Vaughn Palmer on Christy Clark’s Secret Discussions with Alberta Premier on Enbridge


Read this column from Vaughn Palmer, suggesting the revelation of a secret visit BC Premier Christy Clark paid to her Alberta counterpart Alison Redford on the Enbridge pipeline reinforces her reputation for indecisiveness. Clark’s “fence-sitting” on the proposed Enbridge pipeline has been “incredibly frustrating”, says Redford. (July 20, 2012)

VICTORIA – For a premier who promised that openness would be one of the watchwords of her administration, Christy Clark cannot have been happy with the front-page story in the Edmonton Journal Friday.

“Why the need for secrecy?” asked the headline atop a piece by columnist Graham Thomson on Clark’s unannounced visit to Alberta Premier Alison Redford to discuss the running controversy over the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway oil pipeline.

The details were embarrassing enough. Clark’s office asking Redford to keep the visit secret. The B.C. premier ducking in and out of a side door to avoid the cameras. The bait-and-switch ruse with two SUVs to throw reporters off the track.

But while Clark was avoiding the media Thursday, Redford volunteered an account of the meeting that was far from flattering to her visitor from B.C. The Alberta premier professed a reluctance to put words into Clark’s mouth even as she proceeded to do just that.

“She feels right now … a fair amount of pressure to be making comment with respect to this,” said Redford, referencing the pipeline. “A lot of what I think she wanted to chat about today was her ongoing concern as the premier of B.C. with respect to what’s going on with Enbridge and what her thinking is about that. She wants to make sure that she’s holding them to some pretty strict environmental standards.”

Not content to provide a summary of her B.C. counterpart’s concerns — consultations with first nations and making sure there were stringent protocols to deal with spills — Redford then proceeded to offer some “if I were in her shoes” advice.

“I would be trying to set in place a set of conditions that from my perspective would allow the project to go ahead but that would work with industry, not just Enbridge but other companies that are looking at pipelines in B.C., to try to come up with a framework that makes sense to let that investment come into the province. And I think she’s sorting that out.”

Redford framed her disappointment with Clark — “it’s incredibly frustrating to me” — as having arisen out of the B.C. government’s continued fence-sitting on the pipeline. But I have to think those frustrations were also conditioned by Clark’s recent critical comments about Enbridge.

For Clark is sounding increasingly hostile to the proposal, a point that she reinforced in an interview this week with Jason Fekete of Postmedia News: “Based on what we know now, I don’t think British Columbians think the balance of risks and benefits is an acceptable one.”