Alberta Premier Rachel Notley is warning all political parties to take off their partisan blinders or both the environment and Canada’s energy industry will fail.
Notley was in Ottawa this week as part of a campaign to build support for pipeline expansions. In a speech at the Economic Club of Canada and a roundtable discussion with The Canadian Press, she pleaded with political friends and foes alike to work with her.
“You know that this issue transcends political divides,” the NDP premier said.
She said the federal Liberals may get credit for approving Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, but now they have to sell their decision to a skeptical public in British Columbia.
She urged the Conservatives in Ottawa and Alberta to stop pretending climate change isn’t real, because that throws a roadblock in the way of pipeline approvals.
She saved some of her starkest words for members of her own party in Ottawa and other provinces, saying their efforts to protect the environment cannot come at the expense of people.
“We cannot put a generation of people out of work and then look surprised or act surprised when people reject the purpose for that, reject climate change, reject the efforts to protect the environment,” she said.
Notley and the federal NDP are not in sync on this issue, something she acknowledges. Neither are they likely to be, as long as the expansion remains unpopular with progressive voters in B.C., a group the NDP and Liberals are already courting in the slow race towards the 2019 federal election.
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That’s where having the Liberals use political muscle to get more support for the project comes into Notley’s equation.
“Part of governing is talking to citizens about what your plan is, what it’s there for, what you’re trying to achieve,” she said. “That’s something they could do with more enthusiasm.”
Nevertheless, the expansion faces legal challenges and opposition from the NDP government elected in B.C. last spring.
Notley says Alberta’s economy took a hit with the drop in oil prices, but lately has been showing positive signs. The day after her Ottawa stop, those signs got a lot brighter, with the Conference Board of Canada reporting Wednesday it expects Alberta’s economy to outpace the rest of the country with 6.7 per cent growth this year.
The average of seven private sector economic forecasts for the province right now is 4.5 per cent.
Those numbers may give Notley some fuel for her fight back home against new United Conservative party leader Jason Kenney, who criticizes Notley’s climate change plan as bad for Alberta.
The fact the Alberta economy is rebounding in the same year a carbon price was introduced is politically helpful to Notley’s cause. She said those who push for pipelines while blocking efforts to combat climate change are only succeeding in generating stronger opposition to oil and gas development.
“Denying climate change won’t get pipelines built,” she said.
Kenney didn’t appear eager to heed on to Notley’s advice. In a Facebook post on Wednesday Kenney said it was “shocking” that it took Notley two years to ask Trudeau to defend pipelines and accused her of being cozy with Trudeau.
“Most of us here in Alberta knew to take a promise from someone named `Trudeau’ to defend and promote our oil and gas industry with a grain of salt,” he said. “It’s a shame the current premier of Alberta didn’t realize this sooner.”