Horgan’s roadblocks come back to haunt him
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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