Tag Archives: John Horgan

Premier Rachel Notley met with steel workers during a tour of the Tenaris Prudential welded pipe mill in Calgary on Feb. 8, 2018. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)

Notley opens the Quails’ Gate and lets the BC wine flow into Alberta once again.

Did Alberta win the pipeline war against British Columbia? No, but the great BC wine boycott of 2018 appears to be over.

John Horgan BC NDP Leader Premier

John Horgan

The interprovincial dispute over the Kinder Morgan Inc. Trans Mountain Pipeline is likely far from over, but Premier Rachel Notley announced today that the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission would lift its weeks-long boycott of British Columbia wine.

Notley’s announcement comes as BC Premier John Horgan confirmed his government will not restrict increases in bitumen shipments until further spill studies are conducted, a move he initially announced after last week’s Throne Speech in Victoria. But this does not mean Horgan’s government is ending its opposition to the pipeline. It will be seeking the opinion of the courts to confirm its “constitutional rights to defend against a bitumen spill.’

The pipeline issue has allowed Notley to drape herself in the Alberta flag while highlighting her government’s action on climate change, most notably the phase-out of dirty coal-fired power plants that were generating a significant amount of Alberta’s carbon emissions. 

The Alberta-BC dispute was also the first time United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney filled the role traditionally reserved for official opposition leaders in our province: Irrelevance. As Notley led the defence of Alberta’s oil industry, Kenney was left on the sidelines, jumping up and down and waving his hands, while pleading ‘pay attention to me!

This has been a good issue for Notley. She has been able to solidify herself as a champion of an issue that has near unanimous support in Alberta. While it may not be her New Democratic Party‘s golden ticket to re-election in 2019, it certainly won’t hurt her chances (as slim as they might look).

While public support is divided, opposition to the pipeline in BC remains strong and opponents of the pipeline are planning to converge on Burnaby Mountain for a rally on March 10, 2018, the location of Kinder Morgan Inc.’s Burnaby Terminal.

It is still unclear how this will end, but at least we can enjoy an honest glass of BC wine on both sides of the provincial boundary again.

Meanwhile, hundreds of climate scientists and policy makers will meet in Edmonton from March 5 to 7, 2018 at the first annual CitiesIPCC Cities and Climate Change Science conference, hosted by the City of Edmonton.

Hosting the 2018 Cities and Climate Change Science conference gives us the opportunity to share knowledge with other municipalities, while learning, advancing ideas and forming partnerships that will help the world’s cities make progress on climate change,” Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson said in a statement when the conference was announced in 2017.

Episode 6: Alberta-BC Pipeline War, UCP loses 2 MLAs, and Alberta Party leadership race

We’re back! After a brief hiatus because Ryan was down south helping Make America Great Again, we are back with a new episode of The Daveberta Podcast.

Daveberta Podcast Alberta PoliticsIn this episode, Dave and Ryan discuss the ongoing dispute between Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and British Columbia Premier John Horgan over the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline and wine boycott, the upcoming Innisfail-Sylvan Lake by-election, Derek Fildebrandt’s final exile from the United Conservative Party caucus, and the Alberta Party leadership vote on Feb. 27, 2018.

And Ryan leads our new regular segment – So you want to be a candidate – where we share some helpful tips and advice for aspiring politicians looking to run in the 2019 provincial election.

Listen and subscribe on Apple PodcastsGoogle Play, and wherever you find podcasts online.

We’d love to hear what you think of the podcast, so feel free to leave a review where you download it and share the podcast with a friend. And feel free to leave a comment on this blog, Facebook or Twitter or send us an email at podcast@daveberta.ca.

We’d also like to send a huge thanks to our producer, Adam Rozenhart, for his help in making this podcast a reality.

Thanks for listening!

BC refuses to open the Quails’ Gate for Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline. Is Alberta up the CedarCreek without a paddle?

It has been one week since the Alberta Government began its great BC wine boycott and supplies of Okanagan wine are closer to running dry in Alberta’s privately owned liquor stores.

While Premier Rachel Notley has succeeded in draping herself Alberta’s blue and gold flag, the Kinder Morgan corporation’s Trans Mountain Pipeline from Edmonton to Burnaby looks to be no closer to expansion than it was before we began to deprive ourselves of BC wine.

Wine was an easy industry for the Alberta government to boycott, as there is no shortage of wines from other destinations on liquor store shelves, and Notley had to be seen to take some sort of action in retaliation. But with our integrated and interdependent economies there might not be much more the Alberta Government could boycott to convince the BC government of Premier John Horgan to stop their environmental study and stalling of transport of dilluted bitumen through BC.

Both politicians are in need of a big political wins and both sides of this debate have continued to dig in their heels.

Premier Rachel Notley met with steel workers during a tour of the Tenaris Prudential welded pipe mill in Calgary on Feb. 8, 2018. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)

Premier Rachel Notley met with steel workers during a tour of the Tenaris Prudential welded pipe mill in Calgary on Feb. 8, 2018. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)

Notley announced the appointment of a high-profile task force of former politicians (including former New Brunswick premier Frank McKenna and former deputy prime minister Anne McLellan), government bureaucrats and economists to help determine Alberta’s next actions. She also reiterated this week that the federal government should help resolve the situation.

Alberta’s Premier has found herself allied with Chambers of Commerce, federal Conservative MPs and United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney in demanding that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau take decisive action to force the BC government to not stall the expansion of the oil pipeline, but it remains unclear what “decisive action” actually means.

Kenney called for an emergency session of the Legislature, which under the current circumstances would be not much more than four pro-pipeline parties professing their undying devotion and love for the oil pipeline to Burnaby (just in time for Valentine’s Day). Mixed with a large serving of BC-bashing, it would be unlikely to help warm relations with our neighbours to the west.

While the sabre rattling and economic boycotts are very visible actions, behind the scenes discussions between cooler heads will likely be what leads to a politically palitable resolution, if that is even possible at this point.

Notley will not be attending this weekend’s federal NDP convention in Ottawa, which will likely save federal leader Jagmeet Singh from being forced to join the dispute between the only two NDP governments in Canada. It has not been announced whether Horgan will be attending either.

With the Alberta flag firmly draped over her shoulders and not a bottle of BC wine to be found, Notley should take the political fight out of Edmonton’s government district. Notley should take her pipeline sales pitch on the road and tour Alberta.

She should speak out against the climate change denial rampant in opposition circles and talk about the benefits of the carbon tax, the transition to renewable energy and her government’s investments in public services and infrastructure. She can help empower Albertans with the tools they need to be active citizens and engage British Columbians and other Canadians in the pipeline debate.

Holding town hall meetings, talking one-on-one with Albertans in coffee shops, spending more time on radio call-in shows – and maybe while Notley is doing this, her actions might remind Albertans what inspired them to vote for her party in 2015.

BC Wine Ban 2018: Notley picks her Mission Hill to die on

If you are an Albertan who enjoys British Columbia wines, now is the time to rush to your privately-owned and operated liquor store to purchase your favourites before it is too late.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley opened up a new front in the Great Constitutional Pipeline War of the Rockies today when she announced that the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission, the government agency responsible for purchasing and distributing wine, will no longer purchase B.C. wines.

This wine ban is a response to the BC Environment and Climate Change Strategy Minister George Heyman’s announcement that his province would effectively block the expansion of the Kinder Morgan corporation’s Trans Mountain Pipeline by limiting “the increase of diluted bitumen transportation until the behaviour of spilled bitumen can be better understood and there is certainty regarding the ability to adequately mitigate spills.”

In their first salvo, the Alberta Government withdrew from talks to purchase electricity from B.C.’s new Site C Dam near Fort St. John. But the B.C. wine ban has turned the war of words into the beginnings of a trade war.

Alberta purchases of BC wine account for around $70 million a year and the ban is meant to put pressure on the BC government of NDP Premier John Horgan (who’s party holds no seats in the Okanagan region) to back down and the government of Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa to intervene.

Horgan responded by pointing out that the pipeline dispute has, until now, been not much more than a war of words, admitting that the consultation process proposed by Heyman has not even begun.

Trudeau has voiced his support for the pipeline expansion, but pro-pipeline voices like Notley has called on him to enforce trade sections of the Canadian constitution to stop the BC government’s delay tactics. Both the Alberta and BC governments have tied their political fortunes to the success and failure of the pipeline, which may be a big reason Trudeau could be reluctant to intervene.

It is also unclear what an intervention by the federal government would actually look like.

While the Alberta Government may have a stronger constitutional case, it is important to not completely dismiss concerns that British Columbians might have, including concerns about increased oil tanker traffic on the Pacific Coast. ‘Bringing British Columbia to their knees,’ as some Conservative partisans have suggested, will not create a welcoming environment for any future oil pipeline development.

It is unclear to me whether the wine ban will work or whether we will see the Notley Government escalate the trade war, by perhaps encouraging Albertans to spend their summer vacations east of the Rockies.

Disclaimer: As he wrote this post, the author enjoyed a glass of the 2012 Pinot Noir from Serendipity Winery. In the event this trade war is not over by Christmas, he has a healthy supply of BC wine stockpiled in a safe and undisclosed location.

Construction of the expansion of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline is expected to start in 2017.

The Great Constitutional Pipeline War of the Rockies

Fresh from the Alberta NDP’s victory over Saskatchewan in the Fake Trade War on the Prairies, the ongoing political fight over the expansion of the existing Kinder Morgan TransMountain Pipeline from Edmonton to Burnaby is heating up.

Rachel Notley Alberta NDP leader

Rachel Notley

In the British Columbia NDP government’s most recent move to block the oil pipeline, Environment and Climate Change Strategy Minister George Heyman announced new rules today that would limit “the increase of diluted bitumen transportation until the behaviour of spilled bitumen can be better understood and there is certainty regarding the ability to adequately mitigate spills.”

A key section of the Confidence and Supply Agreement between the NDP and 3-MLA Green caucus that props up BC Premier John Horgan‘s minority government states: Immediately employ every tool available to the new government to stop the expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline, the seven-fold increase in tanker traffic on our coast, and the transportation of raw bitumen through our province.

“Having run out of tools in the toolbox, the Government of British Columbia is now grasping at straws,” Alberta Premier Rachel Notley read in a statement.

While the pipeline was always going to be politically challenging, with unflinching support in Alberta and unwavering opposition in British Columbia, the Notley government has poured a considerable amount of political capital into the success of pipelines. In a gamble, they even used their much lauded Climate Leadership Plan and carbon levy program as a key part of their sales pitch for oil pipeline expansion.

George Heyman BC Environment Minister Pipelines

George Heyman

But opposition in BC remains strong.

“The B.C. government has every right to consult on whatever it pleases with its citizens,” Notley said. “It does not have the right to rewrite our Constitution and assume powers for itself that it does not have. If it did, our Confederation would be meaningless.”

I am not a constitutional expert, so I cannot speak to Notley’s claims, but by questioning the BC government’s decision on constitutional grounds, she is pressuring Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to abandon his delicate balancing act of trying to appease his pro-pipeline ally (Notley), anti-pipeline ally (Horgan), and the 18 Liberal Members of Parliament who call BC home.

Trudeau will be hosting a town hall meeting at MacEwan University in Edmonton on Thursday, Feb. 1. Maybe someone can ask him a question about this?

The route of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline from Edmonton to Burnaby.

The route of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline from Edmonton to Burnaby.

Looking past pipelines, the NDP-Green agreement looks pretty good for BC

“Mark my words, that pipeline will be built, the decisions have been made.” – Alberta Premier Rachel Notley

Rachel Notley Alberta NDP leader

Rachel Notley

Alberta politicians, media and pundits are unsurprisingly focused on what the governing agreement between British Columbia New Democratic Party leader John Horgan and Green Party leader Andrew Weaver will mean for the future of the Kinder Morgan Trans-Mountain Pipeline.

The agreement would have the province’s three Green Party MLAs support the 41 NDP MLAs on confidence motions and money bills in the Legislative Assembly, allowing the NDP to form a minority government. Christy Clark‘s Liberals have 43 MLAs, one MLA short of a majority.

Aside from oil pipelines, the NDP-Green agreement commits to holding a referendum  on proportional representation in fall 2018 (though it is not clear what form of proportional representation will be proposed) and reforming BC’s wild-west election finance laws (banning corporate and union donations, placing limits on individual donations, and limiting party loans to banks and financial institutions).

The agreement also commits to appointing a commission to create a plan to implement a $15 per hour minimum wage, preserving public health care and education, and improving funding for public transit. While some of the points are intentionally vague, overall it reads like a fairly positive guide for the next BC government.

Andrew Weaver Green Party British Columbia

Andrew Weaver

But back to that pipeline from Alberta, the agreement states: “Immediately employ every tool available to the new government to stop the expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline, the seven-fold increase in tanker traffic on our coast, and the transportation of raw bitumen through our province.”

The pipeline expansion has already been approved by the federal government, but faces opposition from the public and the courts in BC. In an article earlier this month, James Wilt outlined three ways the BC government could stop or slow down the expansion of the Kinder Morgan Pipeline from Alberta to Burnaby.

Political opposition to the pipeline from an Green-supported NDP government in BC could create a lot of political trouble for Rachel Notley‘s NDP government in Alberta. There is no shortage of irony that the NDP-Green agreement could create a world of political problems for the most progressive and environmentally-friendly government Alberta has ever had.

Despite the Notley government’s Climate Leadership Plan, disagreement over oil pipelines has lead to a significant split between the Alberta NDP and its counterparts outside the province.

John Horgan BC NDP Leader Premier

John Horgan

Notley has been steadfast in her support for the pipeline, and as far as Alberta politicians go, she is probably in the best position to negotiate some sort of political compromise with a future Premier Horgan. The two politicians know each other and many NDP political staffers in Edmonton have deep connections to the BC NDP. Alberta’s Environment and Parks Minister Shannon Phillips even worked in the BC NDP campaign war-room in 2013.

In many ways, it would be easier for the BC NDP, and probably the federal NDP, if Alberta was governed by climate change denying conservatives. At least then they would be able to oppose these oil pipelines without the kind of complications that having an NDP government in Alberta has caused for them.

It is not clear when, or if, Horgan and Weaver will be able to enact their agreement. Clark has said she will remain in office for the time-being, likely until her Liberal Party loses a confidence vote in the Legislative Assembly. When that takes place could determine the political future of the pipeline, and who will be representing BC when the Council of the Federation meets in Edmonton from  July 17 to 19, 2017.

Schweitzer is back, again, probably

Calgary lawyer Doug Schweitzer is not running in the PC leadership race.

Doug Schweitzer

Calgary lawyer Doug Schweitzer, who pulled the plug on his bid to leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party last September and backed Jason Kenney instead, has announced his plans to run for the currently non-existent United Conservative Party. He is the former CEO of the Manitoba PC Party and was involved in Jim Prentice‘s campaign for the Alberta PC Party leadership in 2014. He served as Kenney’s scrutineer when the ballots were counted in the 2017 PC leadership race.

Schweitzer’s candidacy is entirely dependent on whether members of the Wildrose and PC parties vote to form a new party on July 22, which I expect will happen.

Pipelines, pipelines, pipelines – An Alberta view of the BC election

British Columbia voters reduced Christy Clark’s BC Liberals to minority status in the provincial election this week. The BC Liberals, who have formed government since 2001, elected candidates in 43 of the province’s 87 legislative constituencies (pending recounts). The official opposition New Democratic Party led by John Horgan boosted their numbers by electing 41 MLAs. And the Green Party, led by climate scientist Andrew Weaver, could hold the balance of power in the minority legislature after three Green MLAs were elected on Vancouver Island.

John Horgan

John Horgan

Results of the British Columbia provincial election by political watchers and pundits in Alberta are being viewed through the same lens they have viewed the entire BC election campaign: by wondering how it will impact future construction of oil pipelines from Alberta to the West Coast.

The NDP and Greens have stated their opposition to the pipeline expansion, and the Liberals gave their support to the federally approved Trans Canada Kinder-Morgan Pipeline expansion. But given the results of yesterday’s election, it is hard to say if there is any governing scenario in BC that is ideal for Alberta’s pipeline dreams.

But just because pipelines are top of mind for many Albertans, we shouldn’t fool ourselves into believing our priorities were the same priorities in the minds of BC voters who cast their ballots on Tuesday. Sure, pipelines, climate change, energy, and environmental issues were likely important issues for many BC voters, but so were health care, education, housing affordability, government corruption, political financing and many other issues.

While pipeline approvals fall under federal jurisdiction, opposition by a provincial government can create significant political problems for any project and a federal government that supports it. The unanswered question now on the minds of many Albertans is how the election results will impact the proposed expansion of the Kinder Morgan Trans-Mountain Pipeline from Alberta to a shipping terminal in Burnaby.

Rachel Notley Alberta NDP leader

Rachel Notley

A minority government formed by Clark’s Liberals could continue to support for pipelines, but if they become dependent on the votes of the three Green MLAs to maintain their government, political necessity could change their enthusiasm for the project. An NDP government supported by the Greens could result in further opposition to pipeline expansion.

Opposition to the pipeline by the BC NDP led pro-pipeline Alberta NDP Premier Rachel Notley to announce in Dec. 2016 that NDP political staffers in Edmonton would be barred from working on BC NDP campaigns in this election. The divide between the two parties, and two provinces, on the pipeline issue is stark. Public support for pipelines among Albertans appears to be near unanimous, while opposition to pipelines in BC is a broad and mainstream opinion.

While the BC Liberals are considered to be a conservative party, a Clark government will not necessarily have the best interests of Albertans in mind. In reaction to American President Donald Trump imposing a tariff on Canadian softwood lumber exports, Clark threatened to impose a $70 per tonne levy on thermal coal exports through BC ports. Alberta’s coal exports could be collateral damage in this move, even though Notley has questioned whether Clark actually has the constitutional authority to impose the levy.

Andrew Weaver

Andrew Weaver

Clark has attacked the Alberta NDP in speeches before and during the campaign, and it would not be uncharacteristic of the BC Liberals to attack Alberta in order to further expose the rifts between the Notley government and Horgan NDP.

While Albertans focus on prospects for oil pipelines to the West Coast, it is important to remember that what Albertans perceive as their best interests are not necessarily the top priorities for voters and politicians in BC, and nor should they be.

Former Alberta MLA defeated on Vancouver Island

Former Alberta MLA Alana DeLong was unsuccessful in her bid for election as a Liberal candidate in the Nanaimo-North Cowachin constituency on Vancouver Island. DeLong, who represented Calgary-Bow as a Progressive Conservative in the Alberta Legislature from 2001 to 2015, was defeated by incumbent New Democrat Doug Routley 10,986 votes to 6,696 votes.

Brian Topp NDP leadership candidate

Off the Topp: Notley shuffles her senior staff

As the fall Legislative session ends and MLAs prepare to return home to their constituencies for the holiday season, Premier Rachel Notley announced big changes in the senior ranks of her political office.

John Heaney

John Heaney

Gone is Brian Topp, the veteran political operative who became Ms. Notley’s Chief of Staff after the NDP formed government in 2015. He is reportedly becoming a fellow with the Ottawa-based Public Policy Forum.

Mr. Topp is replaced by John Heaney, a former British Columbia NDP political operative who served as Chief of Staff to John Horgan until moving east to Alberta last year. He was filling the role as Alberta’s policy czar as Deputy Minister of the Policy Coordination Office.

The McDougall Centre in Calgary

The McDougall Centre in Calgary

Former federal NDP campaign manager Anne McGrath, who was hired as Ms. Notley’s Principal Secretary after the 2015 federal election, moves south to run the Premier’s Calgary office at the McDougall Centre.

Ms. McGrath, who lived in the city and studied at the University of Calgary, replaces former alderman and MLA Bob Hawkesworth as Executive Director. It is hard to interpret this move as anything but a demotion. But the addition of Calgary-North West MLA Sandra Jansen to the government caucus, placing a campaign manager in the role could signal that the NDP are beginning to realize the need to shore up support in Alberta’s largest city before the next election.

Anne McGrath NDP

Anne McGrath

Back in Edmonton, Ms. McGrath will be replaced by ministerial chief of staff and former BC NDP advisor Jim Rutkowski, who rounds up the group of recently imported BC NDP operatives now filling the two most powerful political jobs in Alberta.

Alberta’s NDP government has pursued an aggressive policy and legislative agenda since defeating the 44-year old Progressive Conservative regime in May 2015. And while the economic recession caused by the decline in the international price of oil has created significant challenges, it has not slowed down the political agenda.

The recent approval of two oil pipelines suggests the NDP government flagship Climate Leadership Plan is already achieving political results for the province but the political battle over the carbon tax and phase of dirty coal fired power plants will continue into 2017.

It is too soon to tell what today’s staff changes will mean or how they will impact how the NDP government operates. The NDP focused on introducing policy and legislative changes during its first year in office, and now the government will need to shift political gears as it moves to implement its ambitious Alberta-changing policy goals.

Construction of the expansion of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline is expected to start in 2017.

Will the Alberta NDP lend their support to the anti-pipeline BC NDP in the next election?

Pipeline politics creates strange bedfellows in Alberta and BC

Fresh from winning the approval of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley is off to British Columbia to pitch the benefits of the pipeline.

Premier Rachel Notley Calgary Stampede Alberta

Rachel Notley

On pipelines and climate change, Alberta’s New Democratic Party appears to be more in sync with the federal Liberals than with their NDP cousins in Ottawa and Victoria.

The federal party’s flirtation with the controversial LEAP Manifesto at last year’s federal convention in Edmonton created serious strains between the two wings of the party. BC NDP leader John Horgan’s opposition to the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline has further divided the party and created strange political bedfellows.

Ms. Notley was in Ottawa last week as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline. At the press conference, Mr. Trudeau heaped praise on Alberta’s flagship climate change policy, which includes a price on carbon.

BC Liberal Premier Christy Clark

Christy Clark

Premier Christy Clark, leader of the conservative BC Liberals, is now touting Ms. Notley’s pipeline boosterism.

I would certainly say that Rachel Notley is very different from the leader of the NDP in B.C.,” Ms. Clark told the Vancouver Sun. “They are deeply split on the issue of Kinder Morgan and whether or not it should go ahead.”

The NDP-schism over pipelines could further complicate the inner-politics of the party.

Senior political staffers at the Alberta Legislature, including Brian Topp, the premier’s Chief of Staff, John Heaney, Deputy Minister of the Policy Coordination Office, and ministerial chiefs of staff Jim Rutkowski and Steve Stringfellow have strong ties to the BC NDP. Mr. Topp was the BC NDP campaign manager in 2013 and Mr. Heaney served as Mr. Horgan’s Chief of Staff until he joined Ms. Notley’s office in 2015.

Brian Topp Alberta Premier Chief of Staff

Brian Topp

It is well-known that the NDP operates a national network of political organizers who travel the country to work on election campaigns. This was an asset during Alberta’s 2015 election when experienced NDP campaigners from across Canada descended on our province. Some of those organizers now occupy political jobs in the Alberta government, which is now the only NDP government in Canada.

A few Alberta NDP staffers, including at least one current cabinet minister, traveled to BC to work for the NDP in the last election campaign.

John Horgan

John Horgan

But now that Mr. Horgan opposes the pipeline that Ms. Notley has staked her political future on, will the Alberta NDP lend their political staff to the BC NDP during next year’s election?

They shouldn’t.

The attack ads write themselves.

The NDP promises pipelines in Alberta but campaigns against them in BC. Whose side are they on?” an ad from Jason Kenney‘s Wildrose-PC Party might ask.

There are many New Democrats and progressive Albertans who would like to see Mr. Horgan’s NDP win the next election for reasons that go beyond pipelines (when I met Mr. Horgan in Victoria last year I found him to be quite engaging and likeable). But it would be foolish for the Alberta NDP government to allow its political staffers to campaign to elect a BC NDP government that will oppose Ms. Notley’s pipeline agenda and undermine all the work she is doing in BC this week.

Obviously Ms. Notley cannot stop individuals from campaigning on their own time, but if political staffers from Alberta are going to work against the pipelines in BC, they should not expect to have political jobs waiting for them back in Edmonton.

Notley’s Climate Change plan earns Trudeau’s Pipeline approval

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced today the fate of three pipelines that have dominated political debate in Alberta over the past six years. Yes to Kinder Morgan Trans-Mountain Pipeline. No to the controversial Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline. Yes to the Enbridge Line 3 Pipeline replacement. Plus, a ban of tanker traffic along British Columbia’s North Coast.

Justin Trudeau

Justin Trudeau

Mr. Trudeau heaped praise on Premier Rachel Notley for Alberta’s flagship climate change policy, which includes a price on carbon, the elimination coal-fired power plants, a cap on carbon emissions, and significant investments in renewables, as a central reason for the pipeline approval.

Alberta’s Climate Plan is a vital contributor to our national strategy,” Mr. Trudeau said. “This would not be possible without the leadership of the Notley government,” he said.

Mr. Trudeau basically said everything but “Hey Alberta, Rachel Notley is the reason you got a pipeline.”

It has been a long, dark night for the people of Alberta… Today we are finally seeing some morning light,” Ms. Notley said in a statement released from Ottawa this afternoon. That morning light could help drive up the Alberta NDP’s support in the polls, which has dwindled over their first 18 months in office.

Rachel Notley Edmonton MLA Strathcona NDP

Rachel Notley

The pipeline approval is a big political win for Ms. Notley’s government as it deals with an economic downturn caused by the low international price of oil. Her conservative critics have attacked her for not being a more vocal cheerleader for pipelines, but it appears a strategy of quiet climate change diplomacy with Ottawa may have been more effective.

It is odd that after years of hearing pro-pipeline rhetoric from Conservative political leaders about the need for more privately-owned and operated pipelines, it was an NDP Premier and a Liberal Prime Minister who secured their approval.

Interim federal Conservative leader Rona Ambrose criticized the government for not approving Northern Gateway, saying it cost the creation of 4,000 jobs, and claimed that Mr. Trudeau does not have enough political capital to make the Trans-Mountain project a reality.

While the pipeline has been approved on paper, it has not been built yet. The Kinder Morgan website projected a September 2017 start of construction.

kinder-morgan-trans-mountain-pipeline-runSupport for pipelines is high in Alberta, but not so much in British Columbia, where there will be fierce opposition to Kinder Morgan Trans-Mountain Pipeline expansion.

While visiting B.C. last September, I picked up a copy of Burnaby Now, a major newspaper in the City of Burnaby. Reported on the front page was a story about a charity-run style event against the expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline. In the same newspaper, an editorial cartoon lambasted BC NDP leader John Horgan for his then-indecisive position on the Kinder Morgan pipeline (he is now against it).

As an Albertan, I was unaccustomed to seeing positive mainstream media coverage of a pipeline protest. Editorial views in Alberta’s mostly-Postmedia owned newspapers are typically boiled down to ‘NDP bad, pipelines good.’

But the view in Burnaby was different, literally.

Unlike Alberta, where oil and gas is a large employer and many large oil projects are hidden from public view in the far north, the Kinder Morgan pipeline staging area is clearly visible on the side of Burnaby Mountain near Simon Fraser University. It is a powerful symbol.

If you believe that carbon emissions are a key cause of climate change, it makes sense that you would oppose the expansion of a permanent piece of infrastructure to transport oil. But stopping the Trans Mountain pipeline will not stop the development of Canada’s oil industry. Oil will continue to be shipped by truck or by rail but the policies included in the Climate Leadership Plan may lead to reduced carbon emissions.

With a provincial election in BC scheduled for early next year, expect the pipeline debate to take a central role in the campaign.

But in the meantime, Ms. Notley and Mr. Trudeau can enjoy their political victory.

The symbolism of today’s announcement is great, because Mr. Trudeau’s father was the great antagonist to western Canadian interests, and because it affirms the national direction on carbon pricing in the climate change policy debate.

As a friend and frequent observer of Alberta politics pointed out today, this might be the most politically significant pro-western decision made by a non-conservative Prime Minister in modern Canadian history.

Trump advisor coming to Alberta

Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway is headlining a fundraiser for the Alberta Prosperity Fund, a right-wing group backing Jason Kenney‘s hostile takeover of Alberta’s Progressive Conservative Party.

The same group hosted American anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist at a closed door reception in Calgary last November.