It’s among the nastiest inter-provincial disputes in Western Canada’s history.
A dispute over the Trans Mountain pipeline that’s morphed into B.C. proposing to block increases in Albertan bitumen shipments; Alberta firing back with a B.C. wine boycott and threats to shut the door on power, craft beer and more.
The dispute has garnered its share of online ridicule, right up to the hashtag #WaroftheRosés, but make no mistake — it’s no joke, and has evoked strong feelings on both sides.
Part of the problem is that more than the Rocky Mountains separate Alberta and B.C.; there’s a sense of “two solitudes,” with both provinces seeing the debate differently.
In the interest of fostering neighbourly communication, Global News Radio took on the role of neutral arbiter on Thursday — holding two simulcast, open line radio segments taking calls from Vancouver’s CKNW AM980, Edmonton’s 630 CHED, and Calgary’s 770 CHQR.
Here’s a sampling of what Albertans and British Columbians had to say.
LISTEN: CKNW’s Jon McComb and CHED’s Ryan Jespersen take your calls
Not everyone in B.C. supports NDP premier John Horgan’s position — something that became clear, based on several calls from British Columbia.
“I personally don’t know anyone that supports B.C.’s position, and I don’t think that what they’re doing is right at all,” said Gordon from Maple Ridge.
It’s the economy, stupid
A common refrain from Albertan callers? The pipeline is vital, and Albertan — and Canadian — jobs are at stake.
“The deal’s already done boys, we had a year and a half, two years, five years, whatever it’s been to get to this point,” said Darren in Calgary.
“The thing is, we need pipelines, and we’ll pay for it. Let’s get this thing pushed through,” said Allan in Lamonte.
“We’ll buy the land, we can afford it, Albertans have been paying for Canada for a very long time and we don’t mind doing it because we like B.C. wine and you’re our neighbours.”
The environmental cost
On the other side of the equation was the B.C. perspective that the environmental cost would outweigh the economic gain.
“Oil is not the future economy. Not in just this country but all over the planet,” said Andy in Burnaby.
“We already have 300,000 barrels a day coming through the existing pipeline, which has a horrible track record. They have not gone four years without a spill on that pipeline.”
“The Exon Valdez cost more than $7 billion U.S. dollars to clean up,” said Bob in Vancouver.
“Are you prepared to put up front $10 billion Canadian to protect the waters of downtown Vancouver or the Salish sea, in case there’s a disaster?”
Callers from Alberta disputed both those points, pointing to the quality of modern electric seamless welding and double hulled tankers as safety mechanisms that would prevent a spill.
LISTEN: CKNW’s Lynda Steele and 770 CHQR’s Angela Kokott take your calls
Refine it at home
One perspective that came up several times throughout the day — and that spanned both provinces — was a call for Canada to refine its own oil.
“I do not want a pipeline,” said Alex in Delta. “But if you guys in Alberta want a pipeline, why don’t you actually invest in a terminal here that we could produce gas? A refinery will employ hundreds of people and keep on employing people.”
Jason in Edmonton agreed.
“The companies that are transporting the oil are lobbying the government to avoid building refineries so they can benefit and they can take our product, move it offshore, move it into another country, and they get the value added benefit,” he said.
WATCH: McKenna says government having ‘discussions’ to end BC/Alberta feud
Fine then, we’ll leave
The day wasn’t without its extreme calls either. At least two Alberta callers floated the idea of independence.
“We need to abandon the things of the past like the outdated monarchy, and re-look at our business relationship with Canada,” said Mike from Camrose.
“We could deal with Montana, Idaho and Washington State, and the Trump administration is oil friendly. We would have a booming economy dealing directly with the U.S.”
Craig in Calgary said he’s already working on a campaign to boycott any business in Alberta selling B.C. products
“We’re willing to start an all out-war and have some short term pain for long term gain because people are pushing Alberta around, and we have contributed too much to this economy,” he said.
“If confederation isn’t going to work because we at least fought this way, well then the next option is separation. We’re sick and tired of paying into something that we get nothing back.”
WATCH: When will Alberta’s supply of B.C. wine dry up?
But while there was inevitable finger-pointing on both sides, many other callers pinned the blame for the dispute squarely on our elected leaders.
Jason in Edmonton accused Premiers Rachel Notley and John Horgan of orchestrating the dispute to shore up their own political flanks.
“It’s all a pre-arranged drama to gain popularity, and everyone needs to know that,” he said. “It’s a flaming clown car driving off a cliff.”
While B.C.’s Horgan did campaign explicitly on using “every tool in the toolbox” to stop Kinder Morgan, some callers like Jeremy in Calgary argued the BC NDP isn’t in the driver’s seat.
“How is it that three Green party members are running that province right now because British Columbia’s premier is kissing up to them so he can have his government,” he asked.
Others cast their aspersions on Justin Trudeau and the federal government, who they accused of failing to step in and mediate the problem.
“I think we should be making Justin Trudeau a drama teacher again,” said Mike in Abbotsford.
Bernard in Edmonton took similar aim at Ottawa, saying Notley’s boycott would do little to sway Horgan.
“The [B.C.] interior is all [BC] Liberal. So it’s not like she’s having any detrimental effects on the NDP constituencies of John Horgan. Here’s what Notley needs to do: suspend the carbon tax and the climate action plan until that pipeline is operational.”
“Both premiers have been doing exactly what they’ve been elected to do, and that’s stand up for their constituents,” said Cam in the Fraser Valley.
“They need to leave the trade war out of it and sit down with the federal government, get their ducks in a row and get it sorted out.”
That may, in fact, be the next step. Federal officials have been dispatched to the warring western provinces in a bid to come to a negotiated settlement.