Alberta promised a court fight and mocked Saskatchewan’s lagging economy following a move by its neighbour to the east to ban Alberta licence plates on future job sites.
“(Saskatchewan Premier) Brad Wall needs to smarten up, and he has one week to kill this ridiculous restriction, or we’re going to be taking him to court,” Alberta Economic Development Minister Deron Bilous said Wednesday.
Bilous said Saskatchewan’s move violates interprovincial free trade rules.
“Brad Wall is absolutely desperate,” Bilous said.
“We know our economy is growing by four per cent. Their economy is in the dumps, so he’s grasping at straws.”
LISTEN: Economic Development Minister Deron Bilous on the Ryan Jespersen Show on 630 CHED
Earlier Wednesday, Saskatchewan Infrastructure Minister David Marit announced that vehicles with Alberta licence plates will no longer be allowed on future government highway and building project sites. Existing projects will not be affected.
The ban includes contractors, sub-contractors, consultants and workers. Ministry staff will enforce the provision through job-site monitoring.
Marit said the ban is in response to reports from Saskatchewan workers who say they face similar restrictions in Alberta.
“Saskatchewan operators feel forced to register their vehicles in Alberta if they want to do business there,” said Marit.
“Today’s announcement just levels the playing field.”
READ MORE: Alberta plates no longer allowed on Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure job sites
Bilous said there are no such restrictions in Alberta on out-of province workers or licence plates.
Alberta officials said there were no prior discussions or advance warning of the change from Saskatchewan.
The Saskatchewan Heavy Construction Association lauded the move.
“Saskatchewan heavy construction contractors have been one of the largest employers in the province in good years and in bad,” association president Shantel Lipp said in a release.
“As local construction companies obtain a larger share of the Saskatchewan construction marketplace, they develop the people, equipment and capacity to maximize their economies of scale.”
LISTEN: Alberta Roadbuilders CEO Ron Glen talks to Danielle Smith about the job site license plate tussle
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The Alberta Roadbuilders & Heavy Construction Association said it hoped the issue can be worked out before the next construction season begins.
“It’s our understanding that there are already rules in place to require vehicles that are being used on a site to be re-registered after 30 days,” the group said in a news release.
“We are not aware of any complaints. The new Saskatchewan policy could be problematic for industry because it would force vehicles to be re-registered and require insurance changes for even short site visits or work.”
Watch below: Economic Development Minister Deron Bilous said Alberta absolutely does not have any policy or restriction on Saskatchewan workers that mandates them to have Alberta licence plates.
The Alberta Construction Association also weighed in. Executive director Ken Gibson said the group opposes any policy that discriminates against one province’s workers.
“It will add costs and it will tilt the competitive playing field, so it’s not level,” he said.
The association represents 240,000 construction workers at 3,200 Alberta construction firms. Gibson said they believe in free trade and support the rules of the New West Partnership.
“The only thing that should decide which licence plate is on a job site is fair, open, transparent and competitive bidding.”
The plate feud is the latest cross-boundary sniping between Wall’s right-of-centre government and Premier Rachel Notley’s left-leaning NDP.
Wall’s government has previously complained about new rules to assist Alberta’s craft brewers that Saskatchewan calls unfair to out-of-province beer producers.