Five ways Al­berta could put pres­sure on Bri­tish Columbia


Faced with a po­ten­tial new ob­sta­cle to ex­port­ing Al­berta oil, Premier Rachel Not­ley has pledged to stand firm in de­fence of jobs and the bat­tered oil in­dus­try — but has so far of­fered few specifics. The Bri­tish Columbia govern­ment took di­rect aim at Kin­der Mor­gan’s $7.4-bil­lion Trans Moun­tain pipe­line ex­pan­sion from Al­berta to the West Coast ear­lier this week by propos­ing to re­strict in­creases in bi­tu­men ship­ments un­til it can con­duct fur­ther spill re­sponse stud­ies. What le­git­i­mate op­tions does Al­berta have? 1. Pull the plug on elec­tric­ity In 2016, Not­ley said her govern­ment wouldn’t in­crease the amount of elec­tric­ity it buys from B.C. un­til the pipe­line was a go. How­ever, she ac­knowl­edged Thurs­day that Al­berta has been look­ing at the pos­si­bil­ity of in­creased ac­cess to B.C. power. Those dis­cus­sions are now off, though Not­ley said the de­ci­sion doesn’t re­late to any in­ter­est Al­berta might have in hy­dro­elec­tric power from the con­tro­ver­sial Site C dam in north­ern B.C. set to come on­line in 2025. In the last cou­ple of years, B.C. bought more cheap Al­berta power than it sold, so the threat of Al­berta buy­ing even less elec­tric­ity is futile, said Blake Shaf­fer, a fel­low with the C.D. Howe In­sti­tute. As Al­berta moves to phase out coal power by 2030, elec­tric­ity prices in Al­berta are likely to rise, and re­fus­ing to buy hy­dro power from B.C. will drive up the price fur­ther, he said. “I think any sort of threats within the elec­tric­ity space are with­out much lever­age from our side, or at risk of se­ri­ous back­fire,” Shaf­fer said. 2. Take B.C. to court Pipe­lines that cross pro­vin­cial bor­ders are the fed­eral govern­ment’s ju­ris­dic­tion, and Al­berta should seek an emer­gency in­junc­tion to en­force that rule, said Brian Crow­ley, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of the Mac­Don­ald Lau­rier In­sti­tute, an Ot­tawa think-tank. Not­ley said Thurs­day the govern­ment is look­ing at a le­gal strat­egy, but didn’t elab­o­rate. A court case wouldn’t be as sim­ple as it sounds, said Eric Adams, a Uni­ver­sity of Al­berta ex­pert in con­sti­tu­tional law. The Con­sti­tu­tion’s au­thors “didn’t think the en­vi­ron­ment was a thing ” in 1867, and the doc­u­ment is silent on whose job it is to pro­tect it, he said. 3. Pres­sure Ot­tawa to step in Not­ley took ad­van­tage of Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau’s visit to Ed­mon­ton on Thurs­day to in­sist he make clear only the fed­eral govern­ment can say how much oil flows through pipe­lines. Trudeau should ex­plain to all

I think any sort of threats within the elec­tric­ity space are with­out much lever­age from our side, or at risk of se­ri­ous back­fire.

Cana­di­ans that the project has al­ready un­der­gone rig­or­ous en­vi­ron­men­tal re­view, said Tim McMil­lan, pres­i­dent of the Cana­dian As­so­ci­a­tion of Petroleum Pro­duc­ers. Trudeau told an Ed­mon­ton au­di­ence Thurs­day the pipe­line will be built, and McMil­lan hopes he re­peats that mes­sage Fri­day in B.C. The pipe­line clash is a mat­ter be­tween Canada and B.C., not an Al­berta-B.C. spat, Crow­ley said: “I blame the fed­eral govern­ment for be­ing so low key and so paci­fistic in pro­tect­ing the rights of Cana­di­ans to carry out their le­git­i­mate and le­gal busi­ness ac­tiv­i­ties.” 4. Hold back oil ship­ments In a mod­ern homage to Al­berta’s thoughts on the Na­tional En­ergy Pro­gram of the 1980s, Al­ber­tans might cry, “Let the west­ern bas­tards freeze in the dark.” Ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional En­ergy Board (NEB), most gaso­line consumed in B.C. comes from oil pumped down the ex­ist­ing Trans Moun­tain pipe­line. If Al­berta turned off the taps, gas prices would spike, and the coast would be in a pinch, Shaf­fer said. How­ever, re­fus­ing to sell oil prod­ucts to B.C. would hurt Al­berta (and Saskatchewan) pro­duc­ers, too, he said. 5. Tar­get tourism and B.C. prod­ucts The Pa­cific prov­ince’s tourism in­dus­try re­lies a great deal on Al­ber­tans, who made 2.9 mil­lion overnight trips to B.C. in 2016 and spent $1.4 bil­lion. The Al­berta govern­ment could po­ten­tially de­velop a cam­paign to en­cour­age res­i­dents to spend that money in Banff or Drumheller in­stead. Vine­yards are an­other po­ten­tial tar­get, since sales of B.C. wine have been steadily grow­ing in Al­berta, and close to a quar­ter of Al­ber­tans have con­ducted wine tours in B.C. in the last two years. An out­right boy­cott or ex­tra tax on B.C. prod­ucts would likely vi­o­late trade agree­ments — and po­ten­tially see re­tal­i­a­tion against Al­berta beers — but Al­ber­tans could po­ten­tially be prod­ded to try On­tario Chardon­nay in­stead. At least one Al­berta restau­rant has al­ready de­cided to take B.C. wines off its menu. Could sim­i­lar mea­sures be taken against sal­mon, peaches and even B.C. cannabis?


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