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VANCOUVER — Any move by Ottawa to green-light the Northern Gateway pipeline over British Columbia’s objections would ignite a national political crisis, says Premier Christy Clark.
Putting its foot down on a provincial matter would fan the flames on both sides of the debate and run afoul of political reality: the pipeline will only get built if it has the “social licence” to proceed, Ms. Clark said.
She made the comments in a wide-ranging interview with The Globe and Mail, in which she softened some of her recent anti-pipeline rhetoric while signalling a willingness to abandon efforts to get any share of Alberta’s royalties from the project.
She invited Alberta Premier Alison Redford and Prime Minister Stephen Harper to get together to address B.C.’s concerns, notably the need to derive greater economic benefits from Gateway.
With just less than seven months to go before the next provincial election, Ms. Clark is desperate to latch on to an issue that will help reverse her party’s dismal standing in the polls. The Liberal Leader undoubtedly hopes that the firm stand she has taken on Gateway recently will resonate with a B.C. public that has reservations about the project.
The Premier said that if Ottawa wants to play hardball, it could use the federal power of disallowance to override provincial opposition. In theory, disallowance gives the federal government the power to unilaterally revoke provincial statutes. However, it has not been used since 1943.
“Ted Morton [former Alberta energy minister] has talked about this,” Ms. Clark said. “The reason [disallowance] is so rarely used is because citizens and provinces will no longer tolerate that kind of intrusion into provincial decisions. The thing is, this project can only go ahead if it has the social licence to do so.
“It can only get the social licence from the citizens of British Columbia. And that’s what I’m representing as Premier.”
The federal government has indicated a need for Canada to diversivy its energy customer base and that Asia represents a lucrative opportunity to do just that. Ms. Clark said even if the federal government believes the pipeline to be in the national interest, she can’t see Ottawa using its powers to push it through.
“I don’t see any appetite for it,” the Premier said. “Heaven forbid, it would be a national political crisis. Whether or not people supported the pipeline, they would band together to fight the federal government if they decided to intrude into British Columbia without our consent.”
The Premier’s stand on the project has increasingly put her at odds with Ottawa and Ms. Redford. The B.C. government has laid out five conditions that must be met in order for the pipeline to go ahead. Those demands include provisions around the environment, first nations involvement and money.
For the rest of this article, please go to the Globe and Mail website: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/bc-premier-christy-clark-warns-of-national-crisis-over-pipeline/article4627532/