Ot­tawa scraps fund­ing an­nounce­ment

News con­fer­ence abruptly can­celled amid fight over pipe­line, but money is still on the way

The Province - - NEWS - ROB SHAW rshaw@post­media.com twit­ter.com/rob­shaw_­van­sun

— The fed­eral govern­ment abruptly can­celled a joint an­nounce­ment with Bri­tish Columbia over child care fund­ing late last week, as ten­sions con­tin­ued to mount over the Kin­der Mor­gan pipe­line dis­pute.

The fed­eral and provin­cial child care min­is­ters were set to hold a news con­fer­ence Fri­day to an­nounce their Early Learn­ing and Child Care Agree­ment, that will see Ot­tawa de­liver $153-mil­lion over three years to the prov­ince. But on Thurs­day, Ot­tawa pulled out of the event, claim­ing a sched­ul­ing con­flict.

The move came dur­ing the height of a dis­pute be­tween Al­berta, B.C., and Ot­tawa over the ex­pan­sion of the Kin­der Mor­gan pipe­line. B.C. an­nounced ear­lier this month it in­tends to re­strict the ex­panded flow of bi­tu­men into the prov­ince pend­ing a re­view into the sci­ence of oil spills, in a move widely seen as an at­tempt to de­lay the pipe­line project. Al­berta re­sponded on Feb. 6 with a ban on im­port­ing B.C. wines and an appeal to Ot­tawa to in­ter­vene and over­rule what it called an un­con­sti­tu­tional threat from B.C.

B.C. and fed­eral of­fi­cials then met on Feb. 8 in Van­cou­ver to dis­cuss B.C.’s po­si­tion. That day, Ot­tawa can­celled the child care news con­fer­ence.

An­nounc­ing the provin­cial money would have been a boost for Bri­tish Columbia, where the NDP govern­ment is strug­gling to af­ford the $10-a-day child care plan promised dur­ing the May 2017 elec­tion. The govern­ment has said it will need help from Ot­tawa to fund the plan. A joint press con­fer­ence on the eve of the Feb. 20 provin­cial bud­get, in which de­tails of B.C.’s child care pro­gram will be re­vealed, could have been a vis­i­ble show of sup­port for B.C.’s am­bi­tions.

The provin­cial-fed­eral deal was in­stead qui­etly posted to a sub­sec­tion of the B.C. govern­ment’s web­site on Fri­day. B.C. will still get the money.

It’s un­clear if Ot­tawa’s move was in fact re­tal­i­a­tion for B.C.’s threats about the pipe­line.

“The fed­eral govern­ment has as­sured us the event is de­layed just for now,” Pre­mier John Hor­gan’s of­fice said in a state­ment Wed­nes­day. “We con­tinue to have good work­ing re­la­tion­ships across min­istries on a range of is­sues.

“We’re also con­tin­u­ing our di­a­logue with the fed­eral govern­ment on Kin­der Mor­gan, which in­cludes a meet­ing to­day be­tween fed­eral and provin­cial of­fi­cials.”

Hor­gan was asked af­ter his throne speech Tues­day whether his pipe­line fight would af­fect provin­cial-fed­eral re­la­tions, in­clud­ing fed­eral money for child care and tran­sit. He said he did not think that would be a prob­lem.

On Wed­nes­day, Lib­eral leader An­drew Wilkin­son said “Ot­tawa has a lot of dis­cre­tion in terms of whether they sup­port projects in Bri­tish Columbia .... Right now pre­mier Hor­gan has picked a fight in Al­berta that he can’t win, and the govern­ment of Canada has ap­proved a project he is now try­ing to block. That does not bode well for our re­la­tion­ship with Ot­tawa.”

B.C. Pre­mier John Hor­gan’s of­fice in­sists his govern­ment still has ‘good work­ing re­la­tion­ships’ with Ot­tawa de­spite strong dis­agree­ments over the is­sue of pipe­lines. — THE CANA­DIAN PRESS


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