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British Columbia Western Canada: Premiers agree to disagree on pipeline dispute

Good morning! It’s James Keller in Calgary.

I’m not sure anyone really expected the premiers of British Columbia and Alberta to bury the hatchet at a national premiers meeting this past week, so it’s probably no surprise that John Horgan and Jason Kenney each left the meeting pretty much where they started on the divisive issue of pipelines. And for that matter, you could say the same of Quebec, whose premier, François Legault, cheerfully told reporters that he “agreed to disagree” with Mr. Kenney.

Divisions over the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, carbon taxes and energy development overshadowed the annual meeting of Canada’s premiers in Saskatoon. While those issues have been bubbling up for years, they’ve reached an apex this year, particularly with the election of Mr. Kenney in Alberta.

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Mr. Kenney came to power on a promise to fight for new pipelines, and in particular to take aim at B.C. and Quebec, who he cast as working against that goal. He’s threatened to cut off oil shipments to B.C. and has promised a referendum on equalization, which he says unfairly benefits Quebec as Albertans pay billions into the system.

But the premiers kept those disputes to a minimum, at least in a final wrap-up news conference on Thursday. While Mr. Kenney repeated that the pipeline dispute, as well as federal environmental legislation, is hurting national unity, he said he’s nonetheless built constructive relationships with his fellow premiers.

Mr. Horgan also played nice as he acknowledged that the federal government has the ultimate authority to approve new pipelines. He’s said that before, but he has also continued a legal case seen as a potential obstacle for Trans Mountain.

And Mr. Legault repeated his contention that oil pipelines have no “social acceptability” in Quebec, though he stressed that there are many things on which he and the other premiers agreed. And in any event, there isn’t currently a pipeline proposal that would even go through his province.

Disputes aside, the premiers did get some work done. The meeting resulted in the release of several communiques, which included a pitch to the federal government that any national pharmacare program include an opt-out clause that would allow them to keep any funding that would have gone to drug coverage.

This is the weekly Western Canada newsletter written by B.C. Editor Wendy Cox and Alberta Bureau Chief James Keller. If you’re reading this on the web, or it was forwarded to you from someone else, you can sign up for it and all Globe newsletters here. This is a new project and we’ll be experimenting as we go, so let us know what you think.

Around the West

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STAMPEDE: An Alberta chuckwagon driver has been fined $10,000 and given an indefinite ban after an accident at the Calgary Stampede that killed a horse. The accident marked the third horse to die during this year’s event, which is the highest number since 2015. Stampede officials say they don’t believe Chad Harden intended to cause the crash, but rather he could have prevented it. Two earlier deaths had already re-ignited the perennial debate about the welfare of horses and rodeo animals at the Stampede.

SVEND: Svend Robinson was once one of B.C.'s most prominent federal politicians, leading the charge on the issue of assisted dying and playing an outsized role on the federal stage as an NDP MP. More than a decade after a dramatic and painful exit from politics, Mr. Robinson is attempting a comeback. Ian Bailey sat down with Mr. Robinson to hear why.

TRUDEAU: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is in Alberta for the first time since his government re-approved the Trans Mountain pipeline project. He visited a Trans Mountain facility in the Edmonton area yesterday, reiterating his support for the expansion project. He’ll be in Calgary today with a sparse itinerary that includes a Stampede-themed Liberal Party fundraiser.

CARBON CAPTURE: Conservative politicians opposed to carbon taxes have instead put their focus when it comes to climate change on technology. And central to that is the idea of carbon capture. Justin Giovannetti travelled to Estevan, Sask., to tour the world’s first power station to incorporate carbon-capture. It’s a window into what might be next.

PLASTIC-BAG BANS: B.C.'s Appeal Court has overturned Victoria’s ban on plastic bags, ruling that the city needed provincial permission to put in such a policy. The case threatens plastic-bag bans already in place in other communities, since most cities in the province would face the same requirement. But it also shows the willingness of the industry to push back – with lawyers – against local plastic-bag bans, which are becoming more common.

SALMON SPAWNING: A rock slide has cut off a key salmon spawning route along B.C.'s Fraser River, prompting multiple levels of government to work together to figure out what to do. Ideas so far include moving fish by helicopter or shifting boulders to create pools where exhausted fish can rest.

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Opinion

Elizabeth Renzetti on the premiers’ meeting in Saskatoon: “This lady-free landscape was actually a meeting of Canada’s 13 premiers and territorial leaders, some of the most powerful politicians in Canada. In the hands of these men lie crucial decisions about each province’s health and educational policies, about the best ways to fight climate change, about jobs and wages. You’d think there might be one woman in there, piping up on behalf of 50 per cent of the population. Instead, it was a sausage party to which no girls were invited.”

Adrienne Tanner on Vancouver’s homeless campers: “Lest anyone argue that homelessness is only a West Coast problem, look at Toronto where the last Street Needs Assessment pegged the estimated homeless numbers at 8,700. National problems deserve attention from our national level of government. It’s time the feds stepped up.”

Jessica Scott-Reid on the Calgary Stampede: “Let’s make the Calgary Stampede the Cirque du Soleil of rodeos. Animal-free, but still rich in history, and still a hell of a good time – the midway, the food (which now includes vegan options), the parties, the shows and, of course, the cowboy hats. That virtual-reality chuckwagon experience from a few years back was a smart way to bring old traditions into modern age, sans animals. Let’s have way more of that.”

Erez Aloni on B.C.'s plan to allow Uber: “Simultaneously, regulations should assure that ride hailing does not serve as a “taxi service with fewer protections. Regulations should ensure that ride hailing does not lead to the demise of traditional taxis – which still serve as a valuable option for some consumers – as a result of unfair competition. Regulations should protect passengers and minimize the harms for other third parties.”

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