Hey, prime minister, it’s Alberta calling.
Just a quick note: we could use some help out here on pipelines.
That’s because the entire energy chessboard has been flipped over since Ottawa approved two oil pipelines a year ago.
Since then, another proposal — Energy East — has been axed, while the Keystone XL venture has been resurrected.
The approved expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline is under continual fire, facing delays as proponent Kinder Morgan has been unable to get permits from the City of Burnaby to proceed.
Facing these obstacles, Premier Rachel Notley will embark on a cross-country tour to tout the benefits of pipelines in Vancouver, Ottawa and Toronto.
It’s a good start.
Yet, there’s little heavy-lifting going on from the same federal government that approved these critical developments.
“There is a sense that Alberta is being left stranded,” said political analyst David Taras from Mount Royal University.
“There is a sense of inactivity from Ottawa, that they are not pushing the way they need to push.”
Today, Trans Mountain faces a new NDP government in British Columbia that’s hostile to twinning the 1,150-kilometre pipeline to the West Coast.
Kinder Morgan and Alberta are awaiting the outcome of a judicial review of the project’s approval, while the permitting dispute is headed to the National Energy Board for a ruling.
In light of such difficulties, Taras wonders why the federal response has been so muted in recent months.
“Where is the national argument?” he said. “Alberta is stranded in two ways: one, the oil is stranded, and secondly, Notley is stranded.”
When Trudeau approved Trans Mountain and Enbridge’s Line 3 project last November, it was supposed to be part of a grander bargain, balancing prudent energy development with responsible environmental management.
Expanding Trans Mountain will almost triple the amount of oil shipped from Alberta to a terminal in Burnaby, where it can be exported to Asia and elsewhere.
According to the Alberta budget, the two approved pipelines will increase royalty payments by up to $9 billion over five years.
The prime minister said a year ago Trans Mountain will create 15,000 jobs and stressed it “meets the strictest of environmental standards.”
Yet, the project evokes strong opposition from environmentalists, B.C. municipal leaders, some First Nations’ communities and the new NDP government of Premier John Horgan.
“It’s a pretty hard sell if you want to move a lot of dirty oil through pipelines in other people’s jurisdictions and on to the coastline, and you take no responsibility for the environmental impact that may have,” Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan said in an interview last week.
It’s funny, but I thought Alberta’s new carbon tax, its oilsands emission cap, phasing out of coal power, and the increased federal investment in marine protection were part of “taking responsibility.”
In such a polarized environment, Notley will speak about Trans Mountain on Nov. 30 to the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, which should provide her with a largely sympathetic audience.
But it won’t be an easy job to win over hearts and minds in the Lower Mainland, said pollster Shachi Kurl, executive director of the Vancouver-based Angus Reid Institute.
The good news for Notley is that among B.C. residents with an opinion on the project, they tilt in favour of Trans Mountain by a margin of 59 to 41 per cent, she said.
“The bad news is that ground zero for opposition to the pipeline continues to be found in metro Vancouver, particularly seats in Burnaby and Vancouver — areas the (B.C.) NDP needs to hold if they ever hope to be in power again,” she said in an email.
From Alberta’s perspective, Notley needs to make the broader points that Canada is a federation and one part of the country shouldn’t thwart another province’s economic interests; the project will create jobs in both B.C. and Alberta; and it will lead to higher tax revenue and royalties across the country.
Notley will undoubtedly try to make the economic case, but why is Alberta left alone to deliver these points?
This should also be the job of the federal government, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr.
Speaking Wednesday, Carr wisely refused to wade into the dispute between the City of Burnaby and Kinder Morgan. He can’t be seen to be trying to influence the NEB or any legal matters into the project.
But the minister can make speeches in B.C. and actively explain why the pipeline expansion was approved in the first place.
“It’s important that Canada knows why the government of Canada approves the Trans Mountain expansion. I think the reasons are compelling,” he told reporters.
I’m glad he agrees. So why not do something about it?
The minister’s office said Carr has made one trip to B.C. to talk about pipelines in the past year; the prime minister’s office said Trudeau hasn’t made any speeches about Trans Mountain since the approval, although he has mentioned it to the media.
Pipeline backers in B.C. say they’d like to play host if the federal cabinet decided to speak out.
“It would be appropriate to have a little more horsepower from the federal government,” said Val Litwin, president of the B.C. Chamber of Commerce.
“It would be terrific if the prime minister or Minister Carr could come out here and speak to some of the issues and encourage a conversation.”
The pipeline conversation has been intensifying for the past year.
It’s high time for the federal government to join in.
Chris Varcoe is a Calgary Herald columnist.
You can read more of the news on source