B.C. Premier Christy Clark and her Alberta counterpart Alison Redford have reached a broad framework for an agreement to satisfy B.C.’s five conditions for supporting oil pipeline development in the province.
As a result, B.C. has agreed to sign on to Ms. Redford’s national energy strategy.
The agreement was hammered out Tuesday morning between officials from their offices, on the same day the two premiers were supposed to have held talks in Vancouver before the meeting was cancelled in an apparent stalemate.
Depending on who you believe, the impasse was caused by Alberta’s reluctance to have anything to do with one of the five conditions that Ms. Clark has placed on pipeline development in the province – or B.C.’s decision to negotiate additional benefits beyond those previously on the table.
The provision causing the problem was condition five, which concerned B.C.’s insistence that it receive a greater share of the economic benefits that would flow from any pipeline in exchange for the environmental risks the province would be assuming by allowing it to be built, according to a senior B.C. government official.
However, Premier Redford issued a statement late Monday night that cast the breakdown in negotiations differently. The Alberta Premier said that while she accepts that B.C. requires the five conditions in order to gain the social license to proceed with pipeline projects, it became clear to her that the province was “seeking to negotiate additional benefits.”
“If the government of B.C. decides to place additional charges on industry that go beyond the federal and provincial restrictions on responsible resource development, this is not something for the government of Alberta to negotiate – it is for the government of B.C. to negotiate directly with producers and industry,” Ms. Redford’s statement read.
The decision to cancel the Tuesday meeting was apparently B.C.’s idea. Ms. Redford had landed in Vancouver Monday afternoon fully intending to attend her planned get-together with Ms. Clark, only to learn it was not going ahead.
It’s fair to say Alberta officials were not amused by the decision of the B.C. Premier to unilaterally cancel the meeting.
In a previous interview with the Globe, Premier Redford said that condition five was a matter B.C. should take up with Ottawa and the pipeline proponents – not the Alberta government. But that was when relations between her and Ms. Clark were at a low point and the B.C. Premier was insisting that her province didn’t need pipelines anyway – it had liquefied natural gas.
However, the pair’s once famously frosty relationship seemed to thaw after the May election in B.C., when Ms. Clark’s Liberals were returned with a healthy majority. After that, the two met twice and emerged to say that there was new optimism that consensus could be achieved around a pipeline deal.
There had been considerable resentment in Alberta about Ms. Clark’s fifth condition. Part of it sprung from the fact that B.C. moves natural gas to market through pipelines that cross Alberta – product that isn’t taxed in any way. Many believe that B.C. should show the same courtesy to Alberta oil that needs to move through B.C.
“Heavy oil is fundamentally different than gas,” said the B.C. official. “I think there is a cultural difference between the two provinces that needs to be bridged here. Do you think British Columbians will warm to any pipeline proposal that doesn’t meet the five conditions ? Not a chance.”
Ms. Redford is scheduled to address the Vancouver Board of Trade Tuesday afternoon on her province’s energy future, one that seems to have become murkier.