BC’s Premier Horgan lit the fuse for a battle with Alberta when he announced a plan to “restrict diluted bitumen transportation by rail or pipeline until we can be certain that there is an ability to adequately mitigate the spills”. He got more than he bargained for. Alberta quickly escalated the fight and retaliated – Walking away from an electric energy negotiation and then telling Albertans to stop buying BC wine.)
Alberta also painted BC into a corner by declaring the idea unconstitutional and demanding the feds get involved directly. At first, the feds tried on the “just a dispute between two provinces” tack – but that didn’t last long. In combative public town hall meetings, the public smoked out the Prime Minister; who was at last forced to state clearly that the pipeline would be built.
The feds hoped to see the provinces’ rhetoric calm down and be taken offline. They talked to each side privately. Alberta continued to press, with continuing public statements from Ministers, a web-based petition and then a blue ribbon advisory panel. The opposition parties and the Senate waded into the donnybrook complaining about federal foot-dragging and excessive BC NIMBYism.
All this caused the Prime Minister to take the BC Premier to the woodshed in public. “Similarly, and frustratingly, John Horgan is actually trying to scuttle our national plan on fighting climate change. By blocking the Kinder Morgan pipeline, he’s putting at risk the entire national climate change plan, because Alberta will not be able to stay on if the Kinder Morgan pipeline doesn’t go through.”
As federal government moved from the “a quarrel between two provinces mode” to “a project in the national interest mode”; the NEB issued (Feb 15th) a couple of approvals that allowed for construction for parts of the pipeline; thus waiving the need for approvals from Burnaby City that were unlikely to ever be granted.
So, what will the next round look like? BC’s speech from the Throne made no mention of the pipeline or its proposed consultation idea. One might assume that BC and Alberta go back to their respective corners and prepare for the next round. Both Premiers will be telling their constituents that they will be doing all they can!
Now Severely Normal Albertans can expect that the well-funded NGOs who are anti-oilsands will begin public protests and perhaps civil disobedience activities. The court battle of an indigenous veto power over the project is in the Federal Court of Appeal; so there is another shoe to drop in the next couple of months. And the City of Burnaby has asked for permission to challenge the NEB in the Federal Court of Appeal.