Provincial bickering has no place in pipeline proposals – by Kelly McParland (National Post – May 31, 2013)

The National Post is Canada’s second largest national paper.

The premiers of Canada’s three westernmost provinces are getting together to talk pipelines.

As the National Post’s Claudia Cattaneo reported on Thursday, B.C. Premier Christy Clark, Alberta Premier Alison Redford and Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall expect to meet “shortly” as part of their New West Partnership to discuss several pipeline projects, including how to make them “more economically relevant” to British Columbia.

It might seem natural that the leaders of three provinces sharing a strong economic interest in the growth of the energy industry would meet to share ideas and strategies. But not in this case, for the typical Canadian reason that provincial rivalries and political gamesmanship have heretofore been allowed to intrude on the greater interests of all involved.

Alberta and Saskatchewan both have a need for new markets for their oil production, and for the means to transport it economically and efficiently. In addition to the Keystone XL pipeline now awaiting approval from Washington, two other proposals — the Northern Gateway and Trans Mountain projects — are on the table. The Northern Gateway would ship 525,000 barrels of oil a day from Alberta to the B.C. coast, for shipment to Asia. Trans Mountain would twin an existing pipeline from Alberta to the lower mainland.

Though the pipelines would enhance production and exports in an industry that produces billions of dollars in economic activity and supports jobs across the country, the proposals have been undermined by political squabbling. Facing a fierce re-election battle she was expected to lose, Clark found it useful to manufacture a confrontation with Redford, demanding a bigger chunk of the benefits of the Northern Gateway in return for allowing it to cross the province.

Redford initially met the demand with righteous indignation, and relations between the two were said to be “frosty”. But both find themselves in new positions. Alberta has become increasingly alarmed at its economic outlook and the need to avoid its oil being “locked in” by lack of shipping capacity. Clark pulled off a surprise victory, but partially due to voter alarm at the hardline anti-pipeline position taken by NDP leader Adrian Dix. So both have reasons to ease their positions.

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