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Wrong, Mr. Wall. Quebec is not attacking the western oil industry

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall at the Council of the Federation in Vancouver on Wednesday.

Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press

The Quebec government's announcement this week that it will seek an injunction related to the Energy East pipeline went off like a cherry bomb and scared a few fragile souls, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall included. But Quebec's move is not an existential threat to the project; in fact, the province is asking for something it has a perfect right to demand, and it is doing nothing to interfere with the federal approval process for the pipeline.

Alberta's NDP Premier, Rachel Notley, gets it. She told reporters she was angry at first when headlines made it appear as though Quebec was going to go to court to try to block the pipeline. This was a reasonable fear, given that a group of Montreal-area mayors led by Denis Coderre has already announced their opposition to the cross-country pipeline.

But Ms. Notley went beyond the headlines and contacted Quebec officials, who reassured her that the injunction is nothing more than an effort by the province to get an overdue response from TransCanada, the company building the pipeline, regarding a provincial environmental assessment of the project.

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Quebec officials insist they are not trying to create a provincial approval process running in parallel with the federal process managed by the National Energy Board – and this is a national question, on which the national government must have the last word. But Quebec is entitled to its own assessment of the project so that it can be properly informed when it makes its presentation at the eventual NEB hearings on Energy East. The Ontario Energy Board did the same sort of review last year, and it was a non-issue.

These easily discernible facts didn't stop Mr. Wall from portraying Quebec's move as a dastardly Eastern Canadian attack on the western oil industry. "It is going to be divisive," he intoned.

Good for Mr. Wall for championing the interests of the West. Better still that he has become so vociferous as he campaigns for re-election on April 4. But if the Premier of Alberta was able to do her due diligence on Quebec's injunction and conclude that it is not a threat, he should have been able to, as well.

It is not automatically divisive for a province to stand up for its interests. What's divisive are politicians immediately turning every such occurrence into an imagined attack on their region. Kudos to Ms. Notley for refusing to play that game. Mr. Wall, not so much.

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