To many, the biggest loser of last week's B.C. election was someone who doesn't even reside in the jurisdiction in which the votes were counted – Alberta NDP Premier Rachel Notley.
The anxiety and hand-wringing the result has incited in Ms. Notley's province is palpable. Albertans feel B.C.'s political leaders have it in for them, and it's easy to see why.
Last month, BC Liberal Premier Christy Clark decided to pick a fight with U.S. President Donald Trump to score some cheap political points during an election campaign, threatening to place a tariff on U.S. thermal coal exports out of B.C. ports in retaliation for the duty the Americans placed on softwood lumber exports. She insisted the onerous levy would also apply to Alberta thermal coal, placing the jobs of more than 2,000 workers in the province in jeopardy.
Now Ms. Clark has handed the entire mess over to Ottawa.
Meantime, the BC Green Party and the BC NDP have promised to kill the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion, a vow that suddenly seemed more plausible after an election that put the Greens in the driver's seat. Pending the outcome of the official vote tally in a week's time, the party, courtesy of the three seats it won, could hold the balance of power in a minority government scenario.
Against this backdrop, Ms. Notley has found herself under attack. Everyone from her political enemies to prominent voices in the oil industry are suggesting the climate initiatives she introduced to deliver a pipeline were all for naught, a massive burden on the Alberta public for no gain. Others, meantime, are suggesting she fight any tariff on thermal coal with a tax of her own on B.C. exports traversing the province.
In other words, declare a full-on interprovincial trade war.
For her part, Ms. Notley has remained a portrait of calm, which irritates political enemies who subscribe to the theory that one must act like a crazed fool to show one cares. The fact that she has refused to do so likely has to do with a simple fact: She's confident none of these threats will come to pass.
I'm reliably informed that her office has already been told by the federal government there will be no tax on Alberta thermal coal. Currently, Ottawa is said to be considering slapping a tariff on U.S. thermal coal only, which would likely violate international laws by unfairly targeting one group over another. But it pushes a problem Christy Clark created in the heat of an election campaign down the road a bit.
As for Kinder Morgan, it was barely mentioned during the B.C. election. NDP Leader John Horgan has said he will fight the pipeline with "every tool in his tool box," if he becomes premier. (Which could only happen with support of the Greens.) Should that occur, he will discover there isn't as much in that box as he might have thought. Besides, Mr. Horgan will have other priorities as the first NDP leader in the province in 16 years; picking a constitutional fight with Ottawa over a pipeline will not be among them.
Green Leader Andrew Weaver, meantime, has identified three areas he considers crucial to winning his support. They are: campaign finance and electoral reform as well as official party status in the legislature. Notice they don't include killing a pipeline.
Mr. Weaver knows that any effort to scotch Kinder Morgan would mean the end of the pan-national climate deal designed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Without the pipeline, Alberta and all the strides the province has made on the climate file would likely disappear; the two initiatives are linked at the hip. If the Greens undermine the national climate pact by throwing a wrench in the pipeline expansion it would be a public-relations disaster for them.
There is another reason it will not be allowed to happen: Mr. Trudeau knows if the pipeline dies, Ms. Notley's chances of being re-elected could well die along with it. The federal Liberals do not want to see Jason Kenney and a united right taking over power in Alberta and will be doing everything in their power to ensure that doesn't happen.
Ms. Notley held a session with reporters on Tuesday at which she sounded unusually upbeat about the future of the province's resource sector, and not the least bit concerned about what is happening in B.C. Her optimism is grounded in real-world politics.