The news that B.C. and Alberta’s premiers reached a framework agreement on energy today (November 5) was greeted with criticism by some environmental and aboriginal rights advocates.
The deal announced by premiers Christy Clark and Alison Redford will see B.C. support Redford’s "Canadian Energy Strategy". The Alberta premier has also agreed to support Clark’s five conditions for the approval of heavy oil pipeline projects. Both leaders stated that Alberta’s royalties “are not on the table for negotiation”.
“On condition five, Alberta agrees that B.C. has a right to negotiate with industry on appropriate economic benefits,” a press release issued by the two provinces stated. “Both governments agree it is not for the governments of Alberta and B.C. to negotiate these benefits.”
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip called the deal “meaningless” and said the issue of aboriginal title must be resolved first.
“Premier Clark and Premier Redford live in a world of denial with respect to indigenous land rights, and I think we’ve seen evidence of what unresolved indigenous rights can lead to with respect to conflicts of resource development in Rexton, New Brunswick,” Stewart told the Straight by phone.
“So I think it’s time that both B.C. and Alberta wake up and smell the tear gas and know and understand that they need to deal with First Nations people and our unresolved aboriginal title issues first. There should be an engagement with First Nations first, before they begin making grandiose announcements about bilateral agreements.”
For environmental group the Dogwood Initiative, the framework “raises more questions than answers”.
"Today’s announcement does not change the fact that there is significant and widespread opposition of First Nations to these proposals, making it unlikely Enbridge will be able to satisfy Clark’s fourth condition related to First Nations rights and consultation,” the organization’s executive director, Will Horter, said in a news release.
The conditions that Clark outlined in the lead-up to the May 14 election for the approval of heavy oil pipelines in B.C. were the successful completion of the environmental review process, “world-leading” practices for oil spill response and prevention, ensuring that legal requirements regarding aboriginal and treaty rights are addressed, and B.C. receiving a “fair share” of the economic benefits of proposed projects.
The group Living Oceans Society also issued a press release dismissing today's deal.
“It really means very little, when we consider that Premier Clark just released a report by Nuka Research that makes it clear that her condition concerning ‘effective oil spill response' cannot be met,” Karen Wristen, the executive director of the society, said in the release.
“Quite apart from the impossibility of cleaning up spilled bitumen, there remains the completely unaddressed opposition of First Nations and a majority of British Columbians to seeing supertankers on the B.C. coast.”
Meanwhile, Redford described the announcement as “good news for Alberta, for British Columbia and for all Canadians”.
Clark called agreement on B.C.'s five conditions "a necessary first step" before any proposals can be considered.