Alberta Premier Rachel Notley speaking to reporters after meeting of Market Access Task Force. Photo: Global News
Best Alberta strategy: 1) support federal jurisdiction over pipeline; 2) build support for industry, TMX in BC, rest of Canada
Another day brings more skirmishes in the pipeline spat between BC and Alberta. Jason Kenney was in Vancouver threatening to cut off oil to British Columbia if he becomes premier in 2019. Back in Edmonton, Rachel Notley confirmed that Alberta will intervene against the City of Burnaby’s appeal of a National Energy Board ruling and provincial lawyers are huddled in Ottawa plotting strategy with their federal counterparts. But the most interesting announcement is that the Alberta premier intends to personally take her market access message to Canadians, including those on the West Coast.
“We discussed the need to win the hearts and minds of Canadians,” Notley told reporters Monday, referring to the latest meeting of her Market Access Task Force. “We know already that the majority of Canadians – and, frankly, British Columbians, support market access. But we need to ensure Canadians know more about how a new pipeline will benefit them, the jobs it will create, the revenue it will generate for their priorities, and important environmental protections that actually come with the pipeline.
“The Government of Alberta will be leading this work.”
Better late than never, a sales campaign for the Alberta oil and gas industry generally, and the 525,000 b/d Trans Mountain Expansion pipeline specifically, is long overdue.
Let me offer a few words of advice to the Premier’s advisers.
One, put Notley front and centre. She did a great job with the Vancouver Board of Trade in Nov. and speaks very eloquently about the need to both develop oil and gas resources while still fighting climate change and protecting the environment.
Two, don’t try to sell British Columbians on the economic benefits to BC of Trans Mountain Expansion. Frankly, they’re insignificant, especially when compared to those reaped by Alberta, and West Coasters won’t be persuaded by a few thousand temporary construction jobs.
Stick to the messaging that Canada is not a confederation of 10 fiefdoms and one province can’t hamstring the economy of another.
Three, sell the Climate Leadership Plan hard. Albertans may be skeptical about the benefits of a carbon tax (two-thirds of them dislike it, according to public opinion polls), but the province’s efforts to lower the carbon-intensity of oil sands crude, reduce fugitive methane emissions, and promote technology innovation (the Carbon Competitiveness Incentives program) gets a warm reception outside the province.
Even in BC, in my experience, which includes frequent appearances on talk radio to discuss Alberta’s efforts.
Four, praise the Alberta oil/gas and pipeline sectors for their innovation and investments in becoming “carbon competitive.”
Over the decades, the Alberta industry has spawned an “innovation ecosystem” that is second to none in Canada. Alberta innovators have turned their creativity to solving the emissions problem and they are supported by most of the big producers.
This is a great story that rarely gets the attention it deserves. Premier Notley should not pass up the opportunity to tell it early and often.
Five, engage pipeline opponents, especially indigenous representatives.
Conversations with coastal First Nations, particularly public ones, won’t be pleasant but if Alberta wants to make headway in BC, then building relationships with indigenous leaders and really listening to them is critical.
Intervening in the City of Burnaby appeal of National Energy Board ruling
The biggest stick Canada – and its Alberta ally – has in the scrap with BC over Trans Mountain Expansion is constitutional jurisdiction over inter-provincial pipelines, decades of legal precedent, and the National Energy Board.
While many Albertans have been loudly – and incorrectly – calling for a very public assertion of Canadian authority, the NEB has been quietly ruling against Burnaby’s efforts to drag its feet issuing tree cutting permits and approving a re-zoning application for early construction work by Kinder Morgan.
The NEB, which is a superior court, even went so far as to asset “paramountcy” – when federal and provincial laws conflict, the federal take precedence – in its Dec ruling against Burnaby.
According to the City’s press release, the NEB “held that the time for permitting was an ‘unreasonable delay’, and on that basis declared that they were constitutionally inapplicable.”
Burnaby has asked the Federal Court of Appeal for leave to appeal the NEB’s decision.
Alberta will apply to the court to be an intervener arguing against Burnaby, just as it did with the NEB over the permitting dispute.
These legal battles may not garner much public attention, and they’re poorly understood by those who do notice them, but they’re an important part of the fight to get the pipeline built.
“Government officials from Alberta are heading to Ottawa this week to meet with federal officials to align our efforts,” Notley said.
Jason Kenney says he will cut off oil to BC
“If British Columbia is unwilling to help us export Canadian energy, then I would ask: Why should the NDP government benefit from shipments from Alberta?” he asked during a media availability in Vancouver Monday, as reported by the CBC.
“I don’t want a trade war. Albertans want free trade. But if the NDP in Victoria breaks the law, and blocks the export of our major product, we have to respond.”
Kenney’s bellicose threat is popular in some Alberta industry circles, where folks are frustrated with the intransigence of the BC NDP government.
That threat will likely be as successful as Notley’s short-lived ban on the sale of BC wine in Alberta, which was a bad idea that deserved a quick death.
The fight with Alberta is good politics for Horgan – 63 per cent of BC NDP members back his position, according to a recent Angus Reid poll – and helps prop up his minority government, which relies upon Green Party support.
Kenney is picking a fight with Horgan because, like Notley, it’s good politics back home and he’s looking ahead to the May 2019 Alberta election.
But Albertans shouldn’t kid themselves that fist shaking by Alberta’s opposition leader will change the attitude of even one pipeline opponent. In fact, it will have the opposite effect.
The best Alberta strategy, which Energi News has been suggesting for months now, is to support the federal defense of its jurisdiction over Trans Mountain Expansion and to build support for the project and the energy industry within BC and other provinces.