Only 8 days to Kinder Morgan deadline, Notley “reasonably confident” deal will be struck to save Trans Mountain Expansion

“On one hand, they don’t want our oil and on the other hand, they’re suing us to give them our oil,” is how Premier Rachel Notley described BC’s law suit to prevent Alberta from turning off the (pipeline) taps using the recently passed Preserving Canada’s Economic Prosperity Act. Attorney General David Eby denies that charge and says the BC government is just trying “to ensure that we have the protections in place for when the pipeline is built and turned on.” Who’s kidding who?

Rachel Notley, Alberta premier.

Both sides, that’s who.

Though British Columbia is by far the most egregious fibber.

By now everyone in Canada knows the issue: the John Horgan-led NDP formed government last summer determined to stop the 590,000 b/d Trans Mountain Expansion pipeline and promptly received legal advice it didn’t have the constitutional authority; Plan B is to expand provincial authority by enacting regulations in the name of environmental protection that have the effect of delaying the project until proponent Kinder Morgan gives up; Notley objected and said she will stop shipments of crude oil and gasoline to BC.

Eby filed a law suit Tuesday to prevent the Alberta government from dealing a healthy knock up side the head of the British Columbia economy (gasoline currently sells for around a buck and a half a litre and speculation is prices could rise to $2 or $3 if Alberta follows through with its threat).

BC claims its proposed regulation to restrict shipments of diluted bitumen while the Province determines if there is enough science available to design a robust crude oil spill response plan for both land and marine releases is to “protect the coast.”

“It is not to stop the pipeline, it is not to prevent it,” Eby feebly told reporters.

David Eby, BC attorney general.

As proof, he pointed to the most recent release (last week) of data on the BC government’s processing of Trans Mountain Expansion permit applications: 748 applications submitted, 212 approved issued, 536 submitted and being reviewed, 438 permits yet to be submitted.

Sounds impressive, doesn’t it?

But compare it with the data released in mid-April: 201 permits approved and issued, 386 being reviewed, 600 to be submitted.

The Horgan government approved just 11 permits in the past month.

Is that a lot or a little? If it’s a little, does fault lie with the bureaucrats (did they receive instructions to slow down as the dispute with Alberta escalated?) or the company (which in a few days after the release of the April data announced it had suspended all non-essential spending on the project and gave the government involved until May 31 to work out their differences)?

Regardless, Eby is sticking with the fiction that the BC NDP accept the Canadian government has the right to approve the pipeline and that Horgan and company care only about protecting the province from a devastating spill, ensuring the spilled oil is contained and cleaned up expeditiously, and that any communities and First Nations affected are properly compensated for their losses.

Notley had this to say about that BC fable: “…they must think that everybody was born yesterday but the fact is is that that’s not the case and we can tell that this is a long strategy of trying to inject uncertainty into the process.”

Notley has used the pipeline fight with Horgan to bolster her own political standing, including rallies in Edmonton and Calgary which are critical to her 2019 re-election hopes.

Notley’s fiction that Bill 12 is meant to ensure Alberta receives maximum value for its resources is more transparent than Saran Wrap.

Sect. 92a(2) of the Canadian Constitution empowers individual provinces to “make laws in relation to the export from the province to another part of Canada of the primary production from non-renewable natural resources…”

But there is a caveat: “…such laws may not authorize or provide for discrimination in prices or in supplies exported to another part of Canada.”

Translation: Notley can turn off the taps, but she has to turn off all the taps to Canadian markets, not just BC.

The Alberta NDP premier isn’t even trying to pretend that the Preserving Canada’s Economic Prosperity Act is aimed at all Canadian markets for her province’s crude oil and refined products.

But she did thank Eby for showing his government’s legal hand by filing the law suit when he did: “…as we put the final finishing touches on our regulations, we now have line of sight into their legal arguments and that’s helpful…we appreciate them sharing their arguments with us in advance.”

All the legal and political posturing by both provinces will be for naught if a deal is reached with Ottawa to keep Kinder Morgan committed to the pipeline, that clarifies and asserts federal jurisdiction, and leads to the resumption of pipeline construction.

If that happens, both sides likely win. Horgan can retire from the battle, arguing that his government fought the good fight but ran out of options, while Notley will have scored a huge political victory over United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney, who has been a vociferous critic on this issue.

If a deal is not reached, Horgan wins, Notley is the big loser, and the country is likely thrown into a full-scale constitutional crisis as the Trans Mountain Expansion battle rages on.

When Notley says she is “reasonably confident” Canada, the company, and Alberta will finalize an agreement before May 31, most of the country is now holding its breath and hoping she’s right.