Albertans may be warming up to the idea of giving B.C. a chunk of the revenues if it means getting the go-ahead for the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline.
Results from a poll commissioned by the Calgary Herald show half of Albertans would be willing to set funds aside to pay for cleanup of potential spills, while more than a quarter would be willing to accept a profit-sharing scheme with their western neighbours.
The proposed twin pipeline project – which would be anchored in northern Alberta's oilsands region and extend out to the B.C. coast and into the town of Kitimat – is seen by the Alberta government and the province's energy sector as critical for the future of the industry and well-being of the province.
Oil and gas companies say shipping Alberta crude to the coast will open up markets beyond the United States, particularly in the ever-hungrier energy markets of Asia. Pipelines out to ports, whether it's Northern Gateway, Keystone XL out to the Gulf of Mexico, or Energy East out to the Maritimes, will also mean the resource doesn't have to be sold at such a significant discount as it is currently.
Northern Gateway, as well as the other projects, will also give the energy sector the room it needs to expand. Oil companies say production can easily outstrip shipping capacity, at this point. All those factors together have, according to Alison Redord's government, resulted in shrinking government revenue from the oil and gas industry and a growing government deficit, a condition the premier has coined as the 'Bitumen Bubble.'
The Herald poll results show 49 per cent of respondents said money should be put aside for spill cleanup, 27 per cent said they would be willing to share oil revenue with B.C., while only 15 per cent believe Alberta should make no concessions to their neighbour.
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The idea of Alberta sharing its wealth with B.C. has been at the source of heated and pointed attacks on both sides of the provincial border, with B.C. Premier Christy Clark saying her province must be compensated for the risk the pipeline will pose to British Columbia, while Redford has said that she cannot share royalties gained from Albertans' resources with another jurisdiction.
The latest poll may show a slight thawing on the part of Albertans but recent studies show residents in the two provinces are still mountains apart on the issue.
A poll conducted by The Huffington Post this summer shows both provinces are heavily divided on the proposed pipeline, with 75 per cent of Albertans lending support to the project and only 35 per cent of British Columbians saying "yes" to Northern Gateway.
More than three-quarters of the poll's B.C. respondents agreed the proposed pipeline increases the risk of an oil spill, that construction would impact the local environment, that the NGP would infringe on First Nations' rights, that Enbridge "has a history of incidents including oil spills and poor pipeline assembly" and that they generally lack trust in the company.
Those numbers clearly show a divide between the two provinces, and understandably so. Alberta will benefit from being better able to export its oil to Asian markets, but British Columbians will shoulder the environmental risk.
And it seems most Canadians agree with Clark, according to figures published by the Globe and Mail recently.
An Abacus Data poll showed that 71 per cent of Canadians agree that B.C. should get a larger chunk of the revenue.
It's estimated Northern Gateway will cost $6 billion to build.
A study commissioned by British Columbia estimates $81 billion in tax revenue will be accrued by the pipeline over 30 years, with $36 billion going to the federal government, $32 billion to Alberta and just $6 billion to B.C.
What do you think?