B.C. NDP is well on the way to defeating Alberta NDP
With the stroke of a pen in British Columbia, Canada’s New Democrats have descended from deep trouble to grave political crisis.
Their great hope of a smashing political win — construction of the Kinder Morgan pipeline — is stymied yet again by the people Premier Rachel Notley used to call friends.
Canada’s provincial election is set for spring of 2019. Notley needs that pipeline under final unhindered construction well before then, with no roadblocks ahead.
On Tuesday, B.C. Premier John Horgan’s NDP government announced rules that would effectively ban expanded bitumen shipments off the coast. This could become permanent, pending a scientific safety study whose results we can already guess.
B.C. is effectively declaring Kinder Morgan to be uneconomic. The goal — stated by NDP-affiliated B.C. interest groups — is to force the company to cancel the project. They even raise the spectre of Kinder Morgan completing the expansion, and then finding itself forbidden to turn on the tap.
Notley said Tuesday she knew B.C. was about to announce some kind of review, but had no idea this ban would be part of it. She attacked the action as illegal, unconstitutional and contrary to trade pacts.
Notley went on to say: “I’m not pulling any punches. This is bad for British Columbia, this is bad for Canada, this is bad for Canada.” She called the move “political game-playing and political theatre.”
She’s right on every count — but those are just words, not punches. What will Notley actually do to influence a government that clearly has no respect for other authorities, or even federal powers under the constitution?
We have no idea, because all she’s ever said is that Canada is in the right and the legal process will prevail.
But the process isn’t prevailing. It’s failing. Horgan’s main interest appears to be holding the co-operation of the B.C. Greens, whose three legislature votes keep him in office.
He has vowed to use everything in the provincial tool box to block the pipeline. If he runs out of tools, he just invents a new one.
There’s no shred of party friendship here. Horgan clearly doesn’t care if his actions help defeat the only other NDP government in Canada.
UCP Leader Jason Kenney pounced at a news conference Tuesday.
He called the B.C. action “another attack on Canada’s energy industry by New Democrats — by Rachel Notley’s friends and fellow travellers, a party in B.C. for which she used to work.
“It’s extremely embarrassing for our premier that she has been unable to persuade her fellow New Democrats to stop this attack on our province’s economy and on free trade within Canada.
“It’s also unfortunate that the prime minister has been unable to stop this attack on the economic union within Canada.”
One knock on Notley is that she puts too much faith in the goodwill of others. She imposed a carbon tax and stringent carbon standards, partly for serious environmental reasons, but also to win “social licence” for pipelines from other Canadians.
If she is doubly betrayed — if Ottawa doesn’t resolve this and B.C. keeps throwing spike belts on the highway — her chances of re-election are virtually zero.
On Tuesday, Kenney rather tamely demanded a court challenge to the new B.C. rules, but in the past he’s threatened retaliatory trade action if B.C. continues to be obstructive.
“Trade is a two-way street, and if I were premier and the government of British Columbia were blocking one of our prime exports, we would find ways to respond in kind that would be an economic response,” he said last Aug. 4.
“There’s a great deal that British Columbia depends on that comes from Canada. We’ll find whatever points of leverage are necessary to demonstrate that a province cannot do that.”
Notley doesn’t threaten any specific action. She perhaps hopes that Horgan is just playing to his base until Ottawa inevitably lowers the hammer and the pipeline goes ahead.
But, at this point, it’s foolish just to express outrage and hope it all works out.
Don Braid’s column appears regularly in the Herald
Categorised in: Canadian News