The premiers of British Columbia and Alberta have reached a framework for an agreement to satisfy B.C.’s five conditions for supporting oil-pipeline development in the province, though they agree work remains to be done to ensure B.C gets its “fair share” of revenues from such projects.
As a result, B.C. Premier Christy Clark agreed to sign on to Alison Redford’s national energy strategy – a push for provincial co-operation to get Alberta oil-sands energy to markets across Canada.
Greg Stringham, the vice-president of markets and oil sands for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said the energy sector is willing to consider options for industry to contribute to economic benefits for British Columbia, but no specific proposals have yet been submitted.
Tuesday’s agreement, announced during a news conference in Vancouver, marks a turnaround from past positions when Ms. Clark was skeptical about Alberta’s energy strategy if her concerns about the Northern Gateway pipeline to transport Alberta bitumen to the B.C. coast were not addressed. Eventually, B.C. said it opposed the project due to environmental concerns.
Last October, Ms. Redford came out of a meeting with Ms. Clark saying things had gotten “frosty” over talk of Alberta sharing its royalties with other jurisdictions.
But on Tuesday, both leaders said Alberta royalties are not up for negotiation as B.C. seeks an equitable share of revenues from heavy-oil projects. “We have made it clear to Alberta that their royalties and taxes are not part of the discussion,” Ms. Clark told reporters during an appearance with Ms. Redford.
In a conference call with Alberta media, Ms. Redford said the B.C. hands-off position on Alberta royalties was key to sealing an agreement. “That was a clarity that we were seeking overnight. We were able to achieve that.”
Ms. Clark said there are various “possibilities” for B.C. getting its “fair share” of revenues from projects. An ongoing working group of government representatives from B.C. and Alberta will consider those possibilities.
“There are lots of different forms of economic benefits,” Ms. Clark said in Vancouver.
“We don’t know what form that economic benefit for British Columbia could take. That’s why we have that working group coming together to talk about how that economic benefit will look.”
Announcement of the agreement came after indications the pair had called off a meeting in Vancouver ahead of a speech by Ms. Redford to the Vancouver Board of Trade.
In announcing the new unity, Ms. Clark touted Alberta’s “broader understanding and acceptance” of B.C.’s five conditions for supporting heavy-oil projects.
The conditions laid down by the B.C. Liberal government last year are successful completion of an environmental review for such projects, “world-leading” marine spill response, land oil-spill prevention, and addressing aboriginal legal requirements, treaty rights and opportunities from such projects. The fifth and most contentious point is a “fair share” for B.C. of fiscal and economic benefits of heavy-oil projects.
B.C. NDP Leader Adrian Dix accused Ms. Clark of misleading voters by seeking to facilitate the construction of oil pipelines including Northern Gateway, after B.C. opposed the project during the review process. “It’s clear today what the Premier was saying before the election, all those stunts at provincial conferences, were like an episode of Seinfeld – they were about nothing.”
Environmentalist Ben West, an oil-sands opponent at ForestEthics Advocacy, said nothing announced by the premiers changes opposition by some in B.C. to the construction of pipelines.
But there was some praise for Ms. Clark, with the executive director of Coastal First Nations indicating that it was pleased that Ms. Clark “convinced” Alberta to recognize aboriginal rights and title of First Nations. Still, Art Sterritt said the agreement does nothing to deal with the absence of technology for effectively cleaning up oil spills.
Northern Gateway spokesman Ivan Giesbrecht said the project’s leaders are encouraged that both governments are co-operating.
“Northern Gateway is committed to working with B.C., Alberta and all levels of government to find solutions to issues related to energy infrastructure,” he said in a statement. “Northern Gateway is also committed to working with the B.C. government to meet the five conditions on oil pipeline development.”