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Just in case the federal Liberals were in danger of forgetting what Alberta Premier Rachel Notley wants for Christmas this year, she sent them a reminder outside their annual holiday party in Ottawa this week.
Since Nov. 19, the Notley government has been dispatching a vehicle to project the “real-time” mounting tally of how much money Canada may be losing due to a lack of oil pipelines on the outside of buildings near Parliament Hill and in the Byward Market, at the heart of government business in Ottawa.
The vehicle has been spotted on several nights in a parking lot in an area of downtown that has little business or commercial activity in the evenings, but its driver has remained for several hours in a parked car, with the engine running, to display the message.
The nighttime tactic is part of a $10-million provincial government campaign called “Keep Canada Working.”
And as federal Liberals celebrated the end of the year at their holiday party on Wednesday evening, Notley used her Twitter account to draw attention to the car.
“While they’re celebrating, we didn’t want them to forget #WhatCanadaLoses,” she wrote.
Notley has said the Canadian economy is losing about $80 million every day that the Trans Mountain oil pipeline expansion remains on hold. Notley's estimate is based on a Scotiabank report that has been described by independent economist Robyn Allan as a "work of fiction."
Tonight, the federal Liberals are having their Christmas party in Ottawa.— Rachel Notley (@RachelNotley) December 13, 2018
While they’re celebrating, we didn’t want them to forget #WhatCanadaLoses.
So, we set this up outside their door.#keepcanadaworking #TMX pic.twitter.com/LNO41AtgYc
The troubled Trans Mountain project – purchased by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government after Texas-based Kinder Morgan threatened to abandon it altogether – has been on hold since the Federal Court of Appeal quashed its approval in August. A panel of justices argued the Canadian government had taken an “unreasonable” approach to First Nations consultations.
This would be a violation of Section 35 of the Constitution, which protects Indigenous rights.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has apologized for failing in the consultations and his government has pledged to do a better job of accommodating First Nations as it pursues plans to build the Trans Mountain expansion.
If realized, the expansion would boost the amount of oilsands oil making its way from northern Alberta to British Columbia’s Lower Mainland, and boost the number of tankers carrying oil out of a new terminal in Burnaby.
The federal court’s findings have triggered new pipeline hearings before the National Energy Board.
In recent weeks Notley has asked for federal government support to buy new trains to carry more Alberta oil, imposed cuts on production, and asked private companies to pitch refinery proposals, all to close the market gap. The Alberta government argues the province’s landlocked oil is being kept at the lower Western Canadian Select (WCS) price per barrel, a fraction of what is being made by producers selling at West Texas Intermediate (WTI) prices.
“We will be considering a variety of tactics to keep attention on what Canada is losing every day that the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is delayed and we’re unable to get full value for the resources that belong to all Canadians,” said Mike McKinnon, a spokesman for Alberta Energy Minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd, in an email to National Observer on Thursday.
“Other locations could be considered to ensure federal officials understand the importance of market access to all Canadians.”
McKinnon noted the tally projection had already followed Notley to Montreal last weekend, when she met with premiers from across the country and Trudeau.
On Parliament Hill Thursday, Edmonton MP and Federal Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi told reporters he had not seen the projection Wednesday night, however he was aware that “Alberta is taking this campaign throughout the country and they have every right to do so.
“What I am focused on is making sure that we are building the pipeline capacity that is necessary, that we are fixing the broken system that has led to a number of failures on pipelines.”
Asked if the projection would have a negative impact on his relationship with Alberta, Sohi said, “Our relationship with the provincial government, with the province of Alberta, is much deeper than one act.”
Sohi was elected in 2015 to represent an Edmonton-area riding in the House of Commons.
In addition to the projected tally, McKinnon said, the province has also set up a window display at the intersection of Rideau Street and Sussex Drive, near Parliament Hill, and purchased ads at the Ottawa airport. The live count can also be found online.
McKinnon said people in Ottawa might find the tally projected on buildings through the middle of December.
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