“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.”
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).
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.