“Premier Wall says that if standing up for your industry and your province is showboating, take me to the bridge.”—Brad Wall’s response to Rachel Notley’s comment that Wall was “showboating” on the eve of the premiers’ meeting.
Brad Wall is the second provincial premier (Jim Prentice was the first) who tried to take a bite out of Rachel Notley and ended up crumpled on the floor.
The brouhaha started when Mr Wall said Ms Notley had given Quebec a de facto veto of future pipelines when she said Quebec would support such pipelines if Alberta demonstrates it’s taking real action on climate change and environmental protection.
This, he said, was a rejection of the principles of Confederation and a failure to stand up for industry. He argued that if nothing else, forking over $10 billion in equalization payments to the have-not provinces should shut them up.
Ms Notley responded by saying the provinces could accomplish more by working together than by picking fights and that any suggestion that having a consensual dialogue translated into one province handing off its authority to another was “simply ridiculous and a bit naïve.”
Mr Wall went ballistic.
He said he felt like Homer Simpson in the episode where Homer wanted to buy a gun but was told he had to wait five days. “Five days, but I’m mad now.”* Okay, Mr Wall is angry but did he have to pick the rampaging shooter analogy?
Mr Wall decided to attend the premiers’ meeting after all. Originally he was going to stay home to deal with the forest fires. Presumably he realized that unless he was going to grab a fire hose they could spare him for a couple of days.
And guess what. At the end of the day all 13 provincial and territorial leaders, including the truculent Mr Wall, signed off on the Canadian Energy Strategy.
The Canadian Energy Strategy
The Canadian Energy Strategy is long on visionary statements and short on details…but it’s a start.
Its major shortcoming is it lacks federal government support. Once again Prime Minister Harper refused to acknowledge the meeting was going on. (When will the PM learn that he can’t run a confederation without some help from the provinces?)
The provinces agreed to collaborate on their regulatory and environmental practices but unless the feds step up to the plate, the provinces will not be able to deliver on a critical objective—to cut regulatory red tape or significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions—because pipelines carrying oilsands bitumen or natural gas destined for American or Asian markets require NEB approval.
And the NEB is a federal regulatory agency beyond the reach of any provincial government.
A back door solution
In an effort to overcome the limitations arising from the constitutional division of powers, the premiers crafted a clever work-around.
They want a seat at the table when the feds engage in international negotiations, agreements and forums on energy and climate change issues.
This is brilliant given the Prime Minister’s propensity for negotiating trade deals that allow foreign corporations to sue Canada if the provinces pass environmental legislation that reduces a foreign corporation’s profits.
No doubt this objective will go down like a lead balloon with Our Dear Leader…but it may be more acceptable to his replacement come October.
Ironically, Brad Wall fretted that Alberta was rewriting the Constitution by giving a de facto pipeline veto to other provinces when in reality it’s Prime Minister Harper who should be worried by the provinces’ desire to encroach on the federal domain.
See what happens when you refuse to acknowledge premiers’ meetings—the provinces lay siege to 24 Sussex Drive.
The still petulant Mr Wall
Mr Wall may have signed the Canadian Energy Strategy but he’s not happy.
He says the West should stop apologizing for its resources and stop being diplomatic about its message. Perhaps he can suggest a suitably belligerent alternative?
He bemoans the fact that all we’ve got to show for our goodwill is the National Energy Program (good lord, that old chestnut) and “precisely no pipelines” have been approved (well, except TCPL’s Keystone XL pipeline and Enbridge’s Northern Gateway,** approved by the NEB in Mar 2009 and June 2014 respectively).
Mr Wall concludes that more Canadians would support the Energy East pipeline if they knew it would end foreign imports from places like Venezuela and Saudia Arabia. (How? Energy East will export bitumen to overseas markets. No one can force producers to sell their product within Canada if they can get a better price elsewhere).
It’s time for Mr Wall to get off the bridge of the showboat and go down to the brig. There he can study the tape of the Notley/Prentice debate. He’ll soon learn that cheap shots will get him absolutely nowhere with the little blonde premier from Alberta.
*Globe & Mail July 17, 2015, A9
**Northern Gateway was approved subject to 209 conditions that Al Monaco, Enbridge’s CEO, is prepared to satisfy.