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B.C. Premier Clark holds key bargaining position in Northern Gateway decision

B.C. Premier Christy Clark will determine how much political suffering Stephen Harper endures over his decision to greenlight the Northern Gateway oil sands pipeline that will traverse her province to the West Coast.

In Canadian politics, premiers, not federal party opposition leaders, have a large enough bully pulpit to function as Ottawa's toughest critics. Think of former Newfoundland premier Danny Williams' campaign to defeat Conservatives in his province in the 2008 election, or Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall's opposition to a foreign takeover of Potash Corp.

Few of the five conditions Ms. Clark laid down in 2012 for approving the pipeline have been met, including the demand that B.C. get a greater share of the economic benefits from the project.

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On Tuesday, B.C. environment minister Mary Polak said the jury is still out as far as Victoria is concerned. She noted that only one of her province's conditions has been fulfilled: that the Northern Gateway proposal pass a federal environmental review.

"Our position on the Northern Gateway pipeline remains unchanged," Ms. Polak told media on a conference call. "Northern Gateway still has a lot of work to do to meet British Columbia's five conditions."

Environmental activists are relying on the B.C. Premier to be an ally in their fight to stop the project. As Ms. Clark once noted, there are about 60 permits that B.C. can grant or withhold in connection with the pipeline.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Steven Chase has covered federal politics in Ottawa for The Globe since mid-2001, arriving there a few months before 9/11. He previously worked in the paper's Vancouver and Calgary bureaus. Prior to that, he reported on Alberta politics for the Calgary Herald and the Calgary Sun, and on national issues for Alberta Report. More

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