BC Premier Christy Clark
Credits: JIM WELLS/QMI AGENCY
Albertans may be incensed with B.C. Premier Christy Clark's demands for more "benefits" from the Northern Gateway pipeline, but if you look at it from the perspective of the politicians now misruling the left coast, it makes sense, in a wacky kind of way.
Think about it.
Out here in "Oilberta," which many in supernatural B.C. have heard about, but few have visited, the oilsands is set to deliver more than $100 billion in taxation revenue to governments across Canada in coming decades.
That is, if it can get its increasing bitumen production to oil-thirsty markets.
Clark, who is being trounced in the polls by the B.C. NDP, is finally off the fence when it comes to the pipeline, which will carry oilsands crude to Kitimat, where it will fill big tankers bound for ports across the Pacific.
B.C. will take most of the environmental risks of the pipeline, but reap few of the economic benefits, she says.
So her government came out with a shopping list of demands to address this perceived inequity.
Some are perfectly reasonable, no matter where you live.
Successful completion of the environmental review process and "world-leading" practises to prevent and respond to marine and land oil spills are merely sensible.
That's why Alberta Premier Alison Redford is onside with B.C.'s environmental initiatives and why Enbridge, stung by the most expensive pipeline spill in U.S. history, has pledged an extra $500 million to ensure the pipeline is the safest ever constructed.
If B.C.'s environmental demands mitigate much of the risk Clark and other British Columbians say they fear, you'd think that might temper their desire to grab a bigger piece of the financial pie.
(By the way, if Clark wants to talk about risk, she might consider the tremendous gamble Alberta energy companies undertook almost 50 years ago when they began to commercially exploit this difficult-to-extract resource.)
B.C. gripes it will get only 8.2% of provincial and federal tax revenues over 30-years, not counting the share of federal revenue that will flow into that province.
So Clark wants more moolah, or she says she will shut the project down.
The Constitution gives the feds final say over transportation systems such as pipelines, railways and highways.
Clark says B.C. will simply refuse to issue permits for the project or refuse to supply power for pumping stations.
She seems to have forgotten it isn't just B.C.'s coastline, it is Canada's. And as Redford points out, all provinces benefit from the ownership of their own resources, while transfer payments spread the wealth around.
B.C. has its own opportunities to raise revenues associated with this project.
Its attempt to extort Alberta sets the stage for equally repugnant attempts by other provinces to pocket a share of resources passing through their jurisdictions.
What's really galling is Clark likely doesn't have the clout to smooth the way for the pipeline, regardless of how much cash she can extract.
Many British Columbians oppose the pipeline because they've bought into the wildly exaggerated claims about its impact on global warming.As one environmentalist told reporters, "there's not enough money in the world" to deal with the environmental risks posed by the pipeline.
Most in B.C. these days support NDP Leader Adrian Dix, who isn't looking for more dough. He just wants to shut the pipeline down.
As the two premiers joust, the feds, who have the jurisdictional clout, remain muted. Could that have something to do with their own political fortunes in that beautiful, but hard-to-fathom land that lies across the mountains?
One thing is for certain.
Redford's dream of a "national energy strategy" is evaporating even as she prepares to meet her fellow premiers in Halifax today.