Most citizens expect their provincial premier to stand up for their province’s interests. It should go without saying that Alberta’s government should stand up for Alberta’s interests, but it’s a point that needs to be repeated right now.
Nearly every economic expert in Alberta understands that building pipelines to get our products to market is essential for the future of our province’s economic growth. The more oil we sell, the more jobs we create and the more royalties we collect to fund government programs. Alberta’s oil is landlocked and sells at a discount to the world market. It’s simple economics, but our new government has thus far shown an overt hostility to allowing – let a lone promoting – the construction of pipelines.
The new NDP government opposes the construction of both the Keystone XL pipeline to the US Gulf Coast, and the Northern Gateway Pipeline to BC’s Pacific Coast. The only major pipeline project supported by the NDP government is the Energy East project, although the federal NDP led by Thomas Mulcair opposes even it.
The Energy East project seeks to transport bitumen from Alberta’s Oil Sands to refineries in New Brunswick. It is a nation-building project that will get Alberta’s energy products to world markets – increasing prosperity here at home – and provide badly needed jobs for workers in Atlantic Canada. Roughly two-thirds of the Energy East pipeline already exists and only needs to be modified to carry raw bitumen. The project has cleared every safety and environmental hurdle in its way.
The project is a no brainer, and should have been built years ago.
Enter the Liberal governments of Ontario and Quebec. Despite their provinces being heavily reliant on oil imports from some of the worst human rights violators and polluters in the world, the governments of these two provinces are holding up the project for partisan political gain.
Every year, the federal government doles out more than $17 billion in Equalization payments to Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba and the Maritime Provinces, paid for (net) by Alberta, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, and Newfoundland and Labrador.
Ontario will receive $2.4 billion in Equalization payments from (mostly) Western taxpayers this year alone. Quebec will receive $9.5 billion this year from (mostly) Western taxpayers.
During a recent meeting of Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard, the Energy East project was the topic du jour. After the meeting, Premier Notley told the press that “What I heard from him [Couillard] is that if we’re able to move forward on that [climate change policy] in a meaningful and convincing way, that there’s more likelihood of Quebec being able to come to terms with it.”
Does this mean that if Quebec doesn’t approve of Alberta’s policies, that they will have justification for continuing to hold up the pipeline?
This arguably handed the premier of Quebec a veto over Alberta’s internal environmental and energy policies, with the Energy East project held as collateral. In effect, Alberta’s environmental and energy policies must now meet the approval of Quebec’s government, or else no pipeline.
Under the Constitution, the approval or rejection of pipelines falls strictly with the federal government, not with any province.
You would think that the government of Quebec – collecting $9.5 billion a year in Equalization payments – would be grateful to Western taxpayers. You would think that the government of Quebec – poorer than Alberta or even Ontario – would welcome a project that will inject badly needed capital into that province and create jobs. You would think that Quebec – heavily reliant on oil from Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and Venezuela – would rather buy its oil from fellow Canadians at an even cheaper price.
Instead, Albertans and Saskatchewanians are held hostage for a political game.
Saskatchewan Premier, Brad Wall summed it up best when he said, “Maybe we need to have Equalization payments start flowing through a pipeline in order to finally get one approved through Central Canada.”
Premier Wall was standing up for Western Canada the Saskatchewan. I want to hear that kind of leadership from our own premier.
For too long, Alberta’s premiers have been afraid to stand up boldly for the interests of Albertans on the national stage, while other premiers do not shy away from advocating for their provinces.
It’s time our government stood up for Alberta, and stopped making apologies for our success.