Alberta is rolling out an advertising campaign primarily targeting British Columbians to drum up support for the Trans Mountain oil pipeline expansion.
Premier Rachel Notley announced Thursday that the province is spending $1.2-million to convince the public that Texas-based Kinder Morgan’s proposed pipeline linking Alberta oil producers to a terminal in Metro Vancouver would benefit all Canadians.
Billboards supporting the massive west coast pipeline expansion project — which has provoked a provincial struggle and split public opinion — have been going up in B.C. over the last week in Vancouver, Victoria, Kelowna and Kamloops, Notley said at a news conference at the legislature in Edmonton.
“Alberta is upping our efforts to give Canadians and particularly British Columbians the facts about the pipeline,” she said. “It is a necessary investment in the battle for hearts and minds. Now is not the time to take the foot off the pedal.”
Alberta to seek status in B.C. reference case
Notley also announced that the province will be seeking to add its voice to a court case over the control of oil shipments through British Columbia, another front in the Trans Mountain battle.
Alberta will be seeking full status in the reference case B.C. filed last month in the province’s court of appeal. The case concerns whether B.C. has legal authority to control heavy oil flow through the province, based on the risk of an oil spill to the environment or human health. The impact of the proposed new rules would be to suspend or halt the pipeline.
“The powers B.C. is seeking are a threat to Alberta’s economy,” said Notley. “If B.C. attains the right to throttle our resources, every other province will be given that same right...B.C. should be, quite frankly, careful what it asks for.”
The move comes a week after federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould announced that Ottawa would also be intervening. She said the government would “defend our clear jurisdiction over interprovincial pipelines." The government approved the pipeline expansion in 2016.
The government of B.C. Premier John Horgan sees the reference case as a chance to “affirm its right to protect B.C. from the threat of a diluted bitumen spill.” Horgan has voiced his opposition to the pipeline expansion and has vowed to stop it.
“It is a necessary investment in the battle for hearts and minds." #CDNPoli #KinderMorgan #TransMountain
The reference case is separate from a legal challenge at the Federal Court of Appeal over whether the Crown adequately consulted First Nations before announcing its approval of the pipeline expansion in 2016. Documents uncovered by National Observer have led to a motion filed by lawyers for the Tsleil-Waututh Nation in that case, arguing that the government has been sitting on evidence.
National Observer has also reported that high-ranking public servants in the federal government discussed speeding up the review of the expansion project, and federal government sources allege that the process was rigged following Kinder Morgan lobbying.
The Alberta oilsands represent the third largest reserve of crude oil in the world after Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, but oil producers in the region have struggled to compete in international markets. The industry has said new pipelines are necessary to spur jobs and growth.
Ottawa and Alberta say the pipeline is part of their plans to put a price on carbon and lower carbon pollution to meet climate change goals. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau summoned Notley and Horgan last month to Ottawa in an effort to resolve the Trans Mountain dispute.
Notley says proposed new law ‘putting pressure’
Notley also said she expects passage soon of new provincial legislation, Bill 12, which will give Alberta the ability to restrict energy shipments to B.C..
She portrayed that legislation as a surgical strike to get the Kinder Morgan pipeline built.
“It is a matter of putting pressure at the right place at the right time to get the outcome that we need,” she said, referring to Bill 12. “Standing in a corner and having a temper tantrum ...is not a strategy.”
She wouldn’t say whether the province would deploy the powers in the legislation before May 31, the date that Kinder Morgan gave last month as a deadline, beyond which the company said it would be difficult to see how it could proceed with the project.
“Everyone can see we have Bill 12 in place, everyone can see it is a very effective tool, it gives us a range of options,” said Notley. “We will use it strategically.”