Alberta Premier Rachel Notley was in B.C. on Tuesday to help promote the planned Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline.
Notley’s trip was planned with the intention of trying to cool some of the heated opposition toward the pipeline. The $6.8-billion project will triple the capacity of the Trans Mountain pipeline, from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels a day, and would add 980 kilometres of new pipe along the route from near Edmonton to Burnaby, B.C.
Without the support of Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan, many First Nations and many residents, Notley understands it might be a hard sell.
“Obviously people are concerned about the risks of the spill. Aboslutely,” Notley told Global News in an exclusive sit-down on Tuesday. “British Columbians have been pushing the federal government for many, many years to increase coastal safety, generally. It’s not just those tankers that are at risk of spilling, it is loads of toxic substances that come in and out of the harbour all the time that also are at risk.”
But she cited the recent federal investment of $1.5 billion to protect ocean safety off the B.C. coast, which she says will increase safety for all tanker traffic.
Climate change and the country’s commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, were part of Notley’s reasoning why the pipeline was the right choice, despite opponents’ arguments that a further reliance on oil takes Canada away from green energy developments.
“[The] Kinder Morgan pipeline is not going to increase emissions and it’s not going to increase volume one way at all… The amount of oil coming out of the oil sands would be the same with or without Kinder Morgan. It would just go south or it would go on rail. It would be less safe and less profitable.”
Notley’s NDP government implemented their Climate Leadership Plan, which included caps on oil sands emissions previously not regulated. Alberta oil sands currently emit about 70 megatonnes per year.
New legislation means a $30 per tonne carbon price will be applied to oil sands facilities and an unprecedented emissions cap of 100 megatonnes per year will be in place by 2030.
The province of Alberta will also phase out coal burning by 2030, an industry that accounts for 60 per cent of the coal burnt in Canada.
Notley says their climate plan translates to “some of the most ambitious climate change efforts that you’ve seen in the history of the country.”
But she knows the transition from oil to clean energy can’t be made overnight. “We can’t just turn the switch and get off of oil tomorrow,” she said. “We need to do it with respect for the need to preserve jobs.”
It’s that balance between economy and environment that she says the pipeline expansion fits.
“Alberta is doing its part, because we are not only Albertans, we are Canadians. We all need to be able to pull together to protect jobs, to give opportunities for families going forward, to provide prosperity for themselves and for their kids, and to move forward on the environment. That’s the balance that our plan strikes, and that’s what I am happy to talk to British Columbians about.”
Watch below: More fallout after the Prime Minister approved the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion project. Those against it came together Sunday morning to rally against the decision.
Many critics also claim the expected economic benefits of the pipeline will be delivered to Alberta for the most part and leave B.C. with more risk than reward. Notley said the economic link between the two provinces will ensure B.C. sees their fare share.
“Our economies are inextricably linked. B.C. stands to gain a great deal from this project. It will increase GDP in B.C. by about $1 billion annually, and there are still thousands of jobs that will come to B.C. both in construction and ultimately, operation.”
According to the premier, citing 2012 data, about 44,000 British Columbians who live in the province, pay B.C. taxes, and spend money here, actually earn their income in Alberta, mostly from the oil patch.
Albertans are also the largest group of tourists visiting B.C. each year, other than British Columbians themselves.
Those links, she says, are a few examples of indirect ways B.C. will benefit from the pipeline expansion.
But one thing Alberta and B.C. may not have in common is the sentiment of their leaders toward the Kinder Morgan pipeline. B.C. NDP leader John Horgan has expressed his opposition to the project.
Notley hopes she might be able to help him see the benefits of the pipeline, but while a spokeswoman for Horgan said he will meet with Notley because the two are old friends, the party remains firm in its opposition to the Trans Mountain project.
Green Leader Andrew Weaver challenged Notley to a public debate on the project, saying she is not engaging with British Columbians during her trip.
Notley’s visit is all about making deals to gain the provincial NDP’s support for the pipeline expansion, he said.
“It’s not about British Columbians, it’s about political calculations, and that’s what is so frustrating for so many people in Canada,” Weaver said.
Notley told Global News the consensus of her discussions with Horgan was to “agree to disagree.”
She might have better luck with Premier Christy Clark, who she’ll be speaking with in Ottawa later this week. The B.C. premier has expressed support for the pipeline on the basis that it meet five conditions, including a “world-leading” marine spill response regime.
Watch below: At a press conference Wednesday, B.C. Premier Christy Clark responded to the federal government’s announcement to reject Northern Gateway and approve the Kinder Morgan pipeline project.
Despite her trip to B.C., Notley still has a lot of work to do in convincing environmentalists that the pipeline expansion should go ahead, said David Tindall, a sociology professor at the University of British Columbia.
“To some extent, I guess both Trudeau and Notley can say, ‘Look, we actually have policies for reducing climate change and we’re actually trying to make a difference,’” he said, adding that for many environmentalists it will come down to whether those policies are effective.
“I think most environmentalists are quite skeptical of that.”
Watch Global BC Morning News on Dec. 7 for extended clips from our interview with Premier Rachel Notley.
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