NEWS
12/13/2017 13:29 EST | Updated 12/13/2017 15:41 EST

Licence plate fight between Alberta and Saskatchewan heats up

EDMONTON — The licence plate war between Saskatchewan and Alberta is escalating.

Alberta Economic Development Minister Deron Bilous says Saskatchewan had originally said the ban would be on future government projects, but is now applying it to current ones.

"They've retroactively changed their open tenders," Bilous said  Wednesday at the legislature. "No Alberta plates will be allowed on any Saskatchewan work sites."

Bilous also said if the ban is still in place Thursday, Alberta will file the paperwork to try to get it overturned by adjudicators as a violation of interprovincial free trade rules.

He suggested new retaliatory measures are coming and he would speak more to that on Thursday.

Doug Wakabayashi, spokesman for Saskatchewan Highways and Infrastructure, said a ban remains in place for future projects after the cutoff date, which was Monday.

"We had some open tenders that we published addendums to (to include the licence plate ban)," said Wakabayashi in an interview.

"The policy (still) only applies to new contracts."

Bilous says he spoke earlier this week with Saskatchewan Infrastructure Minister David Marit and Trade Minister Steven Bonk, but said they could not provide a credible rationale for the ban.

"They were all over the map as far as the reasons behind doing this, citing Alberta not having a PST," said Bilous.

"They listed a couple of other examples, but weren't able to provide any concrete examples of Alberta contractors or Alberta tenders forcing Saskatchewan contractors to change their plates."

Premier Brad Wall's government has given multiple reasons for implementing the ban.

Marit initially said the reason was because Alberta had similar rules for Saskatchewan workers. Bilous said those rules don't exist and Saskatchewan has not provided proof to the contrary.

Marit also said it was because Alberta doesn't have a provincial sales tax, and that making Alberta workers buy Saskatchewan plates puts workers in both provinces on a level playing field.

Wall himself suggested it was payback after Alberta changed rules on craft beer taxes to help its own industry and lobbied against open borders on procurement.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley has said Wall is trying to deflect attention from an economy that is faltering under his economic policies.

Service Alberta, the department that handles licences, says a non-resident needs to register a vehicle if it is in Alberta for six months or more. However, commercial vehicles and semis and trucks are not included in the requirement.