Hor­gan’s road­blocks come back to haunt him

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B.C. Premier John Hor­gan will be sweat­ing on Wed­nes­day. It’s a de­light­ful thought.His Bri­tish Columbia NDP, a chief ob­struc­tor of Al­berta’s econ­omy, faces a by­elec­tion in Nanaimo.It’s an NDP strong­hold, but if the Lib­er­als win, Hor­gan’s frag­ile mi­nor­ity al­liance with the Greens will be up­ended.That’s only one of his mi­nor trou­bles. He has many, both lo­cal and na­tional, that aren’t go­ing away no mat­ter who wins. Well, he earned them.The forces this guy hap­pily un­leashed on the Trans Moun­tain pipe­line are now be­ing turned on his own projects.A First Na­tions block­ade has again halted work on the $6.2-bil­lion Coastal GasLink pipe­line.The Na­tional En­ergy Board will also hear an ap­pli­ca­tion to con­duct a full fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tion of this project. The prov­ince wants to avoid that on grounds that the GasLink is en­tirely within B.C. Once these chal­lenges start, you never know. As Van­cou­ver Sun col­league Vaughn Palmer jokes, “lit­i­ga­tion fu­tures are the only sure way to make money in B.C.”Al­berta’s nat­u­ral gas in­dus­try favours the LNG project be­cause it’s ex­pected to raise prices and open new mar­kets. We shouldn’t hope for it to fail.But still, what fun to watch Hor­gan’s pet project plunged into the fires of hell he helped in­flict on Trans Moun­tain.Then there’s the $9-bil­lion Site C dam project, which Hor­gan al­lowed to con­tinue de­spite fierce en­vi­ron­men­tal op­po­si­tion.B.C. Hy­dro has won 14 straight le­gal chal­lenges. But the B.C. Supreme Court is set to hear a First Na­tions case based on vio- la­tion of treaty rights.You’ll re­call that Trans Moun­tain won 16 le­gal cases be­fore it was stopped cold by the Fed­eral Court of Ap­peal last Aug. 30.Those are just the prob­lems Hor­gan has at home. On the wider scene, he faces the prospect of hos­tile con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ments from the Rock­ies to the Que­bec bor­der.If Ja­son Ken­ney’s UCP wins Al­berta’s spring elec­tion, he’ll crank up the al­liances he’s been build­ing with Doug Ford in On­tario, Brian Pal­lis­ter in Man­i­toba and Scott Moe in Saskatchewan.Hor­gan will quickly be Canada’s most iso­lated premier, both ge­o­graph­i­cally and po­lit­i­cally.And he’ll have brought it on him­self with hos­tile moves that di­min­ished Rachel Not­ley and the Al­berta NDP in the eyes of vot­ers.Hor­gan’s most ap­palling sin­gle ac­tion — his claim to reg­u­late flows of Al­berta bi­tu­men — re­mains an ex­is­ten­tial threat to the en­tire oil­sands in­dus­try.He wants to con­trol bi­tu­men whether by rail, truck or pipe­line. This seems to vi­o­late ev­ery con­sti­tu­tional prin­ci­ple of free in­ter­provin­cial trade.Hor­gan first brought in reg­u­la­tions last year. That pro­voked a mini-trade war when Not­ley briefly banned Al­berta pur­chases of B.C. wine.Hor­gan soft­ened his de­mand and backed up, but not far. He re­ferred B.C.’s ju­ris­dic­tional claim to the courts, where it still sits.He may not have the slight­est idea of the ac­tive of­fi­cial anger he’ll face if the UCP wins in Al­berta.Ken­ney would very likely in­voke Bill 12, which al­lows cuts in oil ship­ments to other prov­inces.The NDP passed the bill last year but never used it. (This isn’t to be con­fused with cur­rent pro­duc­tion cur­tail­ment, which is meant to drive up prices.)Dur­ing a north­ern tour last week, Ken­ney said in Beaver­lodge:“We have to make it clear that we are pre­pared to do what (for­mer PC premier) Peter Lougheed did in the early 1980s in re­sponse to the Na­tional En­ergy Pro­gram.“We must be pre­pared to turn off the taps of Al­berta oil that fu­els the Lower Main­land econ­omy.”Af­ter Ot­tawa bought into the pipe­line last year, Not­ley said there was no point to us­ing Bill 12.Ken­ney dis­agreed.“If the logic of Bill 12 ex­isted two weeks ago, it still ex­ists to­day,” he said then.“I would be pre­pared to im­ple­ment that given the con­tin­ued ob­struc­tion­ism of the B.C. gov­ern­ment.”Not­ley and Hor­gan are no longer friendly, ob­vi­ously. But she’s al­ways been re­luc­tant to en­gage in an all-out bat­tle with any­one, let alone an­other New Demo­crat.Ken­ney is not likely to show any such re­straint.John Hor­gan’s party may win Nanaimo on Wed­nes­day, and maybe that’s nice for him. He doesn’t have many friends any­where else.

The slim hold on power Premier John Hor­gan’s mi­nor­ity NDP gov­ern­ment has in Bri­tish Columbia will be tested Wed­nes­day in a by­elec­tion on Van­cou­ver Is­land where a Lib­eral win would leave the leg­is­la­ture dead­locked.

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