Christy Clark claims she will stop the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline, despite existing agreements of her government’s own making, exposing British Columbia to millions in penalties.
“Well it stops right here then,” blares the unelected Premier’s quote in Tuesday’s Globe and Mail under the provocative headline “Premiers quarrel over resource revenue threatens to scuttle pipeline.”
Christy goes into more detail in the Vancouver Sun: “If Alberta doesn’t decide they want to sit down and engage, the project stops. It’s as simple as that,’ she goes on when asked what she can do about it. Clark said the province needs to issue about 60 permits for it to go ahead, and BC Hydro needs to provide power.”
Clark and her minions see the writing on the wall and its not good – they have decided to start standing up to Albertans and showing them who’s boss. That’s the ticket – British Columbians will love that, or at least that is what her most recent communications adviser must believe.
Clark, renowned “communicator” after her politically strategic stint in radio, has failed to connect with British Columbians and just last month she traded in Harper’s communications hacks for Gordon Campbell’s old spin doctor. That was her third shuffle in communications staff during her short reign. She is desperate and this new positioning on Enbridge reflects it.
She is so desperate it seems she is taking late night calls from Mike Klassan, co-founder of the City Caucus website, who foreshadowed precisely what we are seeing Clark do today when he wrote this advice way back in May:
As her government enters the final year of its mandate, Christy Clark must take bold steps on the energy file. The kind of deal that most British Columbians wish for is within her grasp, if she so chooses.
Clark must invite Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Alberta Premier Alison Redford, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall and representatives of Canada’s petroleum industry sector to tour Burrard Inlet to see first-hand what is at stake for B.C. There could be no better backdrop than our pristine coastline for this conversation.
In order to stabilize the access to markets, British Columbia must be an equal partner. Premier Clark should therefore propose a Western Petroleum Export Accord that sees a fair share of oil industry profits invested in B.C.
Make no mistake, Monday’s media charade and subsequent political positioning was not a result of anything new as Environment Minister Terry Lake claimed, nor is it due to the “Keystone Kops” stunning incompetence, resulting in a half a billion more dollars in new safety cash from Enbridge. It is, rather, pure politics and the right has been working overtime for many months trying to pull their electoral fortunes out of the fire.
The oil and gas agenda under the BC Liberals has been a stealth agenda, and they are so far out ahead of the public dialogue and processes that convincing British Columbians they somehow have a say or any influence is a real challenge, even for Christy. Her claims in light of Alberta’s refusal to negotiate are hollow and risky. Here are just three of many reasons why:
1) TILMA / NWPTA
The original TILMA (Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement) deal between BC and Alberta was eagerly ushered in by the BC Liberals, who even invoked closure to end debate and railroad it through, despite cries of protest from all corners. The agreement dictates that any impediments at any level of government that works to restrict the free flow of trade deals will result in serious penalties. Clark cannot suggest she was not aware of this because since she started steering the Liberal’s sinking ship she has appointed 5 people to TILMA boards who would mete out such penalties.
TILMA was the predecessor to the NWPTA (New West Partnership Trade Agreement), which was also boosted by the Liberals as imperative to the development of Western Canada into an economic powerhouse. And that does not mean we needed agreements to get Alberta beef flowing – it was all about oil and gas. Christy suggests her government can halt the project by restricting power and permits, which would result in penalties as high as 5 million dollars as outlined in this agreement
Moreover under Chrisy’s leadership, the New West Partnership Agreement resulted in a bricks-and-mortar office in Shanghai, strange because it’s not called the New West and East Asia Agreement, but that is what Clark turned it into. This NWPTA Shanghai office is supposed to be up and running this year. Seems a bit odd to stop projects this far evolved with so much already invested and with risk of such stiff penalties while alienating her new friends in Shanghai. Redford gently reminded Christy of this fact when she stated publicly, “We’ve worked very hard through our New West Partnership to ensure free trade across the BC/Alberta/Saskatchewan borders and the shared economic rewards have been great for our citizens. Leadership is not about dividing Canadians and pitting one province against another—leadership is about working together.”
2) Equivalency Agreement
Just as the ink was dry on the NWPTA, ensuring Alberta no impediment in trade deals that required access and right-of-way through British Columbia, another agreement was immediately pursued by the BC Liberals, the details of which I have previously written about in these pages. This deal forfeits British Columbia’s capacity to influence and/or assess the Enbridge pipeline project specifically, along with three other major projects. I guess the NWPTA was not enough to provide certainty to oilmen, therefore another agreement was required that clearly spelled out that BC has no say in these infrastructure projects.
The deal was done in stealth fashion while the Liberals were receiving awards and recognition from prominent enviro’ish activists for their “clean energy” agenda, and while the Premier was secretly arranging another off-the-record meeting after having been tapped by the Bilderberg group to attend their stealthy confab. And just like we never heard anything about sending our premier off to meet with the richest most powerful people on earth, we did not hear anything about his party’s agenda to usher in the oil and gas era at the expense of our environment, economy and sovereignty.
3) Jurisdictional wrangling
When it comes to these “heavy oil pipelines”, the jurisdictional wrangling has been treated like a hot potato during a game of musical chairs. And when the music stops Clark will be left standing with a spud in her hand. It’s a bit confusing to say the least. Which of course is by design. This is what Trillions of dollars – with a “T” – does to grownups. Obfuscation is the order of the day. Regardless of who anybody thinks is ultimately responsible, the facts are the two agreements above tie the hands of British Columbians and Chisty is simply orchestrating a media charade designed to make her appear as if she has some backbone and is taking on the world’s most powerful forces on behalf of British Columbians. Which of course is pure poppycock. It’s all politics – an illusion – designed to forward the aggressive oily agenda and somehow salvage Christy’s quickly crashing political career.
So thorough was the work of this Liberal government ensuring the legal and administrative stage was set for the oil and gas agenda, upon becoming leader of the opposition, Adrian Dix ( a renowned policy wonk and one of the sharpest minds in the pointy buildings) was unable to get his head around how the work could be undone. Dix was forced to appoint a team of lawyers to gain insight into how we might actually regain any ability whatsoever to make decisions about what happens on our land and with our coast or how we might wrestle back a modicum of control over our future.
The key to avoiding penalties under the TILMA/NWPA is to revoke the Equivalency Agreement. I have written about here and here and others such as Robyn Allan have brought to the Premier’s attention. I suspect the legal team will have more to say about that, but for now it is simply stunning that Clark would threaten Alberta and these economic development projects while leaving BC exposed to such stiff penalties, all simply to salvage her political career.