Tag Archives: Pipeline Politics

Alberta threatens to turn off the taps to BC as the Trans Mountain pipeline dispute continues

With little appearing to have changed after Sunday’s pipeline summit in Ottawa, the political dispute over Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Pipeline continues to escalate.

Marg McCuaig Boyd (photo by Connor Mah)

Marg McCuaig Boyd (photo by Connor Mah)

In Edmonton today, Alberta Energy Minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd introduced Bill 12: Preserving Canada’s Economic Prosperity Act. The bill would give the Minister of Energy sweeping powers to “make an order directing an operator to cease transporting natural gas, crude oil or refined fuels in the operator’s provincial pipeline, or by the operator’s railway or commercial vehicle.”

It makes February’s wine boycott sound cute.

Use of the powers included in Bill 12 could have serious political and economic consequences for Alberta and BC. Ceasing the transport of oil and gas to BC could convince BC Premier John Horgan’s government to back down from its opposition to the pipeline expansion, but it could also backfire by escalating political tensions between the two provincial governments.

There is a little bit of irony in the Alberta government granting itself the powers to slow down the shipment of oil and gas to BC. The BC government’s initial move to limit shipments of diluted bitumen 11 weeks ago, a move Notley then described as unconstitutional, is what escalated the current political dispute between the two provinces.

It is not clear whether Premier Rachel Notley‘s government would actually ever use the powers include in Bill 12. But at the rate this political dispute is escalating, I would not be surprised if McCuaig-Boyd started threatening to turn off the taps by next week. It feels very Lougheedian, but without the $100/barrel oil.

David Swann Liberal MLA Calgary-Mountain View

David Swann

Bill 12 will likely get unanimous support from the Jason Kenney-led opposition, leaving Alberta’s lone Liberal MLA as its only critic in the Assembly.

“The NDP Government wants extraordinary powers to interfere with the oil and gas industry but won’t provide specifics or limitations on those new powers,” said Calgary-Mountain View Liberal MLA David Swann, criticizing the the lack of details in Bill 12.

BC Environment Minister George Heyman says his government could take the Alberta government to court over Bill 12. “I’m not counting on Alberta taking extreme or unlawful actions, but if they do, we’re prepared to defend British Columbia’s interests with every legal means available,” Heyman said.

Hogan says his government will continue with its legal case to determine if the province has the jurisdictional right to stop the project. But it is unlikely the court will rule on this case before the May 31, 2018 deadline imposed by Texas-based Kinder Morgan Inc., which succeeded in generating a quick response from the Alberta and federal government.

A political dispute, not a constitutional crisis or a broken country.

As the political rhetoric runs high, it is important to take a deep breath. We are not on the verge of a constitutional crisis, as Notley has suggested. The country is not broken, as Kenney suggested. And we do not need to call in the army to protect the pipeline from eco-terrorists, as former Alberta energy minster Rick Orman suggested on CBC radio this morning.

As David Moscrop wrote in Macleans last week:

“What we’re seeing with the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline debate is democracy, federalism, and the rule of law at work: a divided country working out their opinions on the matter, split jurisdiction actors pursuing their interests, responsive governments keeping their promises, political and legal battles across several sites of licit contestation—and, to boot, a market response of potentially pulling the plug on the project as shareholders vote with their confidence and their dollars.”

BC MPs face civil contempt charges over acts of civil disobedience

Meanwhile, Green Party leader and Sannich-Gulf Islands Member of Parliament Elizabeth May and NDP MP Kennedy Stewart face criminal contempt charges after entering a 5-meter ‘no-protest’ zone surrounding Kinder Morgan’s pipeline construction site on Burnaby Mountain. A conviction will not necessarily lead to the two MPs losing their seats in the House of Commons.

Section 750(1) of the Criminal Code, which applies to members of both the Senate and the House, stipulates the following:

Where a person is convicted of an indictable offence for which the person is sentenced to imprisonment for two years or more and holds, at the time that person is convicted, an office under the Crown or other public employment, the office or employment forthwith becomes vacant.

Oil Pipeline still King in Notley’s Interprovincial Agenda

Three years ago this week, Conservative Premier Alison Redford took to the airwaves to warn Albertans about the ominous “bitumen bubble.” Ms. Redford warned that a pipeline bottleneck and a dramatic drop in the price of oil would rob the provincial government of up to $6 billion in natural resource revenue.

Rachel Notley Alberta NDP leader

Rachel Notley

Ms. Redford spent much of her two and a half years in office focusing on pipelines, as did her successor Jim Prentice during his short eight months in the Premier’s Office.

One of the jobs Mr. Prentice left when he decided to run for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative party in 2014 was as liaison between the (now moribundEnbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline and First Nations in northern British Columbia. Despite this experience, there was little evidence of pipeline advancement during his brief time as premier before the PCs were defeated in the May 2015 election.

Kathleen Wynne

The politics of pipelines continue to dominate Alberta’s interprovincial agenda under Premier Rachel Notley’s New Democratic Party government. Riding the success of the National Energy Strategy accepted at the Premier’s Meeting in St. John’s, Newfoundland last summer, Ms. Notley secured the tentative approval from Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne for the TransCanada Corporation’s Energy East Pipeline.

As AlbertaPolitics.ca publisher David Climenhaga noted last week, “Premier Rachel Notley, after less than nine months in office, secured the tentative approval of the premier of Ontario and the enthusiastic endorsement of the prime minister of Canada, both members of a different political party than hers, for a pipeline to carry diluted bitumen from Alberta to New Brunswick for refining.”

Alison Redford Alberta Election 2012 Conservative leader

Alison Redford

What we are witnessing is unfamiliar: an NDP Premier advocating for this approval of a privately-owned, privately-operated pipeline that would ship oil from Alberta’s oil sands to a privately-owned and privately-operated refinery in New Brunswick. This is hardly characteristic of the radical marxist socialist extremist that Ms. Notley’s more fanatical critics claim she is.

This pipeline will not save the Alberta government from the revenue shortfall caused by the drop in the international price of oil, which is intensified due as a result of poor long-term planning during the previous 44 years of conservative governments. But it could narrow the price gap between West Texas Intermediate and Western Canadian Select and provide a new point of export for Canadian oil while also keeping refinery jobs in Canada rather than exporting jobs to refineries overseas.

Denis Coderre

Denis Coderre

The decision to approve this pipeline will be up to the federal Liberal government, which includes strong representation from Alberta Members of Parliament.

Edmonton-Centre Liberal MP Randy Boissonnault reiterated his support for TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline last week. “Our government is committed to ensuring our natural resources have access to market.  This process will include a credible environmental assessment process based on science, facts and evidence,” Mr. Boissonneault said in a statement.

Randy-Boissonnault Edmonton Centre Liberals

Randy Boissonnault

Building a national consensus around climate change and the transportation and export of Canada’s oil will be helpful for future projects. It also gives Ms. Notley an opportunity to highlight her government’s climate change plan, which includes the phasing out of dirty coal fired power plants by 2030, a move that could significantly reduce Alberta’s carbon emissions.

While Wildrose opposition leader Brian Jean squabbles with Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre over the municipal politician’s opposition to the pipeline, it would appear that Ms. Notley’s quiet diplomacy might be showing results. These type of public spats distract from the reality that Mr. Jean supports TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline but would cheer if Ms. Notley’s bid fails.

If TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline is approved before the 2019 Alberta election, Ms. Notley will be able to make the claim that an NDP Premier was able to accomplish something her conservative predecessors could not: get a new pipeline built from the oil sands to an ocean port.