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As premiers gather in Halifax this week, the divide between Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan over the spoils of energy development is growing. B.C. is demanding its fair share of benefits from oil pipelines cutting through the province and Saskatchewan has got to be nervous that Alberta’s oil sands production is going full tilt, pushing down prices for its conventional crude because there’s not enough pipeline space to move both.
All this makes talk of a national energy strategy, championed by Alberta and expected to be one of the main topics of discussion at the Council of the Federation meeting, naïve at best, explosive at worst. Given Canada’s bad experiences with central planning in energy, Alberta’s Premier, Alison Redford, and the strategy’s diverse cheerleaders, should have seen it coming.
The rift between Alberta and British Columbia over the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline cracked wide open this week and a quick fix is unlikely. In fact, it could be all downhill from here if the anti-Northern Gateway NDP gains power in the coming provincial election, as polls suggest.
“There is no way this pipeline is going to happen without B.C.’s approval,” Premier Christy Clark told CBC Radio from Halifax Tuesday. “So, Alberta needs to sharpen their pencils … and have a discussion about this if this pipeline is something they want to see go ahead. I am not going to step back and stop fighting for B.C.’s interests in this.”
Reflecting the views of British Columbians, Ms. Clark has demanded a bigger share of the benefits from the $6-billion project to compensate for the risk it faces if there is environmental damage. It’s a fair ask. Gaining access to the ocean means more customers and higher world prices for Alberta oil.
With her political future on the line, Ms. Clark said she’s doing what Alberta’s premier is doing: fighting for “every penny” she can get.
“I am fighting for B.C. jobs, I am fighting for revenue for our province, but I also have the added responsibility of fighting for our environment, because we are taking 100% of the risk on the marine side and the bulk of the risk on the land side.”
For the rest of this column, please go the National Post website: http://business.financialpost.com/2012/07/24/divisions-deepen-as-fight-over-energy-spoils-takes-nasty-turn/?__lsa=8916ded6