EDMONTON -- Alberta's official opposition leader Rachel Notley is calling for an independent review of the Jason Kenney government's failed Keystone XL deal.

The Alberta NDP leader declared her intentions during a news conference on Thursday afternoon.

"Jason Kenney's incompetence has cost Alberta taxpayers $1.3 billion, at least," said Notley. "He made an incredibly reckless gamble with Albertans money and he lost it."  

Notley's remarks come a day after Alberta's UCP government and energy infrastructure builder TC Energy officially terminated the Keystone XL pipeline deal.

The Keystone XL pipeline would have delivered oil from Hardisty, Alta., to Nebraska. 

Wednesday's announcement of the dead deal was the final nail in the coffin for a project Notley said had a high likelihood of failure before the deal was even made.

"Joe Biden's position on KXL was well known by everyone," she said, "and it was always a strong possibility that he would win the election."

In March of last year, Alberta committed $7.5 billion to Keystone XL, a $1.5 billion investment and $6 billion in backstop loans.

On Thursday, Notley blamed Kenney's desire for a "photo op" for motivating the Alberta premier to make the deal.

"Now that the government has reached an exit agreement with TC Energy, the time has come for an independent investigation of this disaster," she said. 

The Alberta opposition leader said she expects an answer from the Ministry of Energy and the Auditor General when they appear before the Public Accounts Committee on Tuesday.

"We remain deeply concerned that the Kenney government went forward with this deal without hiring an outside organization to do a full and independent assessment," said Notley. 

RACHEL NOTLEY

"We want to know how and why this happened," she added. "His refusal to release the deal simply compounds the pattern of secrecy, dishonesty and incompetence that we have seen from this government." 

A Government of Alberta news release sent out on Wednesday stated that the province and TC Energy will "continue to explore all options to recoup the government's investment in the project."

Until that happens, Alberta taxpayers will be out roughly $1.3 billion, or $300 per Albertan.

'WE MADE A STRATEGIC DECISION'

Premier Jason Kenney was asked about Notley's claims after Thursday afternoon's COVID-19 update.

"The real reason the NDP opposed our investment to get Keystone XL built is because they've always opposed Keystone XL," said Kenney.

"We made a strategic decision to invest in the project, to keep it alive, so it could move forward."

The Alberta premier also reiterated his intent to pursue legal action to recoup the province's losses.

"We are confident that we'll be able to reclaim our investment or to get damages out of the legal process. That has always been part of our contingency when we entered into this, eyes wide open."

A CTV News Edmonton request to speak to Alberta Minister of Energy Sonya Savage on Thursday was turned down. 

TC ENERGY'S EXIT STRATEGY

In a written response to CTV News Edmonton, TC Energy said its "first priority is to make sure we wind down construction activities safely and with care for the environment. 

"We will continue to coordinate with regulators, stakeholders and rights-holders as we progress cleanup and reclamation work to safely exit the Project."

The company added that over the coming months it will evaluate long-term plans and "identify opportunities to recover capital."

"We have not made any decisions regarding options for investment recovery," the statement read in part.

TC Energy had built 150 kilometres of the pipeline in Alberta, before the cancellation.

'YOU CAN'T FIGHT THE U.S. GOVERNMENT'

The CEO of a Calgary-based energy-consulting firm, Duane Reid-Carlson, told CTV News Edmonton the official Keystone XL pipeline cancellation is not just a blow to that project alone.

"What worries me more," the EDC Associated Ltd. CEO said, "is the ability for the oil and gas industries in Alberta to continue to expand with these kinds of headwinds."

"(It) really kind of spells doom and gloom for the economic prosperity and growth of Alberta," he added. "We can't get our products to market. You can't fight the U.S. government." 

'THERE WERE NO SURPRISES HERE'

According to Mount Royal University political science professor Keith Brownsey, the recently renegotiated trade deal between Canada, Mexico and the U.S. no longer allows for any legal recourse for Canada over its southern neighbours.

"It was removed in those recent negotiations from our free trade arrangement," Brownsey told CTV News Edmonton of the United States-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement. "We can't really sue."

Brownsey said that by making the Keystone XL deal, the UCP government put themselves in a "very difficult position."

"I like to joke that my local financial advisor down at the strip mall would have chased me away from the Keystone XL investment," he said. "Yet the province decides to invest $1.3 billion in a project that they understood was under very strict scrutiny and could be cancelled almost at any time."

"There were no surprises here," Brownsey added, "except apparently for the UCP."

Brownsey believes the public money lost in the Keystone XL pipeline that never was will lead to public sector layoffs that could help pave the way for an Alberta NDP win in the 2023 provincial election.

"All the New Democrats are going to have to do in the 2023 campaign is remind voters," he said. "The beginning of January, 2023 the NDP can come along and say, 'They can't govern,' and it will all fall into place." 

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Dan Grummett