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Redford's "National" Energy Strategy: Our Money, Your Problem

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B.C. Premier Christy Clark really has no choice at this point but to salvage some pride and stand up for B.C. by opposing Enbridge's Northern Gateway project. This after essentially getting slapped in the face -- politely but publicly -- by Alberta Premier Alison Redford -- who rejected British Columbia's demand for "a fair share" of royalties from Alberta's oil pipelines.

It should make for an interesting backdrop to Canada's premiers getting together in the Council of the Federation meeting in Nova Scotia this week, where energy will be front and centre on the agenda.

This caps a somewhat bizarre number of days that saw the B.C. Premier sneak in and out of meetings with Redford and also Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, presumably where she laid out the five conditions she placed on her government's support for Gateway that she had her Ministers release.

Four of the conditions dealt with safety and First Nations accommodation vaguely enough to allow for fudging an agreement, but the real kicker was the demand for some form of revenue sharing to balance the fact that B.C. would bear the majority of the risk, while Alberta would get the majority of the reward.

A few hours later, though, Clark had her reply to the conditions. "Leadership," Redford said "is not about dividing Canadians and pitting one province against another." Or, in other words, keep your hands off our money.

With that answer, it's hard to see how Clark could conceivably climb down from her conditions while saving face with B.C. voters already galvanizing in opposition to the pipeline. Even the B.C. Conservative Party, a pipeline booster, had attempted to scoop Clark with its demand for some kind of revenue sharing, so when you add that to the B.C. NDP's staunch opposition, you have all of B.C.'s political establishment now without a pathway to support the project.

This episode also puts the lie to Redford's recent diplomacy around a "national energy strategy." It seems that whenever another premier stands up for their province in a way that questions Alberta's oil industry, she reaches for the "divisive" label to beat them down. She did this with Ontario Premier McGuinty, and now with Premier Clark.

So, it would appear that what Redford means by "national energy strategy" is really an Alberta oil strategy that the rest of the nation signs off on. With aggressive cheerleading of anything oil-related coming out of Ottawa, it's easy to think that kind of agenda can be pushed through.

But, when the realities of climate change, oil spills, and a high dollar are inseparable effects of an oil economy, Redford is going to have to come up with more than polite diplomacy to craft something that is truly in the national interest rather than just in the interest of Alberta's oil industry.

Meanwhile, the Gateway project is looking increasingly like it's dead in the water.