Varcoe: B.C. sends Alberta a message, 'we can work through this'

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“All of us are Canadians and we’re also neighbours with Alberta. We have a long, very positive history of co-operating with Alberta, so I don’t see this as a big problem. I think we can work through this and find a way to do business together.”

“This” would be the ongoing impasse over building pipelines to move Alberta oil to the Pacific coast for export.

For Albertans, market access has become an issue of paramount economic importance in the midst of a crippling recession. It’s also a litmus test of the strength of co-operation between neighbours.

How do we get our energy resources to the rest of the world, just as our No. 1 customer — the United States — needs less supply from us?
In Tuesday’s Alberta throne speech, Rachel Notley’s government will speak about the push for market access, both to the east and west coasts. The premier contends the lack of pipelines to tidewater leaves billions of dollars stranded, at precisely the moment we need all of our cash to grow the economy.

Alberta politicians and companies have been trying for years to get new oil pipelines built to the Pacific, whether through Enbridge’s Northern Gateway project or expanding Kinder Morgan’s existing Trans Mountain line.
Progress has been painfully slow.

Northern Gateway has been sidelined, perhaps permanently, over concerns from First Nations and environmental groups, and a federal ban on oil tanker traffic on B.C.’s north coast. Trans Mountain is before the National Energy Board but faces opposition from the B.C. government and a chunk of the population.

A poll last week from the Angus Reid Institute captured the competing views at play: 60 per cent of British Columbians surveyed oppose the Trans Mountain expansion, while 80 per cent of Albertans support it.
“It’s a tale of two neighbours with very little in common,” says Shachi Kurl, executive director of the Vancouver-based institute.

The Alberta government has been diplomatic with its western neighbour about pipelines, but finally pushed back on the issue last week.

In B.C., Clark has been musing recently about selling excess hydroelectricity to Alberta.

But Alberta will not buy more power from B.C. — or any other province — if producers can’t get their resources to market, Notley declared Friday.
For his part, Bennett insists he has no problem with Alberta linking the issues.

But the Kootenay East MLA also points out British Columbians want to ensure new heavy oil pipelines are built to the highest standards, which is why the Clark government crafted five conditions for these projects to ensure the protection of land, air and sea.

Clark also wants a fair share of the economic benefits of these developments.
Bennett, a lawyer in the Cranbrook area before entering politics, believes people in both provinces share the same values.
“We’re here and we’re interested obviously in doing business with our neighbour and friend in Alberta,” he says about the sale of electricity to Alberta as this province moves away from coal-fired power.

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