Notley confident in Alberta’s pipeline plan despite continued opposition
Premier Rachel Notley said the heated national debates around oilsands pipelines are “challenging,” but dismissed the notion the NDP government’s strategy to win support for such projects is failing.
The review process for TransCanada Corp.’s proposed Energy East project suffered a setback last week when three members of the National Energy Board stepped aside because of meetings held with the proponent last year.
That followed pipeline hearings in Montreal being disrupted by environmental protesters and ongoing skepticism toward the project from political leaders in Quebec, including Montreal’s Mayor Denis Coderre.
On the west coast, Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson, environmental groups and First Nations have opposed the expansion of Kinder Morgan’s planned expansion of its Trans Mountain line.
Opposition parties maintain recent events have shown the Notley government’s efforts to garner public approval — or “social licence” — for pipelines through its sweeping climate-change plan aren’t working.
“That’s just wrong and it’s also quite silly,” Notley told reporters at McDougall Centre on Tuesday morning.
“Quite honestly, it’s a process that doesn’t happen overnight . . . I believe very strongly we are making progress and I will continue to make our case in forums across the country. And I believe, ultimately, we will see success.”
Notley’s government views a new pipeline as key for Canada to open new markets for its oilsands crude, obtain a better price and help kickstart the ailing provincial economy.
The NDP government has moved to address Canada’s Canada-leading greenhouse gas emissions by introducing a broad-based carbon tax that takes effect Jan. 1, 2017, putting a cap on emissions from the oilpatch and accelerating the phase-out of coal-fired power in the province.
When the NEB hearings in Montreal were cancelled by protests, Wildrose Leader Brian Jean issued a statement calling on the government to eliminate the carbon tax in response.
“It is crystal clear that there is no appeasement of these groups. There will be no “social licence” gained by taxing Canadans,” said Jean.
Last week, Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Jason Kenney vowed to scrap the carbon tax and derided the concept of social licence.
“If social licence means you get to trump the decisions by elected officials and quasi-official bodies and our courts, then that is a fundamentally undermining of our rule of law. We aren’t getting that ephemeral social licence through the NDP’s carbon tax,” he said.
But Notley said she supports the federal Liberal government’s efforts to rebuild public confidence in the NEB process and expressed her belief the project will get the green light.
“You’re not ever going to get the buy-in of 100 per cent of people. What you need to do is enjoy the trust of a significant majority. And that is, I think, the process we will see work forward,” she said.
Chelsie Klassen, spokeswoman for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said surveys conducted for the oilpatch lobby group show a larger group of Canadians are supportive of the energy industry than those who are indifferent or opposed.
She believes that despite the “vocal” opponents of Energy East, there are increasingly constructive conversations happening around pipelines.
Klassen said many Canadians are still unaware about the NDP’s carbon tax, or that Canada has had a carbon levy on large emitters since it was brought in by the former Progressive Conservative government in 2007.
“I hope if that message does get out there, it does help that discussion and that dialogue,” she said.
“But I guess time will tell.”
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