NOT­LEY TALKS TOUGH ON TASK FORCE

Premier en­sures cam­eras are rolling as she vows to take the fight to Bri­tish Columbia

Edmonton Journal - - FRONT PAGE - GRA­HAM THOM­SON

When Premier Rachel Not­ley in­vited the me­dia into the first meet­ing of her mar­ket ac­cess task force Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon, you half ex­pected to find cam­paign maps on the wall.

These would be the kind you see in war movies, with boldly drawn ar­rows in­di­cat­ing the move­ment of troops into en­emy ter­ri­tory.

Make no mis­take about it, even though Not­ley is call­ing her task force by the eu­phemism “mar­ket ac­cess,” it’s re­ally a “re­tal­ia­tory” task force.

It has one bloody-minded job — to fight, using “any and all mea­sures,” Bri­tish Columbia’s op­po­si­tion to the ex­pan­sion of Kin­der Mor­gan’s Trans Moun­tain pipe­line to the West Coast from Al­berta.

The 19-mem­ber task force met in the leg­is­la­ture’s cabi­net room. It should be re­named the war room.

“B.C. has trig­gered a fight with Canada; this task force is help­ing us lead our re­sponse,” Not­ley said in a five-minute open­ing state­ment she made sure re­porters were al­lowed to record.

“We are go­ing to dis­cuss to­day fur­ther re­sponses to B.C. be­yond the wine ban and we are go­ing to talk about po­ten­tial re­sponses to any at­tempt to frus­trate progress on this im­por­tant pro­ject.”

Most of the task force mem­bers were there in per­son, in­clud­ing En­ergy Min­is­ter Mar­garet McCuaig-Boyd, Trade Min­is­ter Deron Bilous, Sun­cor rep­re­sen­ta­tive Ginny Flood and a co­terie of deputy min­is­ters.

Others took part by video link or by phone, in­clud­ing for­mer Lib­eral deputy prime min­is­ter Anne McLel­lan and for­mer New Brunswick premier Frank McKenna.

Her speech wasn’t ex­actly Churchillian.

She didn’t talk about fight­ing on the beaches and on the land­ing grounds. But she did say Al­berta would never sur­ren­der.

“We are not stand­ing down,” she de­clared sev­eral times.

“We are go­ing to keep the pres­sure on.”

The closed-door meet­ing lasted about 90 min­utes and was more ex­ploratory than declara­tory.

They had noth­ing to an­nounce after ex­cept that they’ll meet again.

MORE THAN A PO­LIT­I­CAL WEAPON

Those mem­bers not part of the Al­berta gov­ern­ment were care­ful to paint the task force as some­thing larger than a mere po­lit­i­cal weapon for Not­ley to use against B.C. Premier John Hor­gan.

“It’s not just about Al­berta ver­sus B.C.,” for­mer Syn­crude pres­i­dent Jim Carter said after the meet­ing.

“What this is about is mov­ing the whole coun­try for­ward. If we get bogged down on these things and we’re not able to de­velop our nat­u­ral re­sources and bring them to mar­ket, all Cana­di­ans are go­ing to suf­fer.”

Not­ley has said, and con­tin­ues to say, the same thing.

But the premier has a po­lit­i­cal dog in this fight, un­like Carter. This isn’t about just get­ting Al­berta en­ergy prod­ucts to mar­ket for Not­ley — it’s about get­ting her gov­ern­ment over the fin­ish line in next year’s provin­cial elec­tion.

The Kin­der Mor­gan pro­ject and the fate of her gov­ern­ment are in­ex­tri­ca­bly linked.

If the pipe­line ex­pan­sion gets un­der­way this year, she can give credit to her cli­mate lead­er­ship plan (with its con­tro­ver­sial car­bon tax) for ac­quir­ing the so­cial li­cence needed to get it built.

She can point to the jobs and rev­enue gen­er­ated by the pipe­line.

Such a victory would help si­lence her crit­ics and give her gov­ern­ment a fight­ing chance.

If the pro­ject is stalled right through to the 2019 elec­tion, her crit­ics will use the pipe­line’s chronic de­lay, and the fail­ure of so­cial li­cence, as a con­ve­nient and pow­er­ful weapon to help de­feat the NDP gov­ern­ment.

TRADE WAR TAC­TICS

Right now, Not­ley is hold­ing back from es­ca­lat­ing the trade war with B.C. be­yond the wine em­bargo and sus­pended ne­go­ti­a­tions over elec­tric­ity sales.

She wants to see if fed­eral bu­reau­crats, now in me­di­a­tion with B.C. of­fi­cials, can find a res­o­lu­tion. But she is only giv­ing them days.

As she pointed out in a state­ment last Fri­day when she an­nounced the task force: “Al­berta is pre­par­ing re­tal­ia­tory mea­sures. The new task force is made up of lead­ers with deep con­nec­tions through­out the coun­try and ex­per­tise on these mat­ters.”

And as she said Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon: “B.C. can­not pre­tend that they are not part of the coun­try and they don’t get to as­sume rights that they clearly don’t have. It’s an at­tack on the eco­nomic se­cu­rity and cer­tainty and well-be­ing of work­ing Al­ber­tans.”

Not­ley made it clear again Wed­nes­day she is pre­pared to meet that at­tack with con­tin­ued coun­ter­at­tacks to “end the de­lays, end the games.”

Not­ley is fac­ing a calamity thanks to the ac­tion of the B.C. premier and the in­ac­tion of the prime min­is­ter.

But she is still fight­ing for a victory — and hop­ing she can yet turn this po­lit­i­cal cri­sis into her own finest hour.

B.C. can­not pre­tend that they are not part of the coun­try and they don’t get to as­sume rights that they clearly don’t have.

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