Alberta PIpelines

Notley strikes a collaborative tone in Canada’s pipeline debate

This week’s Council of the Federation meeting in St. John’s, Newfoundland marked Alberta Premier Rachel Notley’s first appearance on the national stage since the NDP won a stunning victory in the May 5, 2015 provincial election. The new premier used the meeting to strike a more collaborative tone than her Conservative predecessors, who sometimes appeared more interested in chest-thumping than negotiating with their counterparts from other provinces.

Rachel Notley Alberta NDP leader

Rachel Notley

Taking a different approach raised the ire of one of Ms. Notley’s staunchest conservative critics, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall. Mr. Wall lashed out against Ms. Notley for her willingness to negotiate with Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard over the TransCanada corporation’s Energy East pipeline.

Three weeks ago, Mr. Couillard told reporters that he saw little economic value for his province from the Energy East pipeline. He was not alone in this opinion. Two-thirds of Quebecois are opposed to that pipeline, according to one poll released in late 2014. This opposition is likely the reason why Mr. Couillard laid out some potential conditions related to climate change and environmental issues in exchange for his support of the pipeline going through his province.

Brad Wall

Brad Wall

Mr. Couillard may have opposed the pipeline without a compromise and may still oppose it, but Ms. Notley has succeeded in keeping the dialogue open.

Like every other premier sitting around the table at this week’s meeting, Ms. Notley, Mr. Couillard and Mr. Wall have their own political agendas in mind.

While conservatives have fallen over themselves praising Mr. Wall as a voice for Canada’s oil industry, we should not believe for a moment that he has Alberta’s best interests in mind. In the days after Albertans elected Ms. Notley’s government on May 5, Mr. Wall and his ministers were inviting the oil industry to abandon Alberta and move east to Saskatchewan.

If you believe Mr. Wall that compromise on national issues is not acceptable, remember that he has asked the rest of Canada for concessions in the past, most recently when Saskatchewan agreed to sign on to the National Securities Regulator in 2014.

Shannon Phillips

Shannon Phillips

The premiers signed on to a Canadian Energy Strategy, which could be an important first step in national cooperation but does not approve pipelines or targets to reduce carbon emissions. As long as Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the federal Conservative government refuse to participate in these meetings, there is only so much that can be achieved.

What is clear is that previous strategies used by Alberta premiers to promote expansion of pipelines from Alberta’s oilsands has fallen flat. And with this week’s major oil pipeline leak in northern Alberta, critics and opponents of pipeline expansion to change their minds without assurances of stricter environmental regulations.

Compromise and negotiation should be part of politics in any democratic country. On any controversial projects, like cross-Canada pipeline expansion, it should be expected that local political realities in provinces and First Nations will slow, or block, attempts to force through industrial projects.

Alberta’s poor environmental record has helped fuel opposition to the oilsands and the proposed pipelines that would carry our natural resources to ports in all directions. Our province’s status as a national laggard on environmental issues is a big reason Ms. Notley and Environment Minister Shannon Phillips announced last month that University of Alberta economist Andrew Leach would lead a panel to recommend a new climate change plan for Alberta.

With a new government, Alberta has an opportunity to show our critics, through collaboration, negotiation and action, that strong leadership on economic and environmental issues are not mutually exclusive. That would be a refreshing change.

11 thoughts on “Notley strikes a collaborative tone in Canada’s pipeline debate

  1. Gail K

    I’m proud of Rachel and glad we finally have a leader who can work together with other premiers. Alberta can be a powerhouse in Canada with her as Premier.

    Reply
  2. Proud Albertan

    Alberta finally has a premier that will stand up for regular people and not just shill for the oil industry. Corporate Calgary loves Brad Wall because he’ll do anything they say. Notley is actually speaking up for our best interests. Let’s get this pipeline built AND have the best environmental standards at the same time. We can do it!

    Reply
  3. Ron

    The more erudite right wingers are hoping Notley can get them the social licence to build pipelines. ah the irony .. Tommy Douglas RIP

    Reply
  4. Adam

    Agreed. Brad Wall and the Saskatchewan Party are shills for big oil and do nothing for the average Saskatchewanian. They need to go.

    -Lowest unemployment rate in Canada
    -Second lowest debt per capita of all provinces
    -Net migration of +81,000 since the Saskatchewan Party won a majority in 2007
    -93% reduction in provincial income tax for a family of four earning $50,000 annually
    -More than $8 billion spent on health care facilities, schools, roads, and bridges since 2008 – double the previous 8 years
    -Funding has doubled for persons with disabilities since 2007.

    Reply
  5. David Climenhaga

    To Bruce Anderson I say, Dave should declare his political inclinations … just as soon as Don Braid, Lorne Gunter, Graham Thomson, Rob Breakenridge, Paula Simons, Rex Murphy and the rest declare theirs.

    Reply
  6. tom

    The people Climenhaga mentions are real, accredited journalists. He’s just a tin pot yapper on a soap box.

    Reply
  7. Reynold

    How sad that the province of Tommy Douglas and the CCF must be represented by a beligerant shill for fossill fuels. Just like Alberta was in the past.
    We need to transition away from the stuff as quickly as possible.

    Reply
  8. Monty

    How sad that the province of Peter Lougheed is represented by a shill for socialism and big union bosses. Just like Saskatchewan was in the past.

    We need to transition away from these lobbies as quickly as possible.

    Reply
  9. David Bridger

    Adam listed several changes since Wall became premier of Saskatchewan. He neglected to say that he inherited great good fortune fromNDP policies regarding royalties which he wisely didn’t change. He also. Seniors drug payments 33% under the seniors drug plan started by the NDP. Now he has spent our province into a deficit which is why he had to borrow 700 million this year to balance revenues with expenditures.

    Reply

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