Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

B.C.'s Northern Gateway demands trigger showdown with Alberta

Douglas Channel in Kitimat, B.C., the proposed termination point for Enbridge’s controversial Northern Gateway pipeline. An oil industry executive says the financial benefits of such proposals should carry more weight than they do now.

Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press/Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press

British Columbia has triggered a showdown with Alberta over energy royalties, saying it won't support the controversial $6-billion Northern Gateway pipeline project unless it is given a bigger cut of tax revenues.

Alberta, however, quickly fired back, saying it won't be cutting its neighbour a cheque.

"Absolutely not," Premier Alison Redford told The Globe and Mail, saying jurisdiction over resources, and resource revenue, is "fundamental to Alberta." Tinkering with it would amount to nothing less than an overhaul of Confederation, Ms. Redford argued, saying B.C. already benefits by the billions the province sends to Ottawa each year.

Story continues below advertisement

"To actually introduce the idea that we would renegotiate Confederation is quite troubling to me. At the end of the day it is true that we have resources in this province and we collect revenue from those, but those revenues are shared across the country," Ms. Redford told The Globe.

The battle comes as premiers, including B.C.'s Christy Clark and Ms. Redford, gather in Halifax for talks this week. Ms. Redford will continue to push for a Canadian energy strategy, which would be meant to streamline major energy projects such as Northern Gateway.

The demand for a "fair share" of cash – a figure B.C. hasn't finalized – was one of five conditions that B.C. laid out Monday as stipulations of its support for the project, which would see Alberta oil sent to Kitimat, B.C., and loaded onto tankers bound for Asia.

The other conditions include that the North Gateway project pass an environmental assessment by the National Energy Board joint review panel, which is already underway; have "world-leading" plans to respond to both marine and oil spills; and address first nations concerns and treaty rights.

Companies must go "beyond their minimum legal obligations to first nations," said Mary Polak, B.C.'s aboriginal relations minister. Enbridge argues it's already doing that, with 60 per cent of first nations groups signed on to support the deal.

Ms. Clark has long been expressing reservations about the project, but Monday's announcement formalized her views, shifting from her previous assertion that she would avoid taking a stand before the NEB review was complete.

In firing back, Ms. Redford cited projects such as the Alliance Pipeline, which carries natural gas from B.C. through Alberta. "When that was built, Alberta didn't say to B.C.: 'We want a share of that,'" Ms. Redford said.

Story continues below advertisement

B.C., Saskatchewan and Alberta have a so-called New West Partnership that's been streamlining tax and labour laws between provinces to boost trade.

The proposed Northern Gateway demands "would be a pretty fundamental change to that, so I was very disappointed with the comments today," Ms. Redford said.

In an earlier written statement, Ms. Redford also cited the "rigorous" environmental review and project proponent Enbridge Inc.'s commitment to an extra $500-million for enhanced safety measures – far beyond industry standards, the company said. Altogether, those developments "weaken the B.C. government's argument for compensation based on potential risk," she said, adding later that "leadership is not about dividing Canadians and pitting one province against another."

The B.C.-Alberta conflict could linger for years. Ms. Clark is facing a tough bid for re-election next May. The opposition B.C. New Democrats, far ahead of Ms. Clark's Liberals in current polls, are firmly opposed to Gateway in any form. "We remain serene and determined to reject this pipeline, which isn't in British Columbia's interest," NDP Leader Adrian Dix said Monday.

Well-known B.C. environmentalist Tzeporah Berman said Monday there was no way to make Gateway work while protecting the environment. "There's not enough money in the world that could be given to British Columbia to deal with that risk."

An Enbridge spokesman said Monday the company had no immediate objections to B.C.'s concerns, saying it's already working with the review, on spill mitigation and response plans and with first nations. Enbridge considers the demand for more funding a "government-to-government" issue.

Story continues below advertisement

Federal Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver issued a non-commital statement in response to B.C.'s demands, saying only major energy projects are essential to Canada's economy. "We look forward to working with the provinces to secure the long-term prosperity of Canada," he said.

In a briefing, B.C. referred to a report by Wright Mansell, a Calgary firm that estimates B.C. would be in for 8.2 per cent, or $6.7-billion, of a total $81-billion in tax revenue from the project over 30 years.

The meeting of premiers begins Wednesday.

Report an error Licensing Options
About the Authors
B.C. reporter

Ian Bailey is a Vancouver-based reporter for The Globe and Mail.  He covers politics and general news. Prior to arriving at The Globe and Mail, he reported from Toronto and St. John’s for The Canadian Press.  He has also covered British Columbia for CP, The National Post and The Province. More

Parliamentary reporter

Josh is a parliamentary reporter in Ottawa. Before moving to the nation's capital in 2013, he covered provincial affairs in Edmonton and throughout Alberta. He joined the Globe in 2008 in Toronto before returning to his home province in 2010. More

Comments

The Globe invites you to share your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful to everyone. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

We’ve made some technical updates to our commenting software. If you are experiencing any issues posting comments, simply log out and log back in.

Discussion loading… ✨

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Thank you!

You are now subscribed to the newsletter at

You can unsubscribe from this newsletter or Globe promotions at any time by clicking the link at the bottom of the newsletter, or by emailing us at privacy@globeandmail.com.