There has been a heated spat between British Columbia Premier Christie Clark and Alberta's Premier Alison Redford. The dispute started when Christie Clark paid a call on Redford to outline her conditions for the Northern Gateway pipeline, before going public.
Christie went public this week, prior to the Premier's Summit in Lunenburg, NS with her conditions:
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.
While most of the demands appear reasonable, the fifth point is a point of contention, which Redford feels to be a change in the terms of confederation for the free movement of goods and services across provinicial borders.
Without naming what a fair share of fiscal and economic benefits would be, Clark insists if BC does not get its fair share, there will be "no pipeline." The pipeline is critical for moving Alberta crude oil to Asian markets.
After rejection of the XL Keystone pipeline by the Obama Administration, this has become a high priority for both the Federal and Alberta government.
As part of the Premier's Summit, a National Energy Strategy was on the agenda. This is when Clark really dug in her heels, walked out of the meeting, stating that there will be no National Energy Strategy discussed by BC until the five demands are met. She called for a meeting between the two Premiers and the Prime Minister. Redford on her part said that revenue sharing is not up for discussion as far as Alberta is concerned.
Another strategy discussed earlier this year was the reversal of a portion of Enbridge's No. 9 Line, which would deliver Alberta crude to Eastern markets for refining and assure more supply of domestic oil.
Enbridge applied for reversal of the 194 km line and the National Energy board has approved the request with some condtions.
Labour Minister Lisa Raitt welcomed the boards decision releasing a written statement:
"Energy is a matter of national importance and our government welcomes efforts to better utilize our immense energy assets for the benefit of all Canadians," the former natural resources minister said in a written statement Friday.
"Energy is key to supporting the standard of living and quality of life for all Canadians. Over the past five years, the oil and gas industry has contributed an average of $22 billion a year to government revenues ... to help pay for everything, from education and health care to roads and bridges," added Raitt. CBC
Christie Clark's Demands are a Non-Starter
Christie Clark's demands, for the most part, are already met with the ongoing Review Board that is examining the viability and risks involved with the construction of the pipeline. At the moment BC is projected to receive $6.7-billion in additional tax revenue from the pipeline. So the question now is what is a fair share? BC will have no costs should a spill occur. That would be a combined responsibility of the Federal government and Enbridge.
Presently land owners receive compensation for pipelines crossing their land for loss of use. Most of that compensation is negotiated between pipeline companies and the land owners. In addition there would be tax revenue from additional jobs created, both along the length of the pipeline and at the port at Kitimat, BC.
Native groups will be compensated for the portion of the pipeline that passes through their land.
While Clark's demands may be popular in BC, it has to be a non-starter in the interests of Alberta and Canada. As Premier Brad Wall of Saskatchewan points out, this is a thin edge of a very big wedge. He contends:
“This is the thin edge of a very big wedge … You can’t just say look we only want to do this in the case of bitumen. What about the rail transport of other minerals? Or perhaps … potentially dangerous chemicals that are manufactured in other parts of Canada and shipped across?” National Post
For Alison Redford, giving in to the demands of Clark would be political suicide in Alberta. Albertans remember the National Energy Program (NEP) introduced by the Prime Minister Trudeau. Anything that smells of the NEP would be seen of robbing Alberta of its resources.
While Christie Clark maintains this applies to this pipeline only, it it would be a dangerous precedent, as Brad Wall pointed out. It would open the flood gates for transport of any hazardous materials across provincial borders.
While the two Premiers are not talking at this point and Christie Clark digs in her heels, there is no doubt that a conversation has to take place at some point.
With Christie Clark facing a re-election battle next year, this may be good politics for the BC Premier, but it certainly it is not good for confederation or BC/Alberta relations. In the end, one can only hope that common sense will prevail.