The war of words over the construction of the Northern Gateway Pipeline has broken out betweenPremier Christy Clark and Alberta's Premier Alison Redford.
The pipeline, which is to carry Alberta crude from Hardesty, Alberta and Kitimat, British Columbia is extremely controversial among environmental and native groups.
After making an unannounced visit to Premier Redford's office, Christy Clark's government announced five requirements before supporting the pipeline:
1. Completing the environmental review process with a recommendation by the National Energy Board that the project proceed.
2. Deploying world leading marine oil spill response for the delicate BC coast line
3. Using world leading land spill response and prevention.
4. Addressing legal requirements of Aboriginal and treaty rights.
5. Ensuring that BC receives a fair share of the fiscal and economic benefits. At present B.C. only gets eight percent of the pipeline revenue.
Alison Redford said Alberta will hold firm and not share revenues and sees nothing else proposed.
“We will not share royalties, and I see nothing else proposed and would not be prepared to consider anything else. From my perspective, I’m not going to sit back and wait for the conversation to continue to be defined without ensuring that Albertans and Canadians understand what Alberta’s position is, and that is we will continue to protect the jurisdiction we have over our energy resources.”
Christy Clark escalated the war of words and said that the pipeline would die if Alberta is not prepared to sit down and negotiate.
“If Alberta doesn’t decide they want to sit down and engage, the project stops. It’s as simple as that. So the ball is in Alberta’s court today to decide whether or not they want to sit down,” Clark said.
BC is looking for a fair share of economic benefits, while reducing environmental risks both through a land and marine based world class spill response network.
For Redford this is an issue that changes the terms of Confederation, which gives each province jurisdiction over natural resources and the right to retain revenue from their sale. She said that Alberta was not prepared to cede any of its royalty income.
Clark on her part considers Redford's remarks silly, stating that it was unreasonable for Redord to suggest that she was trying to destroy Confederation.
“I think it’s a little unreasonable to suggest that I’m trying to destroy Confederation. I’m only trying to get B.C.’s fair share out of this project and make sure we’re protecting our environment. It’s as simple as that. B.C. is taking on significant risk from the pipeline and expects to receive a commensurate benefit.
It doesn’t have to be some massive project to reopen the Constitution, for heaven’s sake. That’s just silly.
We need to sit down as provinces, and with the federal government, and have a discussion and a negotiation about how B.C. is going to get its fair share. It doesn’t mean some rebalancing of the country, for goodness sake.”
Clark made an unannounced vist to the Alberta capital last Thursday, where she said she briefed Redford on B.C.'s demands. The two Premiers have not spoken since.
Clarke said she also discussed the issue with Prime Minister, who was considerably more receptive to the issue.
Canada's Premiers and territorial leaders meet in Halifax, Nova Scotia today, where the pipeline issue will be front and centre.
How this will turn out in the end is a matter of speculation. Clark said that B.C. has to issue approximately 60 permits to give the go ahead for the project.
While pipelines are considered the safest mode of transport to the west coast, there are other options, such as trains. This would make it less efficient and cost effective, while still involving the risk of tanker traffic on the west coast.
In the end, a compromise will probably be negotiated involving B.C., Alberta and the federal government.
Normally battles exist between western premiers and those from the east. This is new, where west is pitted against west. Mighty neighbourly, isn't it?