VANCOUVER —British Columbia Premier Christy Clark is unmoved by Alberta’s apparent refusal to entertain her province’s demands for a bigger share of the benefits and a smaller share of the risks involved in the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline project.
“If Alberta doesn’t sit down and talk about it, the project can’t go ahead. It’s as simple as that,” Clark told The Canadian Press on Tuesday.
The rhetoric on both sides of the issue has increased a day before provincial and territorial leaders gather in Halifax for the annual Council of the Federation meeting.
Clark has taken the firm stand that five conditions must be met for B.C. to even consider the Enbridge project, which will carry crude from Alberta to a port on the West Coast for shipment to Asia.
Alberta Premier Alison Redford expressed disappointment in Clark’s comments on Tuesday morning, and has said B.C. would “fundamentally change confederation” by demanding increased compensation.
“That means every single time that you have an economic project or a commercial project there has to be a new negotiation of the balance sheet,” she told reporters. “It’s not how Canada has worked, it’s not how Canada has succeeded and I’m disappointed to hear the comments.”
But Clark said Alberta must either work with her to rebalance the equation or B.C. won’t buy in.
“I am going to fight for this, for British Columbia,” she said.
“I do know that there’s been lots of difficult conversations … that have unfolded across the country that have led to agreement,” she said. “They don’t involve opening up the constitution.”
Only 8.2 per cent of the Northern Gateway’s projected $81 billion tax revenue would flow to B.C. over a 30-year period, according to research commissioned by the B.C. government.
That equates to $6.7 billion for B.C., while Ottawa is expected to receive $36 billion and Alberta would earn $32 billion.
Saskatchewan is expected to top the remainder of the provinces in terms of tax benefit, receiving about $4 billion.
The analysis was conducted by Wright Mansell Research Ltd., and accounts for a period between 2016 and 2046.
British Columbia’s gross domestic product would get a boost of 17 per cent of $270 million over that period, while the total employment benefit would be 25 per cent of the project but mainly consist of short-term construction jobs.
“Here we are, taking the bulk of risk—on the marine side, 100 per cent of the risk—and we’re not getting much in return,” Clark said.
Environmental assessment hearings are currently underway for the project that the federal government has championed for its potential to boost the economy.
But environmental advocates and First Nations have long argued leaks from tankers transporting the oil could tarnish B.C.’s land, while a spill along the coast could be devastating. Enbridge has already had to conduct major oil cleanups in Alberta and Michigan after pipeline breaches.
Last week, the company announced it will shore up another $500 million in safety improvements for the 1,177-kilometre twin line.
Activists, however, have said no amount of money will satisfy them — they want the $5.5-billion project stopped.
Redford said despite understanding that Clark is concerned about the economy just as she is, she’s not prepared to give any leeway. She noted many other commodities move across borders without compensation.
“We will not share royalties and I’ve seen nothing else proposed and would not be prepared to consider anything else at this time,” she said. “We’ll continue to protect the jurisdiction that we have over our energy resources.”
But Clark said heavy oil is a different beast.
“It sure isn’t grain and it isn’t natural gas. We are developing a trillion-dollar industry for natural gas in British Columbia and we know it is a relatively low risk commodity to move,” she said, as B.C. already pipes some of its resource through Alberta.
“When there is a spill it escapes into the air. But heavy oil is an entirely different commodity and it’s unique in the country. So it’s because of the risks inherent in this, we have to protect our environment. We have to get our fair share.”