion would be approved in May.

“I don’t know if the premier has a crystal ball, I hope she’s right,” Kenney said. “The NDP told us there would be shovels in the ground … last fall. We’re now into April.”

Notley fired back at the UCP plan to enact Bill 12.

“We have always said we would use Bill 12 if B.C.’s actions were causing the delay, but that’s not what’s happening right now,” she said in a statement. “Enacting Bill 12 now would be like blowing the weapon up on the launchpad.

“Once again Jason Kenney has shown that playing politics is more important than just getting the job done.”

In 1980, the Alberta government under Peter Lougheed enacted legislation to restrict Alberta’s oil exports to Ontario by 15 per cent in a retaliatory move against the National Energy Program. It resulted in the federal government’s renegotiation of the program.

In her campaign speeches, Notley often refers to Lougheed and argues her re-elected government would do what is necessary to get Alberta the best value for its resources.

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