There is an election happening on the other side of the Rockies.Ian Bushfield and Scott de Lange Boom from the Politicoast Podcast join Dave in this episode of the Daveberta Podcast to help Albertans understand what is happening in British Columbia’s provincial election.
Thank you to Ian and Scott for joining us and sharing their wealth of knowledge and insight into BC politics.
And thank you to our producer Adam Rozenhart for making this – our 60th episode – sound so great! And thank you to our listeners for continuing to subscribe and download the podcast over the past few years.
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Kinder Morgan Inc. has given the provincial and federal governments a deadline of May 31, 2018 to sort out the political dispute over the expansion of the already existing pipeline from Edmonton to Burnaby. But it appears as though federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau saying the federal government is willing to offer significant financial support to the corporation to compensate for any inconveniences our Canadian system of federalism and democracy may cause the Texas-based corporation.
Singh shows up to the party:Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh finally waded into the debate over the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline today. Singh tweeted that “Liberals are giving Texas oil company #KinderMorgan a blank cheque while dumping all the risks on Canadians. Rigged process, First Nations & local communities shut out, oil spill threats, science ignored & now billions on the line It’s clear this pipeline should not be built.”
Singh’s choice to oppose the pipeline reflects the composition of his federal caucus of 43 Members of Parliement, which includes 1 MP from Alberta and 14 MPs from British Columbia.
Giant new provincial park: Environment and Parks Minister Shannon Phillips announced the creation of five new wildland provincial parks covering 1.3 million hectares of new protected areas in northern Alberta. Along with the Wood Buffalo National Park, and the Caribou Mountains Wildland Provincial Park these new wildland provincial parks are the biggest contiguous legislated protection the world’s boreal forest. According to a Government of Alberta press release, the new protected areas were created through a partnership with the provincial and federal governments, the Tallcree First Nation, Syncrude and the Nature Conservancy of Canada.
“Other planning processes underway will further protect under-represented ecosystems and habitats for woodland caribou. We look forward to Alberta becoming the first jurisdiction in Canada to achieve the benchmark of 17 per cent of its landscapes as legislatively protected areas as landscape planning is completed in other parts of the province,” Dyer said.
Do as I say, not as I do: It was not long ago that United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney declared that “I believe that we can have a respectful debate on ideas without resorting to the nasty politics of personal destruction.”
But this week, Kenney unleashed the nasty politics of personal destruction against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a column written by Postmedia’s Rick Bell. Of Trudeau, Kenney claimed that “He doesn’t have a clue what he’s doing. This guy is an empty trust-fund millionaire who has the political depth of a finger bowl. He can’t read a briefing note longer than a cocktail napkin, O.K.”
Kenney’s harsh words give an indication of how relations between Alberta and Ottawa could sour if he becomes Premier of Alberta in 2019.
“Alberta is prepared to do whatever it takes to get this pipeline built” – Rachel Notley
It was a busy Sunday afternoon in Alberta politics.
We appear to have reached another stage in what feels like a never-ending political dispute over the expansion of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Pipeline from Edmonton to Burnaby. Late on Sunday afternoon, Kinder Morgan released a statement declaring that it was “suspending all non-essential activities and related spending on the Trans Mountain Expansion Project.”
The company plans to “consult with various stakeholders in an effort to reach agreements” by May 31, 2018.
It feels like a big win for British Columbia Premier John Horgan and opponents of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion. But this announcement by Kinder Morgan could also be part of a strategy to increase the pressure on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to convince Horgan to back down from his opposition to the pipeline.
Kinder Morgan Inc. is the key player in this dispute but has remained largely silent in the public debate. But when the Texas-based company finally spoke this afternoon, all the political players jumped to attention.
Notley responded to Kinder Morgan’s announcement with a message that is pitch perfect for Alberta-ears. Notley called on Trudeau to stand up for Alberta’s interests as he has for economic interests in Ontario and Quebec. And in a move that will remind Albertans of Peter Lougheed, Notley went as far to say that “Alberta is prepared to be an investor in the pipeline” if opposition to the pipeline caused private investors to flee.
Trudeau responded very clearly with a tweet declaring that “The Trans Mountain expansion will be built.” And federal Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr reinforced support for the pipeline in a written statement.
All that said, it remains unclear what the federal government will do to stop what is mostly verbal threats by the BC government to stop the pipeline.
In a statement released today, Horgan stated that “the federal process failed to consider B.C.’s interests and the risk to our province” – a sentiment that most Albertans might agree with on many other issues. But with the BC NDP government now trying to jump-start the west coast liquid natural gas industry, it seems clear that neither climate change or the transportation of natural resources are the actual reasons for opposing this pipeline.
The Notley government is expected to introduce legislation giving the government the authority to limit oil and gas shipments to BC, a move that could have serious political and economic repercussions for Alberta, BC and Canada. I would imagine this drastic move by the Alberta government would provide some incentive for Trudeau to figure out how he might provide an opportunity for Horgan to gracefully save face on this issue.
I expect this might not be the last time this never-ending political dispute makes big news on a Sunday afternoon.
As Kinder Morgan and its supporters in government in Edmonton and Ottawa are racking up the legal and regulatory wins in this pipeline dispute, losses in the courts might do little to stop opposition to the pipeline.
South of the border, a Massachusetts judge ruled that more than a dozen protesters who blocked the construction of a gas pipeline were “not responsible” after they argued their actions to try and stop climate change were a legal “necessity.” I do not know if a similar outcome would be possible in Canadian courts, but I suspect we will begin to hear some of the same arguments in the coming months.
In the chambers of parliament in Ottawa, the Senate unanimously adopted a motion introduced by BC Conservative Senator Richard Neufeld urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to “bring the full weight and power of his office to ensure that Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Expansion Project gets completed on schedule.” This week, Independent Senator Doug Black of Calgary introduced Bill S-245, the Trans Mountain Pipeline Project Act, which would declare the pipeline “to be works for the general advantage of Canada.”
It is not clear what Neufeld believes “the full weight and power” of the Prime Minister’s Office includes, but aside from Trudeau sending in the Army or suspending constitutional rights of Canadians, we should expect the protests to intensify. The Trudeau government in Ottawa has been clear about its support for the pipeline, but the political calculus, including the 18 incumbent Liberal MPs in British Columbia, has meant most federal pressure on the BC government is likely being applied behind the scenes.
Notley was right to point out the contradiction in the BC government’s position opposing the Kinder Morgan pipeline while trying to jump-start the west coast liquid natural gas industry. Just as Albertans have discovered in this pipeline dispute, provincial governments can sometimes be much more sympathetic to their own local industries than the opinions of neighbouring provinces.
There are contradictions on both sides of this debate.
Opponents of the pipeline are happy to point out the conflicting messages sent by Notley’s government, which pushes the expansion of an oilsands pipeline while lauding its Climate Leadership Plan. The success of the oil pipeline has been made central to the Alberta NDP government’s political future, The awkward shoehorning of the pipeline issue into the provincial budget was the most recent example.
It feels unlikely this issue will be resolved anytime soon and, despite rulings in the courts, opponents of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Pipeline will likely get louder and more determined before the pipeline is expanded, if ever.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In the British Columbia NDP government’s most recent move to block the oil pipeline, Environment and Climate Change Strategy Minister George Heymanannounced 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.
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.”
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.
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.
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, 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.
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.
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.
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-pipelineAlberta 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.
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.
Vancouver-based website TheBreaker reported this week that Kenney was recently spotted in British Columbia speaking at a $500-a-plate federal Conservative Party fundraising event at Hy’s Steakhouse in downtown Vancouver. Kenney tweeted that he was in Vancouver for a conference, but did not mention any other political activities the PC Party leader has been engaged in on the west coast.
The website author, journalist Bob Mackin, alleged that Kenney urged guests at the fundraising dinner to support the BC Liberal Party of Christy Clark in the province’s May 9 general election and that a new conservative party could be formed in Alberta as soon as this weekend.
Meanwhile, as the unite-the-right discussions continue, a new poll released by Mainstreet Research asking Albertans who they would prefer as leader of a merged Wildrose-PC party showed Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean leading Kenney with 29 percent to 24 percent support. Twenty-four percent of respondents chose “Someone Else” and 23 percent were unsure, suggesting that there could be appetite for a third or fourth candidate to enter the contest (some Conservative activists have suggested outgoing interim federal Conservative leader Rona Ambrose could fill this void).
Jean has been criss-crossing the province holding town hall meetings ostensibly to collect feedback on the party merger, but in reality he is campaigning for the leadership of the yet-to-be-named and yet-to-be-merged Wildrose-PC party.
I am told that one of the significant issues of debate between the leadership of the two conservative parties is the timeline for a leadership vote. Jean has firmly said the leader of a new party should be chosen before October 15, 2017 while Kenney has been saying since last year that he wants a founding convention to be held in late 2017 before a leadership vote takes place in early 2018.
Jean’s preferred timeline appears to be more sensible, as it would allow a leader to hold court over a founding convention that could be unruly and filledwithbozo-erruptions if a leader is not in place to keep the rowdy membership base in line. Kenney’s preference would buy him more time to compete with Jean in a leadership vote, which he might need now that he has decided to lend himself out to conservative fundraising efforts in British Columbia.
While most political chatter in Alberta is focused on how big Jim Prentice’s victory will be on the first ballot of the Progressive Conservative leadership vote on September 6, there is another race about to begin – the race to become the leader of the Alberta NDP.
At his press conference announcing departure, outgoing NDP leader Brian Mason told the media he has asked the NDP provincial executive to hold a leadership vote on or near the weekend of October 19. The party is expected to announce official rules or timelines for the leadership vote in the coming months.
No candidates have declared their plans to enter the race, but if more than one does, it would be the Alberta NDP’s first contested leadership race since 1996, when the feisty Pam Barrett was selected to replace former Member of Parliament Ross Harvey. A contested race would help generate interest and boost their membership numbers across the province.
While there is an opportunity for the NDP to make modest gains in the next election, their next leader will face some serious challenges. One will be to expand their party outside of its traditional base in Edmonton. This will require good candidates, good organization, and, of course, money.
The NDP have not won a seat outside of Edmonton since the 1989 election. Some NDP supporters hope the division of conservative voters and the final demise of the drifting Liberal Party led by Raj Sherman could help bolster their chances of expansion.
Perhaps the most thankless part of the job will be to try and convince Albertans that the NDP is not opposed to the province’s energy industry. While federal NDP leader Tom Mulcair‘s ‘Dutch Disease‘ comments were not helpful, observers of Alberta politics will have noticed the NDP softening their language around Alberta’s chief industry in recent years, replacing ‘tarsands’ with ‘oilsands’ and focusing on other big polluters, like the province’s dirty coal industry.
While there are rumours of potential outside candidates, there is a possibility that the party’s three remaining MLAs could throw their hats into the ring.
A teacher, he first ran for the NDP in Edmonton-Centre in 2008 and was elected as the MLA for Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview in 2012. Before his election, he taught at Edmonton’s Inner City High School. Considered rising star in the NDP, the 38-year old first-term MLA has proven himself to be a well-spoken and hard-working addition to the opposition benches.
A teacher, he first ran for the NDP in Edmonton-Centre in 2001 and was elected as the MLA for Edmonton-Calder in 2004, unseating PC MLA Brent Rathgeber. He was defeated in 2008 and re-elected in 2012. From 2008 to 2012, he served as executive director of the Friends of Medicare, an advocacy group promoting public health care in Alberta.
Mr. Eggen is well-known as a hard-working MLA who is scrappy critic in the Legislature and rarely takes a break from door-knocking in his constituency between elections. Now as the NDP Health critic, he is an outspoken critic of privatization in Alberta’s health care system.
A phone poll conducted in February 2014, and captured on this blog, suggests that Mr. Eggen or his supporters have been preparing for a leadership campaign for months.
Rachel Notley First elected as the MLA for Edmonton-Strathcona in 2008, Ms. Notley is an outstanding parliamentarian. Her knowledge of Assembly procedure has helped keep the NDP effective at blocking or slowing down PC legislation on more than a few occasions. Educated in law at Toronto’s Osgoode Hall, she worked as a staffer in British Columbia NDP government and was a Labour Relations Officer with the United Nurses of Alberta.
She is also the daughter of Grant Notley, a well-respected NDP leader and northern Alberta MLA from 1971 to 1984. Her supporters have already launched a Ready for Rachel Facebook page, which now has more than 550 Likes.
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