BC Premier Christy Clark (L) and Alberta Premier Alison Redford
Credits: JIM WELLS/QMI AGENCY
But even I have to have sympathy for Redford taking a meeting with her B.C. counterpart Christy Clark over the Northern Gateway pipeline. It's impossible to pin down just what Clark wants.
Clark insists the $6-billion project to take bitumen from Alberta's oilsands to a west coast tanker port will be a no-go unless B.C. gets what she calls its "fair share" of money from the line's construction and operation to cover the greater eco-risk her province will take on. Yet she never says just what a fair share would be or where it should come from - the oil industry, Enbridge (the pipeline's operator), the Alberta government, Ottawa?
She did it again on Monday when Premier Redford was good enough to make time for a last-minute meeting with Clark even though no one at the Alberta end could figure out what the point of the meeting was supposed to be.
On very short notice, Clark told Redford she would be in Calgary Monday and offered to meet to discuss Gateway. But the B.C. premier had not changed her demands since the summer, so no one in Redford's office could divine Clark's motivation.
Clark said she wanted to reiterate B.C.'s environmental concerns, but everyone in Alberta already knows those concerns. So Redford decided to challenge Clark - again - to come up with a ballpark number of what she considers a "fair share" and explain where that money would come from.
Following the pair's "frosty" meeting, Redford told reporters: "I asked Premier Clark if she had any particular ideas with respect to (revenue sharing) and she didn't have a response."
To say Clark is being vague or sketchy on the details would be polite. Rather, I doubt she has a clue what she wants - other than to look tough for voters back home who are abandoning her Liberals in droves. She offers no dollar figure because she hasn't got one.
Consider one of Clark's other demands (she has five in total), that industry establish a fund to cover the full cost of any spill or other environmental harm. The fund must "fully cover a major response without requiring public money - those sectors that pose the risk must be responsible for all related mitigation and response costs."
So just what risk is it, then, that Clark believes B.C. deserves a bigger share of the pie for assuming? If there is a leak or spill, industry will have to pay for sopping up the mess. And industry will have to compensate landowners, First Nations, fishermen, resort operators and others for their losses.
Indeed, there is plenty of evidence that B.C. is already slated to receive the lion's share of economic activity from the Gateway line - not just the provincial government, but individual British Columbians.
According to projections from the Canadian Energy Research Institute, B.C. would rake in more than half of the benefits from Gateway and from the twinning of the existing TransMountain pipeline.
Excluding oil royalties (which will flow almost exclusively to Alberta), B.C. will receive nearly $9 billion of the $17 billion generated over the next 25 years. Of the 136,000 person-years of employment building and maintaining the lines would create, 58% would go to B.C. versus just 29% to Alberta. Most of the rest would go to Ontario and Quebec.
Maybe that's why Clark is always so evasive when the topic turns to money. She really hasn't got a case for a bigger piece of the action.