Premier Christy Clark of British Columbia needs to develop a consistent, intelligible position on the Northern Gateway pipeline proposed by Enbridge Inc. Her likening of herself to a Maytag man, waiting for a phone call on this issue – an allusion to an old advertisement – does not instill confidence.
As recently as May, Ms. Clark advocated a wait-and-see approach, pending the conclusions of the National Energy Board’s joint review panel. She chose not to have the province take part in the panel’s hearings as a government participant, which would enabled its lawyers to present evidence of its own. Instead, B.C. chose the comparatively passive status of intervenor, so that its lawyers could at least cross-examine witnesses – whether from Enbridge or others.
In the summer, however, rather than waiting for the panel’s findings, Ms. Clark issued five demands, including “a fair share of the fiscal and economic benefits” of the pipeline. This manifesto has not proved to be effective diplomacy with Alison Redford, the Premier of Alberta. On Monday, the two premiers had a meeting they both called “frosty.”
It is a mystery from whom the Maytag Premier is hoping for a call. Alberta is now an estranged neighbour. Visits to the Premier and the cabinet from representatives of Enbridge Inc. have been declared no longer welcome, until after the panel has finished its hearings.
On Tuesday, Ms. Clark said that the government could order B.C. Hydro not to supply electricity to Enbridge for the pipeline – an idea of which the legality is dubious.
All these pugnacious gestures suggest that the B.C. Liberals are flailing about, in search of a strategy that might win favour between now and the provincial election in May; the NDP is well ahead in the polls.
Ms. Clark would do better either to wait for the panel’s findings or else to say forthrightly whether she thinks the Northern Gateway is basically a good or a bad project. The rest is little better than noise.