NOTLEY PITCHES PIPELINES
Premier touts economic benefits, climate plan to Liberal ministers
Premier Rachel Notley figures her pitch to the federal cabinet on Sunday was a limited hit.
“It’s not like I was accosted by a bunch of combative questions,” she said afterward. “They were lovely in there.” Invited to speak at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet retreat, Notley encouraged pipeline approvals, explained Alberta’s desperate need for market access, and outlined the NDP climate change plan to ministers, especially the easterners, who are dimly aware of it.
Notley loaded them up with facts and figures. An Alberta document given to the ministers warned that without new pipelines, the province’s capacity to export oil will be constrained even within North America by early 2017.
Notley said this will cause a further royalty loss of $227 million, one factor in the record-low royalty take of $1.4 billion expected in 2016-17. Only two years ago, Alberta’s royalty harvest was $9.6 billion.
The document also said that although shipment by rail is “a viable alternative,” it’s not as safe as pipeline transport and also costs $6 to $8 more per barrel. “This reduces the economic benefits to Alberta and the government of Canada,” she said.
“Pipelines remain the safest, least-polluting and cost-effective means of transporting oil.”
Notley mentioned the $15-per-barrel discount caused by Alberta’s bondage to the North American market. She also noted that oil is still projected to be 30 per cent of Canada’s energy consumption in 2040, and fossil fuel demand is expected to grow by 22 per cent over that period.
And she emphasized the loss to all of Canada from low prices and pinched market access — more than $50 billion, or $1,500 a year for every woman, man and child in the country.
It was a strong pro-oil and pipeline message, backed up with a description of her climate leadership plan.
Notley said some federal Liberal ministers didn’t have much detail on the plan. She didn’t add that some may also doubt its sincerity.
Allaying that suspicion is thought to be crucial to winning pipeline approvals from Trudeau’s cabinet, with its strong base from central and Eastern Canada.
“I don’t think they understood all the elements of it,” she said. “I don’t think they were as aware of the impact to greenhouse gas emissions across the country.”
Notley walked Trudeau’s cabinet through the basics — the carbon price (not tax, in NDP parlance); the coal phase-out; the hard cap on oilsands emissions; and, the aggressive plan to reduce methane emissions.
She also focused on the plan to use carbon tax revenue to slowly transition Alberta toward “largescale renewable energy, bioenergy and technology projects.”
In an irony that was likely unintended, she touted the NDP plan to produce more petrochemicals in Alberta, a provincial dream that was once thwarted by the determination of Trudeau’s father to keep upgrading at the Ontario end of the pipeline.
The prime minister and his ministers are in Kananaskis for a two-day session very different from the one Pierre Trudeau held in 1980 at Lake Louise, where his cabinet discussed the National Energy Program.
The Liberals certainly didn’t ask then-premier Peter Lougheed to speak. This time, Notley was invited, a courtesy so unusual that it startled her staff.
She wasn’t the only presenter — ministers also heard from three others, including two who wrote books in vogue with government — but her appearance was a major opportunity to get Alberta’s argument across to the whole crew.
It’s not that Alberta is being ignored in Ottawa, according to the Liberals.
“I can tell you that Alberta is more discussed than any other province at all the meetings I go to,” Calgary minister Kent Hehr said before the meeting.
Some Liberals note with amusement that Notley’s earlier rhetoric about pipelines has been sharply changed by the pressures of economics and government.
As both sides moderate their pre-election positions, a federalprovincial consensus on the need for pipelines appears to be developing.
Notley is certainly more in sync with these Liberals than she was with her own federal NDP, who voted in Edmonton two weeks ago to consider the Leap environmental agenda that’s sharply opposed to her position.