Fraser Forum

Premier Notley and pipelines—better late than never

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One must give credit where credit is due, and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley’s evolution on pipelines is due some credit. She fired a warning shot with the short-lived British Columbia wine embargo, but is unlimbering some far heavier guns in the fight with B.C. over the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain expansion pipeline.

Premier Notley’s NDP government is expected to introduce legislation that would allow the province to “shut the taps” on oil and gas moving west to B.C. (or east, for that matter). Reducing the flow of gasoline to B.C. is expected to push gas prices up significantly, to $2.00 per litre. While reducing export volumes to B.C. would certainly hurt Alberta’s oil and gas producers (at least in the short term), the last time such a tactic was used (by former premier Peter Lougheed, with some success) it was in opposition to the elder Trudeau’s National Energy Plan.

And Premier Notley’s not only threatening to cut oil and gas supplies needed in B.C, she’s also threatening Prime Minister Trudeau’s cherished greenhouse gas tax scheme. The premier has finally made it explicit that if the pipeline is not well underway, she will not follow the federal carbon-price scheme that would raise Alberta’s carbon tax to $50 per tonne by 2022. The federal government has announced a “backstop” plan that would levy a tax on provinces that refuse to tax themselves at the federally-approved level. Premier Notley’s threat on this issue comes at a critical time for the prime minister’s climate change plan because many provinces (Saskatchewan, Manitoba, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia) are refusing to align with the federal carbon tax plan.

In response to a question from UCP Leader Jason Kenney, Premier Notley said this:

“Our government was very clear well over a year ago that we will sign on to the federal government’s pan-Canadian framework with the approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline,” she said. “Now, obviously, approval means nothing if it’s not constructed... So, as always, we’ve been very clear that we will not move forward on the federal government’s proposals until we see that construction is fully underway and that approval is given meaning."

Premier Notley deserves credit for finally taking a harder line on getting the Trans Mountain Expansion project built, though it would have been better had this hard line come earlier in her tenure. Still, better late than never.


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