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The Globe and Mail

B.C. premier hopeful about cooperation with Alberta after historic NDP win

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark addresses a news conference in Vancouver, B.C. Friday, April 10, 2015 as environment minister Mary Polack looks on. Premier Clark was responding to the oil spill in English Bay on Thursday.


B.C. Liberal Premier Christy Clark says she appreciates Alberta premier-designate Rachel Notley's respect for a social licence in heavy oil projects, suggesting it may be a point of common ground despite their party differences.

Ms. Clark recently predicted that Jim Prentice, whom she said understood B.C. better than any previous Alberta premier, and his Progressive Conservatives would be re-elected on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Ms. Clark said she can work with Ms. Notley, who was a ministerial aide in Victoria in the 1990s, when Ms. Clark was across the aisle from an NDP government as a member of the Official Opposition under Liberal leader Gordon Campbell.

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"Albertans spoke absolutely clearly on the need for social licence when it comes to moving Alberta's heavy oil resources to market," Ms. Clark told reporters at the B.C. legislature.

"What I have heard her say is she believes Alberta's resources, if they come through British Columbia, need to acquire social licence. I've been saying that – not to the most receptive audience initially – for a long time. Those projects can't go ahead without meeting the five conditions [that B.C. requires]."

Nor, said Ms. Clark, will it be an obstacle that Ms. Notley is a New Democrat. "I have worked with other NDP premiers across the country in the past. I found those relationships worked. Premiers should bring to the table primarily their province's interests regardless of their political stripes. I think she'll do the same thing."

During the campaign, Ms. Notley said she opposes the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline from the Alberta oil sands to the B.C. coast. However, she is not necessarily opposed to twinning a Kinder-Morgan pipeline to the Lower Mainland.

This week's election is yet another turn in the relationship between the two provinces. Since becoming Premier in 2011, Ms. Clark has dealt with four Alberta premiers. Ms. Notley will be the fifth.

In 2012, Ms. Clark's relations with Alison Redford skidded off the rails when Ms. Clark announced the five conditions B.C. wanted fulfilled before it would support pipeline development.

Ms. Clark's government has said both major oil pipelines fail to meet the conditions.

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But Ms. Clark said she expects Ms. Notley will be more receptive to her position than some of her predecessors.

"I am really delighted that she is on board with that, and when we get a chance to sit down, I want to talk with her about the five conditions, and about how we can work together. Canada is better when the West works together."

Ms. Notley's view of the five conditions is unclear.

Ms. Clark said she is not sure if the work of a team of B.C.-Alberta officials on a way to meet B.C.'s demands for better environmental protection and a share of the resource wealth will have to be discarded. "We could pick up, if there is a willingness, where we left off."

Six months ago, Mr. Prentice spoke to the Vancouver Board of Trade on the need to develop pipelines for the sake of Canada's future.

Board president Iain Black said on Wednesday he is advising members concerned about business interests in Alberta that there will eventually be a better sense of the NDP agenda beyond the "theatre" of the election campaign.

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"The Alberta NDP is probably more pragmatic than we would see in other ideologically driven NDP variations across the land, so I look at it with a tone of caution and wait-and-see."

And if the Alberta NDP enacts anti-competitive measures, Mr. Black said B.C. will welcome businesses that leave.

Meanwhile, former NDP premier Ujjal Dosanjh, who hired Ms. Notley as an aide while he was attorney-general in the 1990s, said he expects the Alberta and B.C. premiers will work well together.

Ms. Notley's victory-speech reference to working with Prime Minister Stephen Harper suggests a commitment to the larger interest despite partisan differences, he said.

"She'll bring that kind of realism to her dealings with the federal government or with B.C.," he said.

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