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Premier stays mum on how much B.C.’s pipeline approval will cost

BC Premier Christy Clark speaks to media about former Liberal John van Dongen who recently resigned to join the Conservatives during a press conference at the BC Legislative Building in Victoria, Tuesday March 27,2012.

Chad Hipolito/The Globe and Mail

Premier Christy Clark says she has yet to define the improved fiscal benefits she wants British Columbia to derive from the proposed Northern Gateway project, but hopes a target will arise in talks with Alberta and Ottawa.

Ms. Clark has said her government will not support the $6-billion project to pipe bitumen from the Alberta oil sands to the B.C. coast for shipment to Asian markets unless several conditions are met, including an increase in funds for her province.

The Premier has said she will not disclose the figure because she does not want to negotiate in public. However, pressed on Friday on whether the government has a specific target, she told reporters no.

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"Not at the moment. We need to actually get everyone to the table first," Ms. Clark said before going into a hotel in this community for a speech to a women-only luncheon meeting sponsored by the local chamber of commerce.

Ms. Clark was evasive on whether B.C. and Alberta have begun even unofficial talks on the matter since a stormy premiers' meeting in Halifax last week at which the B.C. Premier and her Alberta counterpart, Alison Redford, were sharply at odds on the issue. Ms. Clark refused to participate in talks on a national energy strategy.

"Premier Redford needs to decide she wants to come to the table before these discussions can happen. So far, Alberta hasn't indicated much interest in talking about this. And what I've said is, Alberta and the federal government have to come to the table with British Columbia to talk about making sure B.C. gets its fair share," Ms. Clark said before leaving the scrum.

Project proponent Enbridge Inc. has said the pipeline would provide $81-billion in incremental government revenues over 30 years. B.C. has noted the province would receive only 8 per cent, or $6.7-billion, of that total while assuming much of the environmental risk.

A report last week laying out five conditions for supporting the project noted, "Our government does not agree that we should bear the majority of risk with the minority share of benefits being returned to our citizens."

The other conditions for B.C. support are approval of the Gateway by a joint-review panel, cutting-edge spill responses, and appropriate aboriginal engagement, participation and accommodation.

Ms. Clark has kept a low profile since returning to B.C. after the premiers' meeting, which saw the province at odds with one of its more customary allies in the West.

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For most of the week, she travelled in the B.C. Interior, attending party meetings and participating in women-only luncheons. On Friday, she took only three questions from a crowd of Lower Mainland journalists before departing for her speech.

Polls released since her return suggest Ms. Clark has yet to get any kind of bounce from her promise to fight for B.C.'s interests, and that the B.C. Liberals are running far behind the opposition New Democrats.

But Ms. Clark shrugged off the polls. "I think that the poll that is actually going to matter is the one about a year from now when we get to election day," she said, "and that's the one that will determine who is in government in the coming year or year after that."

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About the Author
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

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