VANCOUVER – British Columbia and Alberta both have their reasons, but the bottom line is the two provinces are still wrangling over conditions linked to the proposed Enbridge (TSX:ENB) Northern Gateway pipeline, and those arguments have forced the last-minute postponement of talks between Premier Christy Clark and Premier Alison Redford.
“We don’t want to get into finger pointing with Alberta,” said Ben Chin, Clark’s director of communications, noting an inter-provincial working group is making progress on the five conditions set by B.C., but without significant recent movement, he said there was no reason for the premiers to meet.
“Alberta is not ready yet to accept the five conditions,” he said in confirming cancellation of the talks, planned for Tuesday in Vancouver, between Clark and Redford.
Those conditions must be met before B.C. will consider the Enbridge project and include ensuring British Columbia’s share of the financial benefits reflect the environmental and economic risk assumed by the province.
Redford arrived in Vancouver Monday prior to a Tuesday speech at an energy forum hosted by the Vancouver Board of Trade and a release from her office issued late Monday said there is still work to be done on meeting B.C.’s pipeline conditions.
She said Alberta thought that if it met those conditions it could proceed, but British Columbia now wants to — quote — “negotiate additional benefits.”
Redford did not say what those additional benefits would be, but suggested B.C. is mulling additional charges on industry.
She said it’s not clear why B.C. thinks Alberta is the partner to negotiate that issue.
“If the Government of B.C. decides to place additional charges on industry, that go beyond the federal and provincial restrictions on responsible resource development, this is not something for the Government of Alberta to negotiate — it is for the Government of B.C. to negotiate directly with producers and industry,” Redford said in the news release.
The Alberta leader said her province is willing and “happy” to assist B.C. if that is what it wants to do.
Earlier this year, Clark and Redford clashed when Clark announced the five conditions, including strict environmental standards and assurances, for the Northern Gateway project.
Then last month, it appeared the feud was ebbing as both Clark and Redford said they had identified shared goals like opening new markets and expanding export opportunities for oil, gas and other resources.
“Alberta understood that B.C.’s five conditions were designed to ensure responsible energy production and safe transport to new markets,” Redford said.
“Alberta’s firm belief is that meeting those conditions gives projects the social licence to proceed, as well as clear economic benefits for B.C. They also could mitigate the risk of increased shipments through B.C.
“It is now clear that B.C. is seeking to negotiate additional benefits.”
Redford is expected to comment further after her midday speech to the energy forum, while Clark has announced a media availability at the Vancouver cabinet offices for 11 a.m.