NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE, Ont. – The premiers of British Columbia and Alberta have launched a joint plan to expand exports of oil, gas and other resources, laying the groundwork for new pipeline projects to the west coast.
Wrapping up discussions at the Council of the Federation annual retreat of Canada’s 13 premiers, Christy Clark and Alison Redford said they had instructed their senior bureaucrats to start working together on policies to promote the exports and allow their fossil-fuel industries to gain access to new markets in Asia, driving up the prices for their resources.
“We understand in British Columbia how important it is that resources get to the coast,” said Clark, standing next to Redford. “We are getting our natural gas to the coast and off to Asia, hopefully selling it at a much, much higher price. We understand the economics of that. And Alberta understands that social licence is something that’s important for moving resources so we’re going to work through some of those details together and you can’t do that if you don’t sit down and talk.”
Redford said the discussions were at a preliminary stage that would go beyond talks about Enbridge’s Northern Gateway project, now under review by an independent panel. She said the provinces would also discuss which projects could be viable in the future.
“One of the things that’s been really exciting this year, I think right across Canada, but particularly in Alberta and British Columbia, is we’re seeing a number of people who are really coming to terms with the fact that responsible resource development is what’s going to allow us to continue to have economic growth in Canada,” Redford said.
B.C. and Quebec were the only provinces that declined to sign on to a progress report, released this week by premiers, on a national energy strategy that was spearheaded by Redford, establishing a set of common values to promote co-operation and growth as well as social and environmental responsibility.
Clark said her government still had concerns about the risks of the existing Northern Gateway proposal and was opposed to the project, which if approved, would create a new link between Alberta’s oilsands region and the west coast of British Columbia, opening the door to more expansion in the Alberta industry.
Environmental groups and First Nations communities have opposed most pipeline expansion projects from the oilsands region, arguing that the industry needs to first crack down on its environmental footprint and heat-trapping emissions which contribute to global warming before it expands.
But both premiers noted that they were elected with mandates to create jobs and grow the economy, explaining that their provinces were economic engines for the entire country.
“Alison and I have been having this (discussion) together as premiers, we want to take the next concrete step in that journey and have our officials sit down and start really grinding through some of the details to find out where we can find common ground, where we disagree and where we need to try and work a little harder,” said Clark.
The B.C. premier added that improving Coast Guard response to emergencies on the coast would also be a key factor and a failure to boost its ability could be an obstacle to economic growth.
“The federal government has been stripping down Coast Guard response in British Columbia, not adding to it,” Clark said. “So they’re going in the wrong direction on that and if we want to protect our coast, they’re going to have to step up to the plate on that.”
Redford also said she had interesting discussions with New Brunswick and Quebec about a separate pipeline proposal to bring Alberta’s oil to eastern Canadian refineries and that each jurisdiction was now reviewing details of the project.
For her part, Quebec Premier Pauline Marois said she was happy to have discussions and exchange information with her colleagues about energy policies, but did not want to endorse a national strategy with elements that could interfere with Quebec’s constitutional jurisdictions.
- Update: Clark, Redford all smiles after Kelowna meeting; pipelines not on the agenda (calgaryherald.com)
- Western premiers have doubts on Redford’s energy plan (calgaryherald.com)
- TransCanada touts major backing as premiers to discuss west-east pipeline (theglobeandmail.com)
- Premiers’ summit to include six female leaders for first time (o.canada.com)
- Premiers hope to put energy rhetoric behind them (business.financialpost.com)