B.C. Premier Christy Clark derails attempt to forge national energy strategy
Published Friday, July 27, 2012 10:53AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, July 27, 2012 9:14PM EDT
British Columbia Premier Christy Clark says she can't sign onto a national energy strategy before resolving a dispute with Alberta over the Northern Gateway pipeline.
''If we can’t be successful on this, I don’t know that we can be successful on the larger issues we need to talk about with respect to energy,'' Clark said to the media as she stepped out of meetings at the Council of the Federation in Halifax.
Canada’s premiers met there to work on a pan-Canadian strategy on energy.
Clark said she can't endorse a deal before discussions take place with Ottawa and Alberta over how B.C. would be compensated for allowing the multibillion-dollar pipeline to transit through the province to the Pacific coast.
At the closing news conference of the premiers meeting, Alberta Premier Alison Redford chose to focus on the positive steps that have been taken toward a national energy policy.
''I don’t think we should lament the fact we’re not all the way there yet. I think we should actually celebrate a tremendous amount of success, in that we had almost every premier talking about the fact that we need to come together to grow Canada’s energy economy.''
Clark said she and Redford had a "very frank discussion" about the pipeline Friday morning, but didn't reveal details or if they planned on holding further talks on the matter.
Redford has said she sees no point in talking since the pipeline project is a private venture.
Clark said her province is bearing too much risk from potential oil spills at sea or on land, while receiving only eight per cent in tax benefits. She has said she decided to ask for an unspecified share of benefits from the pipeline project.
Clark’s government has released five conditions she says need to be met before she can move forward with plans for the pipeline.
In addition to the demand for a greater portion of the economic benefits, they include the completion of an environmental review now underway, assurances that the "best" responses will be available for potential spills on land and at sea and recognition of aboriginal rights on the land.
On Thursday, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird weighed in, suggesting Clark was taking a "toll-gate" approach that could set an unhealthy precedent for the rest of the country.
CTV’s Richard Madan told CTV News Channel Friday that other premiers are not coming out in support of Clark.
''Newfoundland Premier Kathy Dunderdale certainly sounds like she doesn’t support Christy Clark. She’s on the side of Alison Redford,'' Madan reported.
''Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty was very careful to downplay this rift. He said this is a debate that needs to be had. The premiers are being very careful not to pick sides.''
Clark said she has no intention of backing down just because she does not appear to have many allies.
''This is something in which British Columbians are keenly interested in. It’s my job to represent the views of the people of B.C. and that’s what I’m doing,'' Clark said at the closing news conference of the premiers meeting.
''If I’m doing that alone or in small company it doesn’t mean I should stop doing my job. Just because it’s hard and … just because it’s difficult, doesn’t mean that you can step away and not step up for your province.''
Despite the controversy, Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter said he wasn't disappointed in the results of the Halifax meeting.
He said work can continue on an energy plan despite the Alberta-B.C. feud. Premiers also discussed health care, transfer payments, changes to employment insurance and aboriginal issues.
"I would like to see that work that we're doing as a bridge over any kind of division," Dexter said.
With files from The Canadian Press