EDMONTON – 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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.