Unicorns and pipelines: Notley and enviro activist square off on Trans Mountain

Click to play video 'Rachel Notley and environmental activist Tzeporah Berman square off over Trans Mountain pipeline' Rachel Notley and environmental activist Tzeporah Berman square off over Trans Mountain pipeline
WATCH ABOVE: Two speakers, two very different opinions: Premier Rachel Notley squared off against anti-pipeline advocate Tzeporah Berman at the Alberta Teachers' Association conference. Julia Wong reports.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, squaring off with her arch pipeline foe, compared Trans Mountain pipeline protesters to dewey-eyed unicorn jockeys from B.C.’s southern coastal islands.

“Maybe on Salt Spring Island you can build an economy on condos and coffee shops but not in Edmonton and not anywhere in Alberta,” Notley said.

“Here in Alberta we ride horses — not unicorns. And I invite pipeline opponents to saddle up on something that is real.”

Notley, in a speech to the Alberta Teachers’ Association, said the province is taking action to address climate change.

She said trying to stop the Trans Mountain expansion hurts families, workers and the economy and will stifle progress to fight climate change in the long run.

READ MORE: Notley not happy with ‘jaw-dropping hypocrisy’ after feds announce no Trans Mountain appeal

“I submit the approach of anti-pipeline activists is a disaster, not only for working people but quite frankly for effective climate action as well,” Notley said to a crowd of about 200 people at the River Cree Resort and Casino.

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“If we write off the jobs and the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of working women and men, I guarantee you we will write off the ability to move forward on climate or, quite frankly, on just about any kind of progressive change.”

Notley made the comments while rebutting a speech made earlier in the day to the conference by environmental activist Tzeporah Berman.

Berman is a former adviser to the province on oilsands policy but has become a political lightning rod for her comments denouncing the Trans Mountain pipeline, which would take more oil from Alberta to the B.C. coast.

READ MORE: New Trans Mountain pipeline review to meet February deadline

Berman said the debate over her speech on Saturday revealed what she called a “very deep underbelly of fear in Alberta” and said the fear was for good reason, as change is hard.

“In the climate era, there are no easy answers,” she said.

“Given the importance of oil and gas production to Alberta’s economy, the fluctuation of price, the destabilizing impact of new technologies like electric cars, renewable energy, the growing opposition to new fossil fuel projects and infrastructure that’s happening at home and around the world — it’s no wonder people are angry and scared.”

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Berman says activists are not trying to shut down the oil and gas industry but are saying that its growth with projects like Trans Mountain is wrong-headed and will only a perpetuate a problem that threatens to become a global catastrophe.

READ MORE: Finding common ground on opposite sides of the Trans Mountain pipeline controversy

“No one is saying shut down the oil and gas industry overnight. No one is saying buy more from other countries — what we’re saying is right now, it’s big enough,” Berman said in her speech.

“We’re at a moment in history where we need to look at cleaning it up. We’re at a moment in history when we need to look at how to diversify our economy, to make sure we have resilient and safe jobs in the future.”

— With files from Karen Bartko and Julia Wong, Global News