Gateway pipeline risks exceed rewards, B.C. Premier says – by Karen Howlett and Bill Curry (Globe and Mail – July 23, 2012)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

TORONTO and OTTAWA — British Columbia Premier Christy Clark is warning that the environmental risks associated with a plan to sell Canadian oil to Asia through the Northern Gateway pipeline outweigh the economic benefits, leaving her at odds with the federal and Alberta governments.

Ms. Clark conveyed her concerns about the project during a series of high-level meetings, beginning with a telephone call to Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Thursday. She met face-to-face the same day with Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall in Saskatoon and Alberta Premier Alison Redford in Edmonton.

Ms. Clark gave them a heads-up on changes her government is seeking, before Canada’s 13 provincial and territorial leaders meet this week in Halifax, where the pipeline project will be on the agenda, her press secretary, Michael Morton, told The Globe and Mail.

Until now, Ms. Clark has not taken a stand on the project. The proposed $5.5-billion pipeline plays a key role in Mr. Harper’s ambition to feed Canadian resources to customers in Asia. Mr. Harper has said it is vital for Canada to reassess its reliance on U.S. markets for energy, and look to Asia. Almost all of Canada’s oil exports go to the United States.

Gateway would ship bitumen from Alberta to the northwest coast of British Columbia, linking the oil sands with a port that could theoretically sell oil to customers in Asia.

Julie Vaux, a spokesperson for the Prime Minister, confirmed the phone call with Ms. Clark took place but did not comment on what was said.

Opposition to Northern Gateway, particularly among first nations and environmental groups, has hardened following a series of oil spills in Alberta and elsewhere in North America.With Ms. Clark adding her voice to these concerns, she threatens to undermine the momentum her Alberta counterpart is building for a Pan-Canadian energy strategy.

Ms. Redford has held a series of high-level meetings of her own to line up the support of other premiers ahead of this week’s meeting in Halifax. She met privately last Wednesday with Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty over dinner in Toronto, where they discussed how both their provinces have a vested interest in developing a strategy that pulls together Alberta’s land-locked oil sector and other energy sources across Canada.

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