Canadians split on who to blame in BC-Alberta pipeline spat

Gladys Abbott
February 24, 2018

Back at the end of January, with B.C. Premier John Horgan overseas touting the quality of B.C. wine among other things, his environment minister announced the province was contemplating restrictions on diluted bitumen coming through existing and planned pipelines from Alberta to British Columbia.

Premier John Horgan said Thursday that his government is filing a constitutional reference case on the issue, which has been at the centre of a heated debate between the two provinces.

Asked if the reference to the courts should be read as a sign backing down, Horgan said "not at all".

While Alberta will suspend the ban on B.C. wine imports, Notley left open the door for renewed retaliation, if necessary. That's because Premier Rachel Notley is confident of which way the courts will land on that matter, given that pipelines are constitutionally recognized as federal jurisdiction.

"We'll need some time to review the court's decision on the injunction before determining what the next steps will be from there, but I can assure that we will continue to lobby and support our industry as well as our members", she said.

"The ban... is severely harming B.C. wineries and grape-growers, many of which are small, family-owned operations", he said.

"We are now in court with respect to the Kinder Morgan process, the pipeline, and until we get a resolution from the Federal Court, that is an open question", Horgan said at the February 7 newser.

The issue was first raised in January, when B.C. announced it would be holding public consultations on five potential pipeline-related regulations created to spare the coast from disaster.

"We used to be so close", read the main headline below a map of Canada, which featured B.C. floating away from the rest of the country.

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"It's clear that the B.C. NDP has not changed its hostility to the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion", United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney said in a statement Thursday.

The contentious point was the fifth of five proposed regulations the B.C. government said could take place after consultations on oil spills.

Prodan said the ban also highlights the importance of free interprovincial trade.

Alberta sees Horgan's actions as an illegal way to kill the expansion.

"Our patience will not last forever", Notley said last week.

"We're back to status quo", said organizer Christine Coletta.

Notley and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have made it clear that only Ottawa, not the provinces, has the authority to decide what goes in trans-boundary pipelines. Notley, who has also scuttled talks to buy BC electricity, says she will take further retaliatory action this week if there is no progress in talks. Alberta is a key market - about 20 per cent of bottled and produced B.C. wine is sold there.

He said the ban must end because it risks the livelihoods of more than 12,000 people employed in the industry and threatens the province's multimillion-dollar wine tourism industry.

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