Recently, many have criticized B.C. Premier Christy Clark for her strategy regarding negotiations over Enbridge's proposed Northern Gateway pipeline. But this criticism is unwarranted. Clark has been clear on what the province requires in order to move forward with construction of the pipeline in Northern B.C. while her Alberta counterpart has given her little to work with.
Clark has presented five requirements in order to move ahead with the project. They cover the most important and vital issues surrounding the pipeline. More than half emphasize the importance of protecting and securing the environment. One touts dialogue with First Nations groups. And the last places importance on B.C. getting a fair economic benefit in exchange for the great risk the province is taking.
Clark has been clear on her stance. Since the beginning of the process, she has agreed that the pipeline must be recommended by the National Energy Board. She has demanded that if the pipeline goes ahead, nothing short of the world's best marine and land oil-spill prevention and recovery systems are available. And lastly, the premier has argued that B.C. deserves its fair share of the economic benefits for the giant risk they're taking.
Redford, not Clark, needs to take the lead on negotiations. The Alberta premier has clearly expressed emphatic support for the project. Her public statements, however, offer minimal help. She has brought little to the table for Clark to work with, leaving the B.C. leader to pick up the slack.
After Redford's brief meeting with Clark last week, the Alberta premier released this statement:
It's really important to look at the first four of those with respect to Aboriginal consultations and environmental concerns - we share those values as Canadians and Albertans. And those processes that are in place in British Columbia with respect to consultation and environmental regulation really do need to be addressed. And we have absolutely no concerns with respect to the fact that the Premier of B.C. is concerned about those.
Let us examine that statement. Redford states that Alberta shares environmental concerns in the same respect as we do in British Columbia. That statement could not be farther from the truth.
Culturally the same mentality is not prevalent in Alberta as it is in B.C. Simply looking at the environmental damage the tar sands have done to the province, one could come to the conclusion that environmental concern does not rank high in the province. That's just a simple fact.
The green mentality that is prevalent in Vancouver and the rest of the province is not prominent in Alberta. B.C. has long fostered a green mentality. Vancouver has set the goal of becoming the greenest city in the world. Attempting to say that Alberta shares environmental concerns, similar to British Columbia, is false.
Redford went on to say:
When we get to the fifth point of the letter, we continually get into the question of economic benefit. There's no doubt that Canada will benefit economically from this project, that British Columbia will benefit. And Alberta will certainly benefit. But fundamentally, our resources belong to Albertans. We are compensated as Albertans for the resources we own. And those are the economic benefits we receive.
Here, Redford comes out sounding close-minded. She mentions that there is no doubt Canada will benefit... but leads off into a small rant of how the resources are just for Alberta. Understandable, the bitumen is extracted from Alberta. And by all means they are due the benefits of that.
However, if you're expecting B.C. to allow the construction of a pipeline, the majority of which travels through B.C., you need to compensate the province fairly. And it needs to be ensured that the environment is protected.
How is it fair for B.C. to take all the risk in damaging their fragile and beautiful environment? How is it fair for B.C. to take in a larger volume of tankers travelling on their coast? Redford and Alberta expect to get away with simply shipping their dangerous oil across the province without compensating them fairly.
Redford also states: "Unfortunately, Premier Clark is sticking very closely to the original five conditions she set down."
This is not unfortunate. Clark is taking a tough stance in favour of her province. She is standing up for the environmental, First Nations, and economic rights that British Columbians expect. She's not going to simply allow the construction of a pipeline without ensuring that B.C. is protected and rewarded.
If Redford and Alberta really want this pipeline, she's the one who needs to step up to the plate. They need to start meeting the demands or negotiating with the B.C. government. They can't simply sit back and think that B.C. will take on this risky project.
They cannot expect Clark to roll over and let them decide the terms. That is not how business works. It's not Clark's job to travel to Alberta and negotiate with Redford. And when she does, Redford should jump on that opportunity.
It almost seems as if Redford isn't interested in the construction of pipeline given her lack of a clear and concise strategy to negotiate. If she isn't happy with Clark's five requirements, how about putting forth an alternative -- proposing something that would be worth negotiating with?
Ultimately if there is no middle ground met and the project fails, it will fall on Redford's shoulders. As she said herself, the resources belong to Albertans, so if Alberta wants to ship their resources to Asia, they better start strategizing.
I would imagine she would have an even harder time if Adrian Dix becomes B.C. premier this time next year. But as Clark said herself, it's her job to fight for B.C. and our environment. She's absolutely right, and we should all be in her corner cheering her on.