Jon McComb: Like a dog on a bone, Rachel Notley and the pipeline expansion

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley will not attend the Western Premiers’ Conference in Yellowknife this week. File Photo/THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Like a dog on a bone, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley is chewing and grinding every morsel of political meat she can rip from the Kinder Morgan pipeline fight from the province of B.C.

Now think of B.C. Premier John Horgan as the bone. It’s pure politics, of course. The Alberta premier faces a united and renewed conservative party led by Jason Kenney in an election that’s less than a year away.

LISTEN: Jon McComb talks about Notley’s boycott on the Western Premiers’ Conference
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Notley’s increasing tempo of political theatrics gives an indication of just how long her re-election chances really are. First, it was the wine boycott, then it was turning off the taps by restricting shipments of energy product into B.C., with horror stories of $2 a litre for gas.

Now it’s something else. Notley says she’s boycotting the Western Premiers’ Conference because she wants to stay in Alberta to focus on the May 31 deadline imposed by Kinder Morgan on whether it will move ahead with the project.

But, if the feds are offering taxpayers money to indemnify the company, what exactly is Notley standing by for? She can just as easily take a phone call from federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau at the premiers’ conference site in Yellowknife as at her desk in Edmonton. And she’d be back home with a week to spare in any case.

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No, the boycott isn’t about the practicalities of pretending to be on top of the pipeline issue. Notley is playing to the home crowd, showing off her alleged toughness.

WATCH: Global News coverage of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion

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The Alberta premier showed her true political hand in a tweet on Monday in which she said it would be “surreal and exceptionally tone deaf” for people to think that a polite discussion about other topics could take place while “one of the players is hard at work trying to choke the economic lifeblood of the province and the country.”

Choke the lifeblood of the province and the country? Oil and gas accounts for about seven per cent of Canada’s GDP. Yes, that’s a sizeable amount, but it’s not the lifeblood of the country. Clearly, Notley’s hysterical hyperbole is aimed at one audience and that’s the audience of Alberta.

Now, I get the pipeline is important to Alberta’s economy, and whether you agree with Horgan or not, the courts will ultimately decide whether B.C. has even a sliver of jurisdiction over what’s in the pipe.

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The odds are against the province of B.C. The federal government has already made it abundantly clear — it will indemnify Kinder Morgan, or any other company should the Texas multinational decide to pull out. The feds have made it clear over and over and over again — the pipeline will get built.

So Notley has already won, but she’s too interested in pounding away at her own self-aggrandizing political narrative to realize it.

Jon McComb is the host of the Jon McComb Show on Global News Radio 980 CKNW in Vancouver.

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