Notley’s Approach to Trans Mountain (boys, get with the program)

“Projects like pipelines shouldn’t pit one province against another—they should stimulate conversations that recognize the economic needs and positions of all provinces.”—Alberta premier, Rachel Notley  

It doesn’t matter what Rachel Notley does to support interprovincial pipelines it’s never enough—at least not according to Wildrose leader Brian Jean and Alberta Party leader Greg Clark. Witness how they turned BC’s lack of support for Trans Mountain into a blistering criticism of Notley’s support for the project.

The Jean machine on full throttle

Brian Jean was all over the BC government’s refusal to support Trans Mountain calling it a “body blow” to the energy sector and proof that Rachel Notley’s climate strategy didn’t deliver the social license Alberta needs to move ahead with energy projects because BC “rejected her entire platform.”


Mr Jean

Clearly Mr Jean did not read BC’s submission.  If he had he would have realized that BC’s concerns relate solely to Trans Mountain’s failure to provide evidence backing up its claim that it can provide world-class marine and ground spill prevention and response capability.

What’s bugging BC?

Given that Trans Mountain based its application on its ability to provide world-class spill prevention and response it’s not surprising that this became the BC government’s primary focus.

BC repeatedly asked Trans Mountain for information about its Emergency Management Program. It got heavily redacted documents or nothing at all (Trans Mountain cited confidentiality concerns).

BC said it was unable to support the application not because it was skeptical about Rachel Notley’s climate strategy, but because Trans Mountain failed to address the government’s concerns about spill prevention, leak detection, ground and marine spill preparedness and response planning.

Now Ms Notley may be a remarkable politician but even she would not be able to persuade the BC government that Trans Mountain can provide world-class spill prevention/response without having the hard evidence to back it up.

Greg Clark counts pages

Greg Clark notes that Rachel Notley’s submission is a mere six pages compared to BC’s 140 pages and dismisses Notley’s submission as a “half-hearted, last minute response”.

Let’s start with the page count complaint.

BC’s 140 page submission boils down to 34 pages of argument on the spill prevention/recovery issue. The remaining 106 pages consist of detailed amendments to the NEB’s draft conditions, a book of authorities containing past board decisions, a consolidated version of the National Energy Board Act and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (in English and French) and excerpts from Enbridge’s Northern Gateway evidence.

With respect to the 34 pages of content, they focus on nothing but Trans Mountain’s lack of evidence in connection with spill prevention and recovery.

The only way Ms Notley could minimize BC’s concern about Trans Mountain would be to demand that Trans Mountain give her the evidence it refused to provide to the BC government so Ms Notley could submit it to the NEB under her own signature.

A brazen but utterly unrealistic strategy.

Notley’s submission: a national focus

Rachel Notley urged the NEB to approve Trans Mountain for the benefit of all Canadians. She argued the project is necessary and desirable in the public interest (in other words it meets the NEB’s criteria for approval).


Premier Notley

She said her climate change strategy supports Alberta’s need to develop its resources in a sustainable and responsible manner, that pipelines are the safest and most economical way to transport oil and gas and such resource development benefits all Canadians.

She relied on expert evidence from Muse Stancil and the Conference Board to support her arguments in favor of Canada-wide economic benefits.

She pointed out that the project will favorably impact crude prices and increase market optionality.

She urged the NEB to recommend approval of the pipeline to the federal cabinet for the benefit of all Canadians.

The last word

Ah yes, the federal cabinet.

Former NEB chairman, Gaetan Caron, says the NEB doesn’t look at provincial, territorial or regional interests. It looks at Canada’s national interests and considers whether they are served with Trans Mountain and without Trans Mountain.

If the NEB likes the vision of Canada with Trans Mountain it will focus on how to make the pipeline safe (which brings us right back to why BC refused to support Trans Mountain in the first place).

Ultimately the go/no go decision will be made by the federal cabinet.

Ms Notley gains nothing by bashing the BC government. She understands this and has put significant time and energy into building a productive relationship with the provincial premiers and Justin Trudeau (unrolling her climate strategy just before the Paris Climate Summit was a master stroke).

Mr Trudeau’s cabinet will make this decision without paying a lick of attention to blustery politicians like Brian Jean and Greg Clark because inter-provincial pipeline projects are nation building projects; they shouldn’t pit one province against another no matter how much the boys want to strut their stuff in the media.

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18 Responses to Notley’s Approach to Trans Mountain (boys, get with the program)

  1. Sam Gunsch says:

    Kinder Morgan’s assessment of the tidal waters on a spill is seriously deficient. Just not possible for AB to have helped in any way in the hearings on this. Ridiculous claims by WRP and AB Party.

    excerpt: If the worst-case scenario happened, it would be an environmental disaster of the first order, a spill equal to about 40 per cent of the volume lost in the Exxon Valdez disaster. Beaches would be soaked, aquatic environments ruined and environmentalists’ fears realized.

    Role of tidal fronts ‘not trivial,’ scientist says

    Yet even Kinder Morgan’s worst-case scenario might underestimate the cleanup challenges, argues physical oceanographer David Farmer. The retired scientist is set to critique the company’s disaster scenario Tuesday at the National Energy Board’s hearing into the pipeline expansion project.

    “Once [the oil] is dragged beneath the surface, you’re not going to recover it,” he said in an interview with The Tyee.

    • You’re right Sam, the environmental issues are very serious and Kinder Morgan is not addressing them. For example, BC’s submission (paragraphs 12 to 18) says KM said it is using an “industry leading” risk-based pipeline design approach. However KM refuses to install isolation valves to limit maximum outflow to 2000m cubed because it’s “not practical”. BC points out that Enbridge committed to this maximum outflow limit, so KM should explain why it said the max limit is “impractical” and why other “industry leaders” are prepared to commit to it.

      KM says instead of the 2000 m cubed limit it will use “sensitivity analysis” to decide where to place its valves. But when BC asked KM to provide details of the sensitivity analysis to the NEB, the intervenors and the public it refused.

      Bottom line: KM is transporting bitumen through sensitive environmental areas and all it will say about its spill prevention and recovery plan is “trust us.”

      Before Brian Jean, Greg Clark and others jump on the bandwagon to slag BC for failing to support KM they should read BC’s submission (or at least the first 34 pages) .

  2. david says:

    Susan I agree with your comments and believe the real leadership must come from the Trudeau government – not unlike the original vision for the trans-Canada pipeline we need energy security (not Middle-East oil) and we need a collaborative approach to energy (including hydro, renewables, transmission, strategies for demand reduction, etc
    Energy East in particular presents a great opportunity to rebuild a national identity…

    • David, you’ve put your finger on the real problem here. Getting interprovincial pipelines off the ground requires cooperation from all levels of government, although ultimately the final decision will be made by the federal cabinet.

      When politicians like Sask premier Brad Wall make snarky comments on twitter which trigger an onslaught anti-Quebec insults and Brian Jean ignores the fact that Notley got tentative support for Energy East from Ontario premier Wynne and focuses instead on the “failure” of Notley’s climate strategy to knock all the provinces in line right now, they’re engaging in cheap politics, not leadership.

      We expect better of our political leaders and so far you and the Alberta Liberals are the only party that lived up to our expectations. Kuddos to you David!

  3. Brent McFadyen says:

    The B.C. government has maybe learned a lesson from history. The Exxon Valdez spill caused more damage than it should because if I am correct the oil companies were not prepared to deal with it as agreed. The U.S. Coast Guard was ill prepared as well. Profits and greed seem to always trump preparedness and forethought . We may get our much needed Trans Mountain pipeline but this time it may have to be done properly instead of done the cheapest way possible. They may have to actually have be prepared for a spill. They may have to pay decent rent on leases to native lands and hire native workers on those lands. The Coast Guard needs to install the very best navigational aids to prevent tankers from veering off course. The only tankers allowed to use these waters will have to be state of the art and technology. Make it as close to impossible as we can for an oil spill to occur, this how we may get everyone on-board to send the oil sands to market.

    This is an opportunity to show the world how these projects should be done where everyone is the winner

    • Good point Brent. The lack of cooperation on the part of Kinder Morgan on the spills prevention/recovery issue is mystifying. BC isn’t the only government raising concerns. The federal department of Environment and Climate Change asked KM to give it access to product information before shipment because having to chase after this information after a spill hinders emergency preparedness and delays response time. KM refused.

      Pipeline companies prepare material safety data sheets (MSDS) prior to moving the product, I don’t know why KM thinks it needs to keep these MSDSs out of the hands of the regulators until there’s a crisis.

      This lack of cooperation is why pipelines (and oil producers) don’t have the “social license” they need to move ahead. And btw Brian Jean got it wrong when he said Notley’s climate change strategy failed to deliver the social license necessary to guarantee these projects are approved. It’s the government’s job to enable the responsible sustainable development our resources. It’s the pipeline’s job to demonstrate it has the social license to proceed. KM is doing a miserable job so far.

  4. Einar Davison says:

    I’m a little disappointed in Greg’s comment and if the Alberta Party is moving towards the right, as the “caucus” apparently parroting everything the Wildrose Party says, then I guess I will be without a party again. Which will be a shame because Alberta needs a real alternative in the center and not just more “screamers”. We said we would do politics differently and how is this different. We need real solutions to our economic problems and I’m sorry talk is cheap. Maybe it is time to propose more and oppose less. Yes definitely hold the NDP and Rachel Notley to account as government, but I sure don’t hear any other solutions that actually make a lick of sense coming from everyone else. Surely all parties could just bury the hatchet and focus on fixing Alberta’s economy. That old saying “you can either be part of the problem or you can be part of the solution” well I sure haven’t seen anyone trying to be part of the solution from across the floor. Just a lot of hot air!

    • I agree Einar. I’m not sure where the Alberta Party is heading but I’ve noticed a certain “flexibility” in how Greg Clark positions himself. In his article in the Calgary Herald he says: “Expanding market access is one of the core planks of the Alberta Party’s energy strategy, Sustaining Prosperity. We believe a proactive presence in the regulatory process is key to achieving that.” If he truly believed having a “proactive presence in the regulatory process” was key to expanding market access he could have followed Elizabeth May’s lead and registered as an intervenor and become an active participant in the Trans Mountain application. Instead he’s firing cheap shots about Notley’s 6 page submission.

      PS. It’s worth noting that CNRL, Cenovus, Devon, Husky, Statoil, Suncor, Tesoro, Total and Canadian Oil Sands filed a joint final argument totaling 11 pages, that’s 1.2 pages each. I guess they’re taking this issue even less seriously than Notley. Sorry, scrap that, this page count measure of seriousness is making me snarky.

  5. Sam Gunsch says:

    re: Einar Davison says: ‘then I guess I will be without a party again.’
    January 25, 2016 at 11:25 am

    I’m a little disappointed in Greg’s comment and if the Alberta Party is moving towards the right, as the “caucus” apparently parroting everything the Wildrose Party says, t

    Proportional representation needed in AB…

    To make sure we can all vote for the party and platform we actually want, Alberta voters in centre/center-left/green need proportional representation.

    And now’s the time for NDP to just do it. Consult ABs on what version of PR they want. And then do it. When RWrs’ like Andrew Coyne are arguing for Trudeau Lib’s to get rid of FTP, it’s time for AB NDP.

    If 2019 election re-installs in AB a united RW party under FPTP, which looks likelier all the time IMO, then AB will be back to RW monopoly on politics.

    PR has been shown to be stable all over the OECD, despite the Israel/Italy examples always cited by opponents.

    Coalition gov’ts of centre and centre-left will be possible in AB under PR.

    But unfortunately, I don’t expect the NDP to put the long term benefit ahead of party short term calculations.

    And we’re going to be stuck with many ridings forever that have centre-left, and centre voters who never get represented. As we were for the last 4 decades +…

    • Carlos Beca says:

      I am also not sure what Rachel Notley is waiting for. Launching a process to get rid of the First Past the Post should have happened 30 years ago.
      The idea that Proportional Representation is not good because it does not easily create majorities is another absurd just like the one that capitalism created democracy!!!
      Democracy is not to govern with majorities..
      The current system is totally outdated and has kept the NDP out of government for 40 years. Despite that the NDP is not moving at all. Just weird. Not sure what they are waiting for. They pretty much know that they will be a one term government.

      • Sam and Carlos: you raise a very interesting point about proportional representation. Notley may be holding back for a number of reasons: (1) electoral reform wasn’t part of her platform so she may be reluctant to spring it on Albertans, (2) she may be waiting to see how Trudeau’s electoral reform works out and (3) she may be banking on the fact that the WR and PCs won’t get it together in time for the next election.

        Speaking about the WR, I heard Brian Jean on CBC radio today. He started with his “we’re here to help” pitch and then attacked Notley for not doing enough to support pipelines. The interviewer reminded him about Notley’s visit with Ontario premier Wynne, Jean replied that Wynne’s tentative support was not enough and Notley should have gotten an “endorsement” out of her. One wonders how Jean, the man who would be premier, would have handled the situation…would he tell Wynne it was a “no brainer” and threaten to cut off transfer payments unless she complied with his demands? As long as Jean is the head of the WR, there’s no threat of the WR and the PCs joining forces, the PCs are too smart to tie their political future to that man.

  6. Sam Gunsch says:

    re: As long as Jean is the head of the WR, there’s no threat of the WR and the PCs joining forces, the PCs are too smart to tie their political future to that man.
    ok… sure… but I think there is higher probability of this scenario…
    The Conservative elite/establishment in AB, mostly Calgary based, is quite happy with Brian Jean because he’s promoting unification, regardless of the fact he’s saying come to WRP.

    Oil prices looking more and more like low for a couple years, means lots of fear/anger/bitterness…this will push RW voters to unite behind a new leader of a the ‘Alberta Conservative Party’.

    Polls will show over the next couple years, I predict, that Calgary conservative voters remain split between PC and WRP. Providing sufficient evidence to both WRP and PC base that detest the other side right now… that they have to live with differences, to get together under one tent if they don’t want to risk giving NDP Calgary again via vote splitting.

    Scapegoating NDP for economic downturn will continue long and strong enough to make them accept uniting. And both whoever is leading PCs and Brian Jean will step aside for some new leader that will be found by late 2017.

    We’re going to see a repeat of some version of unification as Harper managed to do.

    Unless oil prices recover sharply and much higher and thus prevent continued extreme scape-goating of NDP and their climate/tax/coal/royalty policies.

    Total speculation of course… just seems the most probable outcome to me.
    IMAO 😉

    And 3 years is long enough to do PR if NDP really put their shoulders to the wheel.

    My assumption is: Democracy agendas/branding/policies are winners because of the zeitgeist created by Harper’s anti-democratic regime. And in AB because of PCs 4 decades of monopoly, and WRP defection.

    WRP base would probably go for PR to become the dominant partner under PR in a RW coalition with PCs, if they see it’s likely to happen.

    • Sam, as much as I hate to admit it you may be right about the WR and the PCs overcoming their differences with respect to social policy in order to gain power. The only wild card I see in that scenario is the upcoming PC leadership convention. A fresh articulate leader could revitalize the PCs making the party more attractive to urban voters than the WR. If that’s the case, and given what you’ve said about the zeitgeist created by Harper and AB’s unique political history, the PCs may rise from the ashes in 2017. *Sigh*

      • Sam Gunsch says:

        re: ‘A fresh articulate leader could revitalize the PCs making the party more attractive to urban voters than the WR’

        And conservatives only need the PCs to find a leader who can win most or all of Calg back. That’ll be sufficient for some kind of conservative government, minority or coalition…whatever.

        As more than a few columnists have been writing, voters in Calgary will be the most important constituency in 2019 election. I can’t think of anything that would change that.

  7. Carlos Beca says:

    Susan I have no doubts that Bryan Jean has not read anything. Neither did Greg Clark. As far as the Federal Government I still do not know what the plans are in most of what they are doing with exception of the Inquiry of the murdered native women. I guess I am happy that at least I know that one. It is really astounding what is going on with the world of politics.
    Rachel Notley has not been that transparent either and it started with the farm bill and we barely know (I don’t) of what are the plans, if any, for anything else. The secrecy on what is going to happen with hospitals is deafening. So it is more of the same. The only difference so far is that they certainly have more class. At least we do not have the everyday scandal and the arrogant talk.
    Susan the reasons you pointed out about democratic renewal (not happening) to me are not strong enough. Any politician has the obligation to defend and nurture our democracy. We are in critical condition and running the risk of alienating for good the very few that still care about it. Whether or not the Federal Government does anything about it has very little to do with what we do here. Alberta should care to develop its own provincial system to the best possible option for full participation of its citizens. As far as not being on her platform, I just think that without a healthy democracy platforms are useless.

    • Carlos, I agree that the reasons I’ve listed for why democratic renewal not moving ahead in Alberta shouldn’t be enough to stop it in its tracks, but I fear that might be the case nevertheless, especially as Notley’s team tries to find the middle ground between keeping the oil companies happy and pushing ahead with her plan to create a greener more diversified economy. It will be very interesting to see how far she goes with the royalty review. I’m betting that she’ll soft pedal the changes so the industry (and its vociferous defenders, the WR and PCs) can’t argue that she’s put the final nail in the coffin for the oil industry. What she needs to watch out for is oil companies using the royalty review as an excuse for their own incompetence–heaven forbid that any of them would admit that $100 oil was not sustainable and their expansion plans were castles in the air.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        Well I think you touched a very important point and that is – How competent are the oil companies? The fact is that even at 100 dollars a barrel they were already crying baby. They got fat and very mismanaged and with it pushed all the costs of housing and labour up to the roof. It is easy to get fat but not that fun to get slim again.
        My experience from previous booms and busts is that they will find their balance after creating chaos everywhere and as soon as the oil prices go back up they will resume their old ways and blame the royalties again for the disaster. The difference now is that I do not believe we will see oil prices at 100 dollars again. Even in Alberta the diversification to other forms of energy will accelerate if we want to have any kind of stable economy.
        As far as the royalties, I am not sure it will make much of a difference changing them now. We had our chance to be smart as the Norwegians were but thanks to Kleins and Redfords we missed the boat.
        Brian Jean and the other unknown may very well get together and win the elections but they will have no golden nest anyway. So they will have to tell us which programs they are going to cut if they do not raise taxes.

  8. GoinFawr says:

    ( facepalm)
    Sigh, if we can’t learn from history we are doomed to repeat it.
    Which is why I am so very disappointed with Ed Stelm… I mean Rachel Notley and the NDP

    Question: When is the most ridiculous time to perform and make public a resource royalty review?
    Ans.: As the commodity in question flounders around its lows in a bear market.

    Hey Pols, all of you: in 2008 steady Eddy made it as clear as an azure sky of deepest summer that that is NOT when you try to bring Alberta’s royalty regime out of the laughingstock-of-the-oil-producing-world territory, so what is up with this:
    While the review was most certainly part of their mandate, why on earth the big rush?

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