The premiers of British Columbia and Alberta will meet to try to reboot a relationship that has been troubled over oil pipeline disputes, the same week an oil spill in the B.C. Interior raised questions about pipeline safety.
B.C’s Christy Clark, politically renewed after her party’s surprise re-election last month, will meet for about an hour with Alberta’s Alison Redford in Kelowna in a discussion aides described as a wide-ranging opportunity to catch up on issues, including the economy.
But pipelines are bound to arise during the meeting in the Okanagan city where Ms. Clark is running in a by-election after losing her Vancouver seat.
On Thursday, Kinder Morgan reported it discovered a spill of about two cubic metres in the Merritt area.
Ms. Clark has made a “world-leading” spills response one of five conditions for supporting pipelines, such as Northern Gateway, which would pipe oil from the Alberta oil sands to the B.C. coast for shipment to Asia.
Ms. Clark and Ms. Redford have been at odds over Gateway, with Ms. Clark’s conditions frustrating Ms. Redford. More recently, B.C. formally rejected the current version of the Gateway plan.
But ahead of the meeting, aides were playing down such disputes, suggesting the two premiers will be looking at the bigger-picture issues of the B.C.-Alberta relationship.
Neala Barton, communications director for Ms. Redford, pointed to a statement by Ms. Redford in which the Premier emphasized “shared interests” between the two provinces on the economy. “When Alberta and British Columbia are strong, all Canadians benefit,” she said after calling Ms. Clark to congratulate her on her election win.
Ms. Barton said the Friday meeting had no fixed agenda, but was rather an informal opportunity for the pair to follow up on comments, after the B.C. election, about getting together. “It really is a touch base,” she said.
It’s a busy time for Ms. Clark. On Thursday, House Leader Mike de Jong announced the B.C. legislature will be recalled on June 26 with a new budget introduced the next day. Mr. de Jong said he hopes the session will be wrapped up by July 25.
Ben Chin, Ms. Clark’s communications director, described the meeting as an “informal opportunity to catch up” that the two premiers are “eager to do.”
The meeting comes ahead of a Western premiers’ conference in Manitoba on Sunday and Monday.