OTTAWA — Alberta Premier Rachel Notley issued warnings to all political parties to take off their partisan blinders or both the environment and Canada’s energy industry will fail. Notley was in Ottawa on Tuesday as part of a national outreach effort to get more buy in for pipeline expansions in Canada. In a speech at the Economic Club of Canada and a roundtable discussion with The Canadian Press, she pleaded with political allies and foes alike to work with her.
“You know that this issue transcends political divides,” Notley said. She said the federal Liberals may get credit for approving Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion but now they have to get off their duffs and sell their decision to a skeptical public in British Columbia. She demanded the Conservatives in Ottawa and Alberta stop pretending climate change isn’t real because it’s getting in the way of getting pipelines approved.
She saved some of her starkest words for members of her own party in Ottawa and other provinces, whose efforts to protect the environment cannot come at the expense of people. “We cannot put a generation of people out of work and then look surprised or act surprised when people reject the purpose for that, reject climate change, reject the efforts to protect the environment,” she said.
She acknowledged the divide between the Alberta NDP and the federal NDP on the pipeline issue. Two weeks ago she said federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh’s anti-Trans Mountain stance is ”irrelevant” and defended that Tuesday in Ottawa, saying the decision has been made and Singh should work on fighting future battles, not ones that have already been decided.
While federal approval for the expansion came a year ago and some construction work has begun, completing Trans Mountain’s expansion is still far from a sure thing. The new NDP government in B.C. – elected after the approval – has vowed to stop it at any cost and the courts are now looking at a legal challenge from indigenous communities who argue they were not properly consulted.
At the same time, the National Energy Board is hearing an appeal from Kinder Morgan, which says the city of Burnaby, B.C., is wrongly withholding construction permits for the project. All of that means the federal Liberals need to step up their game in explaining why they decided Trans Mountain was in the national interest, Notley said. ”Part of governing is talking to citizens about what your plan is, what it’s there for, what your trying to achieve,” she said. “That’s something they could do with more enthusiasm.”
The NDP is not the only party divided over the pipeline. Trudeau has members of his B.C. caucus who oppose it as well, and, like the federal NDP, concerns exist that B.C. seats could be at stake in the next federal election if the issue isn’t handled delicately. Notley has no time for that. She said the federal government relies on money from resource industries to pay for its programs and the Liberals have to step up for Alberta now.
She also has no tolerance for Conservatives she said deny climate change or stand in the way of efforts to combat it. That stance, she said, is why pipelines aren’t getting approved or built in Canada. The only way to get it done is to get environmentalists onside and prove to them it can be done sustainably.
“Denying climate change won’t get pipelines built,” she said.