News / Calgary

Has Rachel Notley been thrown overboard by Team Trudeau?: Steward

The Prime Minister and Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr have left it up to the Alberta Premier to embark on speaking tours to tout the benefits of a pipeline that they gave the green light to. Notley must step into the spotlight or risk being thrown overboard at home.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, right, speaks with Alberta Premier Rachel Notley during his visit to the Calgary Stampede, in Calgary on Friday, July 15, 2016. Notley says she wants the National Energy Board to act quickly to remove roadblocks on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project placed by the City of Burnaby, B.C.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, right, speaks with Alberta Premier Rachel Notley during his visit to the Calgary Stampede, in Calgary on Friday, July 15, 2016. Notley says she wants the National Energy Board to act quickly to remove roadblocks on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project placed by the City of Burnaby, B.C.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley will be in Toronto next week to try and convince any doubters of the benefits of the expansion of the Trans Mountain oil pipeline.

Why you might ask is she touting the benefits of a pipeline that won’t run anywhere near Toronto or anywhere in Ontario? The $7.4 billion project would ship diluted bitumen from Alberta through B.C. and eventually to the coast where it will be loaded on tankers bound for Asia.

The project has already been approved by the National Energy Board and the Trudeau government. Who else does Notley need to convince?

It seems she needs to convince people in Alberta that she is a true pipeline warrior. Not the kind that blocks pipelines — there are plenty of those in B.C. But a warrior who is willing to fight to the end for the interests of her province.

Because at home the new conservative amalgamation — the United Conservative Party — led by former Harper cabinet minister Jason Kenney taunts her as weak on the pipeline file whereas, if elected, a UCP government would goad Trudeau, who they see as too soft, to push the pipeline through, fight the B.C. government, which opposes the pipeline, and anyone else who stands in the way of what Alberta wants.

During his leadership campaign Kenney deftly played the angry Albertan and crowds of party members loved it. There was a Trumpian tone to his indignation, especially when he railed against provinces that take Alberta’s money in the form of equalization payments but refuse Alberta’s oil pipelines.

The fact that construction of the Kinder Morgan project, which was supposed to get underway in September, has been delayed by certain municipalities in B.C., who are reluctant to issue local permits, delights the UCP.

That dispute is awaiting a ruling by the National Energy Board. Kinder Morgan and Alberta are also awaiting the outcome of a judicial review of the project’s approval by the NEB.

All the more reason for Kenney to harangue Notley and her government for not having what it takes to get the job done. Never mind that fellow Conservative Stephen Harper wasn’t able to get the job done with the Northern Gateway and the Keystone XL pipelines.

But is a cross country tour — Notley will be speaking to mostly sympathetic business audiences in Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver — during which she reminds people about the economic benefits of a pipeline, really the best way to deal with this impasse?

Why should Alberta have to lead the charge when it was the federal government that gave the ultimate go-ahead for the project?

Notley has already stuck her neck out by putting in place a carbon tax just like Prime Minister Trudeau wanted, embarking on a plan to phase-out coal generated electricity by 2030, capping carbon emissions from the oilsands, and generally going along with the federal government’s efforts to curb carbon emissions and climate change.

Those are still politically controversial issues that she has to defend on an almost daily basis in Alberta.

Notley had hoped that adopting policies that tackle climate change would put the province in the good books of Canadians who oppose construction of new oil pipelines, or expansion of existing ones, on the grounds that any additional oil development exacerbates the greenhouse gas effect.

But opposition in B.C. is still fierce, especially in the lower mainland around Vancouver where people also fear spills from numerous large oil tankers will wreck their coastline.

Now it appears Alberta, and Notley, are being thrown overboard by the federal government because B.C. is a juicier political plum for the Liberals than Alberta.

So it’s not Justin Trudeau or Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr who are embarking on speaking tours to tout the benefits of a pipeline that they gave the green light to; they can be found hiding back stage.

Instead Notley must step into the spotlight or risk being thrown overboard at home.

It’s no secret that in general Albertans loathe Liberals because they see them as always betraying their province’s interests in favour of their own.

Will the fate of the Trans Mountain pipeline become the latest example?

Gillian Steward is a Calgary writer and former managing editor of the Calgary Herald. Her column appears every other week. gsteward@telus.net

More on Metronews.ca