EDMONTON — Opposition Leader Jason Kenney says if he wins the spring election, he will try to cancel Alberta's $3.7-billion deal with Canada's two largest railways to ship more oil by rail.
"This (deal) is a catastrophic mistake by the NDP," Kenney told a news conference Wednesday, one day after Premier Rachel Notley announced the province will lease 4,400 railcars to get more oil to foreign markets while the government works to increase pipeline capacity.
Notley called the United Conservative leader's plan irresponsible and arrogant.
Kenney said he will be contacting Canadian National Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway to urge them not to invest too much in the agreement given that it could be shelved if his United Conservatives win the vote.
An election can be called any time now and by law must be concluded no later than the last day of May.
"If elected, a United Conservative government will do everything within our power to cancel the NDP's reckless $4-billion expenditure of borrowed tax dollars to interfere in the market," said Kenney.
He suggested that oil companies would ship more oil by rail if it were profitable and called the NDP's plan "corporate welfare."
Kenney also said Alberta can't afford the deal right now, given its multibillion-dollar deficits and a debt projected to reach $96 billion by 2024.
Notley, who was in Grande Prairie, Alta., for a methanol plant announcement, responded via a video on social media in which she accused Kenney of being an opportunistic flip-flopper.
"A few weeks ago, he supported our government's plan to move more crude by rail. But today, now, he's suggesting he's going to call up CP and CN and somehow try to scuttle the deal," she said.
"I have to say I am shocked by how irresponsible of him this is. And I honestly expected more from someone putting forth their name to lead the province."
Notley has said the rail plan will net $2.2 billion for taxpayers, because the increased traffic is expected to boost commercial, royalty, and tax revenue by $5.9 billion.
"It is a sensible, practical and profitable plan that is part of our job to stand up for Albertans," the premier said in the video. "I am surprised that Mr. Kenney would choose to score political points over standing up for Albertans.
"I'm also surprised that he has demonstrated such an unprecedented level of arrogance. Let me say this: whoever earns the privilege of leading this province in the future will do so after the votes are counted, not before."
Extra oil shipments by rail are to begin this summer and increase to an estimated 120,000 barrels per day by 2020.
Of the 4,440 cars, more than three-quarters are to be new and the rest retrofitted.
The province initially believed it would need 7,000 cars, but says it was able to lower that number because it found better routes to market.
Notley said shipments of grain should not be disrupted by increased oil traffic on rail lines.
Kenney has said a United Conservative government would review all contracts signed by the NDP since Feb. 1 to make sure they are good for Albertans.
Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press