Ottawa to stay out of B.C.-Alberta fight over Gateway revenues

Vancouver — The Globe and Mail

Prime Minister Stephen Harper smiles during an appearance Tuesday at Shaughnessy Elementary School in Vancouver. (DARRYL DYCK/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is ruling out any federal role in the division of revenues from the “controversial” Gateway pipeline project, preferring to await the review process before deciding government policy.

“I am not going to get into an argument or discuss hypothetical revenues,” he told reporters at a Vancouver school following an unrelated announcement.

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The Prime Minister’s cautious comments were his most detailed on Gateway since divisions emerged between B.C and Alberta over the proposed $6-billion project, which would pipe oil sands bitumen from Alberta to the B.C coast for shipment to Asian markets.

He did not respond to comments from Heritage Minister James Moore, the senior B.C minister, chiding project proponent Enbridge Inc. for failing to sell Gateway to British Columbians.

Mr. Harper said he has spoken to B.C Premier Christy Clark and other premiers about her five demands, including a bigger B.C share of the project’s revenues. However, he declined to comment on the specifics of that conversation.

Throughout the news conference, he touted the value of awaiting the outcome of a joint-review panel on the project.

“That’s the only way governments can handle controversial projects of this manner,” Mr. Harper told reporters.

But he made it clear that he continues to see projects like Gateway as vital to Canadian and B.C, economic interests because of the province’s role as Canada’s Asia-Pacific gateway.

“We think it’s important we continue to diversify our exports through this province,” he said.

The Prime Minister noted that his government is committed to spending on monitoring and response measures in case of spills.

Mr. Harper, asked about a pitch from Premier of the Northwest Territories Premier Bob McLeod to take the pipeline north of the B.C. border, said any such plan would have to go through an independent assessment.