B.C. premier Christy Clark's stand on Northern Gateway pipeline questioned
B.C. premierChristy Clark’s vow to withdraw from interprovincial talks about a national energy strategy doesn’t carry much weight, a high-profile Simon Fraser University professor suggests.
Clark today (July 27) said she will not help to create a pan-Canadian energy plan while a dispute with Alberta over the multibillion-dollar Northern Gateway oil pipeline remains unresolved.
“A national energy strategy of any significance was a non-starter from the word ‘go’, so she is threatening to pull out of something that wouldn’t have existed,” said Mark Jaccard, a Nobel Peace Prize-winning environmental economist.
Jaccard said a national strategy has historically been an unpopular idea in Canada because provinces are reluctant to give up control over their resources.
“Every year when the premiers get together we hear the business community asking for a national energy strategy in order to reduce regulations—so to help with pipelines or electric transmission lines and so on,” he told the Straight by phone.
“Anybody who’s an energy expert or a policy expert who follows this never takes this seriously.”
Clark made the announcement after exiting a meeting of premiers at the Council of the Federation summit in Halifax, according to news reports.
"Until we see some progress in the discussions between British Columbia, Alberta and the federal government with respect to the Gateway pipeline through British Columbia, we will not be participating in the discussion of a national energy strategy," Clark is quoted as saying by the CBC.
Clark recently laid out five conditions that must be met before the province will support the Northern Gateway project, which would see Enbridge build a pipeline to transport Alberta oil across northern B.C. to the coast for shipment abroad by tanker. In particular, Clark has argued B.C. deserves a bigger share of the economic benefits as the province is taking on most of the environmental risk from the project.
Alberta premier Alison Redford has rebuffed Clark’s position, saying the proposal could upend the relationship between provinces when it comes to major projects such as oil pipelines.
B.C. environment minister Terry Lake said Clark is still committed to working cooperatively with her fellow premiers on issues of national importance.
“I think what she said is, if we’re going to talk about a national energy strategy, a large part of that involves moving heavy oil to Asia and there’s only one province that’s going to bear the majority of the responsibility for that in terms of risk and that’s British Columbia,” Lake told the Straight by phone.
“So unless we can discuss the five conditions that we set down earlier in the week regarding heavy oil movement in B.C.—if we can’t talk about that in the context of a national energy strategy, then she wouldn’t be comfortable signing a strategy.”
Clark’s stance on the Northern Gateway project has also been criticized by the Dogwood Initiative, a B.C. environmental group that opposes oil-tanker traffic on the West Coast.
“I think Clark is absolutely right in identifying the grave risk to our coast and our salmon rivers from oil spills. And she’s right to take a stand. But she’s absolutely wrong to suggest that B.C. will accept the risk of catastrophe for a price,” Eric Swanson, Dogwood Initiative campaigns director, told the Straight by phone.
“We want her to say, ‘You know, B.C. knows a bad project when they see it. These oil pipeline and tanker proposals are bad ideas, so let’s move on with better ideas, better development in British Columbia.’”