Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (left), sits beside BC Premier John Horgan at Tuesday’s LNG Canada announcement.
“We can’t have a country built on double standards. LNG means a 172% increase in marine traffic from its port. TMX results in a 14% increase. You have to ask: why what’s good for BC isn’t good for Alberta? It’s clearly not about the orcas.” – Oct. 2, 2018 tweet by Daron Bilous, Alberta minister of trade and economic development.
Many Albertans are steaming mad after BC Premier John Horgan, arch enemy of the Trans Mountain Expansion project, welcomed news of the $40 billion LNG Canada and $6.2 billion Coastal Gaslink pipeline Tuesday while continuing to oppose the 590,000 b/d pipeline, now stalled after the Federal Court of Appeal quashed cabinet approval.
Is Horgan a hypocrite, as Bilous suggests?
The LNG project certainly has its critics, especially among environmentals concerned about rising greenhouse gas emissions in the province.
“I am deeply disappointed that the NDP minority government’s tax giveaway has resulted in the country’s single biggest source of emissions receiving an FID,” said BC Green Party leader Andrew Weaver, whose party holds the balance of power in the Legislature.
“Adding such a massive new source of GhGs means that the rest of our economy will have to make even more sacrifices to meet our climate targets. A significant portion of the LNG Canada investment will be spent on a plant manufactured overseas, with steel sourced from other countries. BC taxpayers will subsidize its power by paying rates twice as high and taking on the enormous public debt required to build Site C.”
But Weaver’s bleating is nothing compared to the public uproar surrounding Trans Mountain Expansion. Bilous and other Albertans are understandably miffed that one project is welcomed with open arms and another that benefits Alberta is so staunchly resisted.
Which is why Alberta needs to keep its eye on the ball.
Frankly, Horgan is irrelevant to Trans Mountain Expansion.
He talked about restricting pipeline shipments of diluted bitumen through BC, then backed down and sent a reference case on the proposed regulation to the BC Court of Appeal. No decision yet by the court, but Horgan’s track record supporting unsuccessful appeals of National Energy Board decisions by the City of Burnaby suggests the egregious over-reach by the provincial government is likely to be dismissed.
Otherwise, all Horgan has is hot air.
The real action involves First Nation legal challenges – like the judicial review decision that has Ottawa scrambling to fix indigenous consultations and undertake an assessment of the environmental impacts on more marine traffic on killer whales – and protests.
That said, there are three differences between the LNG Candada/Coastal Gaslink and Trans Mountain Expansion projects that explain why some West Coasters are cheering the former and jeering the latter.
One, a common refrain in BC is that the oil pipeline is “all risk and no benefit.” Trans Mountain Expansion construction will provide 2,500 jobs for two and a half year, then 50 or 60 ongoing positions.
By comparison, that noise Albertans hear from across the Rockies is British Columbians slapping each other on the back at the prospect of 10,000 new constructions jobs a year and 900 operating jobs once the LNG projects are completed.
Horgan estimates LNG Canada – the largest private investment in Canadian history – will create $24 billion of direct investment in his province and $23 billion in public revenue over 40 years.
Two, if the benefits of LNG development are significant, concern about spills off the West Coast appear to be much less worriesome than with oil tankers.
Despite the best efforts of eco-activists to whip up concern about explosions near population centres – a highly unlikely scenario given the excellent safety record of LNG carriers – the BC public doesn’t seem much concerned about an LNG spill fouling the marine environment. Nor has the impact of LNG shipping on marine mammals like the killer whale registered on voters in the same way it has with oil tankers.
Higher benefits, less risk, so far it’s an easy sell to BC.
Three, unanimous indigenous support for LNG Canada and the gas pipeline makes a big difference.
First Nations allied with local residents in the Lower Mainland, not eco-activists, are driving the opposition to Trans Mountain Expansion while the voices of interior indigenous leaders who support the Kinder-Morgan-now-Government- of-Canada initiative just aren’t as loud.
LNG Canada did an excellent job of building relationships and partnerships with the Haisla Nation in Kitimat and TransCanada did the same with the 20 First Nations along its pipeline route. When indigenous leaders praise the jobs and prosperity LNG will bring to their impoverished communities, that’s a big public relations win for the proponents.
All in all, criticizing BC’s support for LNG and lack thereof for Trans Mountain Expansion, while understandable, is a losing game. Sour grapes isn’t going to get Alberta’s energy infrastructure built any quicker.
The better strategy – and it’s always been the better strategy, despite Alberta Premier Rachel Notley’s retaliations, like the Great Wine War – is to keep up the pressure on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. His Liberal government arguably waited too long to engage BC’s political attacks on Trans Mountain Expansion, failed to introduce legislation to fix the problem as he promised to do last spring, and according to the courts botched indigenous consultations in 2016.
Notley has promised to hold Trudeau’s “feet to the fire.” Well, how high can Alberta stoke that fire?
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