You've to hand it to B.C. Premier Christy Clark. It takes a lot of balls to do what she did just prior to last week's provincial premier's conference, and then throughout the meeting. The premier from Lotus Land has decided she will use out-and-out extortion against her province to the east when it comes to the Northern Gateway pipeline.
As Sun News' Ezra Levant said, "She wants a shakedown of the oil money."
Honestly, I can't think of a better way to put it. You wanna sell in our neighbourhood? We wanna piece, is precisely the message Clark has put forward.
Don't like it? "No pipeline," she said to the national media on July 25.
That's a shakedown by any definition that I know.
B.C. is assuming all the maritime risk, she asserts. True, that, just as it does for shipping potash and wheat. Bitumen and wheat are not the same thing, she notes. Maybe not. But then again, what difference does that make? If she can do it for one commodity, why not another?
I seem to recall working in Dawson Creek, B.C. in 1999, building the Alliance Pipeline. That line ships B.C. and Alberta gas to Chicago. It goes through Alberta and Saskatchewan. Should Alberta then say, "Well, there Ms. Clark, you don't want to allow our oil pipeline? How about we turn off the valve on Alliance somewhere near Grande Prairie?"
The B.C. gas industry would grind to a halt in a day, as would its royalties to the province.
Clark's move is the type of thing a desperate, unpopular premier tries to do when facing a resurgent opposition prior to an election. In Saskatchewan we saw this in the early '90s when Grant Devine promised "Fair Share Saskatchewan," which would have seen government jobs decentralized from Regina to communities throughout the province.
She does not have a constitutional leg to stand on. This is federally regulated via the National Energy Board, and for good reason. Provinces shouldn't be able to hold others for ransom. That is, of course, unless you are Quebec. As a result, Newfoundland is spending a pile of money to run a power line from Labrador to Newfoundland and then to Nova Scotia in order to sell electricity to its neighbours to the south.
Maybe Saskatchewan and Manitoba should get in on the action as well, since all the TransCanada and Enbridge mainlines run through our provinces. Not only could we get a cut of B.C. gas, but Alberta oil. The problem is we would expect an army of rednecks descending on Regina, 30-30 Winchesters in hand.
Wars have been fought over such things, as is evidenced by Sudan and it's year-old former half, South Sudan. Cutting off pipelines is heady, and often deadly stuff.
What Clark needs to realize is that there is no way Prime Minister Stephen Harper is going to let this pipeline fail. The Keystone XL pipeline has become a fiasco, but that is by forces (U.S. government) out of our control. Northern Gateway is most definitely in our control. Without at least one pipeline, Fort McMurray's oilsands will stall, and with it, the economy of the entire nation.
The Northern Gateway pipeline is Harper's railroad, as surely as the CPR was Sir John A. Macdonald's. It is an exercise in nation building, despite what the First Nations and environmentalists say. Without these conduits to the outside world - railways, highways, and pipelines, our bountiful resources are worthless. Macdonald understood that. Harper understands that. Clark, apparently, does not.
Does anyone think Vancouver would be a fraction of the size it is now if it were not for the port and the infrastructure connecting it to the rest of Canada? Get rid of the railways, highways and pipelines, and soon Vancouver's very reason for being disappears, too. By the way, Ms. Clark, isn't oil shipped out of Vancouver every day?
Clark may think she has some power in this matter. However, she's soon going to discover who the big boy is on the block, and it's not her.
Brian Zinchuk is editor of Pipeline News. He can be reached at brian.zinc...@sasktel.net