Alberta Premier Alison Redford says when it comes to the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline proposal she has nothing to talk about with British Columbia’s Premier Christy Clark.
The two are in a very public spat over the proposed $6-billion project. And on Friday morning, that dispute goes behind closed doors as Ms. Redford kick-starts a debate over a pan-Canadian energy strategy at this last day of the Council of Federation gathering of premiers.
It is expected that Ms. Clark, who is demanding her province receive its “fair share” for the risk it is taking in the pipeline going from Alberta to the B.C. port of Kitimat, will raise the issue during the morning session.
Ms. Clark has come out hard on the issue, giving interviews and press conferences during the premiers’ summit, vowing to block the pipeline if her conditions are not met. She has also demanded a meeting between Alberta, the federal government and her province.
And there were whispers in advance of the morning meeting that Ms. Clark might storm out of the session if she didn’t get her say. Her officials, however, said that would not happen.
The tension is such at this meeting that those sorts of rumours were circulating. But Ms. Redford says the interplay between she and Premier Clark “doesn’t feel awkward to me.”
“I fully respect the fact that Premier Clark has a job to do and I have a job to do and that’s as far as it goes,” she said.
Ms. Redford has not held a press conference or scrum to address the dispute during the premiers’ gathering – but she did speak to the Globe and Mail.
“I am not at all questioning whether or not Premier Clark thinks British Columbia should get a greater economic benefit,” Ms. Redford said. “My view is that if British Columbia thinks it should get a greater economic benefit then it has fiscal levers to allow it to get those benefits.”
Ms. Redford noted that the pipeline, proposed by Calgary-based Enbridge, is a commercial venture. It is not Alberta’s pipeline.
She said that British Columbia could increase its port tax or “it could go to the same companies that pay us a royalty and say, ‘you’ve extracted a resource, you want to export it to Asia, you are therefore making a profit as a result of that and we are going to tax your profits’.”
“I don’t know what decisions the government of British Columbia might want to make but they are not decisions that involve Alberta in any way,” said Ms. Redford. “It’s not a case where this is somehow subject to inter-provincial discussions or negotiations. These are fundamentally different things.”
She repeated that these are decisions for the British Columbia government that do not involve Alberta.
“The idea that we’ve ever said that we would not talk and this somehow would foist this on us is simply not the case. We just don’t believe that there is anything to talk about,” said the Premier.
The Alberta premier has support from two senior Harper cabinet ministers, who argued this week that British Columbia’s demand for a share of the pie would create a “toll gate” across the country.
In fact, Ms. Redford repeated, too, her view that Ms. Clark’s demands for a share of the pie would “fundamentally change the nature of Confederation.”
“It’s not a case where this somehow be subject to inter-provincial discussions or negotiations,” she said. “It’s a commercial venture ... as soon as the proposition is put forward that somehow revenue sharing or royalties are on the table with a commercial venture that means that every other commercial venture would be subject to the same principle.”
Ms. Redford noted that British Columbia oil and gas flows through pipeline from Alberta to the U.S.
“We have never said we should get a share of those royalties, again a commercial venture. And as soon as you start changing that principle, well now every single commercial venture is subject to balance sheet negotiations,” she said.