Alberta Premier Rachel Notley is stepping up her government’s pro-pipeline push with a new ad campaign targeting British Columbians, backed by her belief that a growing number of people understand the need for the Trans Mountain expansion.
Ms. Notley also slammed Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson for his remarks earlier this week suggesting the oil and gas sector represents just a “tiny” part of the Canadian economy.
Less than three weeks before an ultimatum for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is set to expire, the Alberta Premier still expressed certainty the controversial project to ship more diluted bitumen will go ahead. To reinforce her province’s position, Ms. Notley said Thursday her government is spending $1.2-million on a “Keep Canada working” billboard, social-media, radio and TV advertising campaign to emphasize the importance of the pipeline, and the contribution of oil revenues to Canada’s economy and tax base. Even while the government of B.C. works to thwart the project, more than half of the Alberta campaign spend – $700,000 – will be focused on cities including Vancouver, Victoria and Kelowna.
“We are winning hearts and minds in B.C. – just look at the polling,” Ms. Notley said, referring to a recent Angus Reid survey that showed just more than half of the province’s respondents now support the pipeline project, slightly up from past polls.
Federal and provincial officials are still in negotiations with Kinder Morgan Inc. in response to the pipeline company’s declaration last month that it has halted non-essential construction, and will take until May 31 to decide whether it has enough certainty to proceed with its $7.4-billion Trans Mountain expansion.
“Ottawa is in very serious and determined discussions with Alberta, and with Kinder Morgan,” Ms. Notley said, declining any further comment on the state of the talks. But she wants to see any uncertainty about the project eliminated, and construction back on track this summer.
While Ms. Notley views the expansion project as a litmus test on the ability of the country to build any multibillion energy project, other political leaders view it as a touchstone on the state of Canadian environmental stewardship.
On Tuesday, Mr. Robertson told Bloomberg that the proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion will never go ahead “based on the resistance on the ground.” During the interview, the Vancouver mayor added that Alberta’s oil and gas sector “represents such a tiny fraction of the overall economy and a job count” in Canada, whereas cities such as Vancouver and Toronto are driven by technology and innovation-related sectors.
Ms. Notley said his remarks demonstrate “a tremendous lack of knowledge” about the country’s wealth generators.
Natural Resources Canada said in 2015 the country’s oil and gas industry had a direct and indirect contribution to the nominal gross domestic product of 7.7 per cent.
“It also demonstrates a tremendous level of inward-attention,” Ms. Notley added. Mr. Robertson “doesn’t understand there are other cities than just his city – there are other people in the province of B.C., quite frankly, who are struggling to find employment.”
Other developments, however, also raise questions about the viability of the Trans Mountain project. On Wednesday, Kinder Morgan shareholders voted in favour of a non-binding proposal that would require audits of the company’s environmental and legal risks.
Last month the B.C. government launched a reference case asking the B.C. Court of Appeal for an opinion on the province’s authority to control the flow of heavy oil through its territory. On Thursday, Ms. Notley confirmed that, like Saskatchewan, her province will seek status in the case. Alberta will also pass legislation by next week that will give it new powers to cut off oil or gasoline shipments to B.C., if needed as a retaliatory measure.