Trade dispute with Alberta dominates B.C. government's first question period of 2018

A question period that began with compliments from Premier John Horgan to new Opposition Leader Andrew Wilkinson ended with the crosstalk, heckling and barbed insults associated with the format.

Every question by the B.C. Liberals focused on the subject, while NDP proclaims April 'B.C. Wine Month'

Questions about the Kinder Morgan pipeline and the government's dispute with Alberta took up virtually all of question period on Feb. 14, 2018. (Erin Collins/CBC)

It began with compliments from Premier John Horgan to Opposition Leader Andrew Wilkinson on his victory.

But by the time the B.C. Legislature's first question period of 2018 had ended, it was a predictable mix of heckling, crosstalk and barbed comments. 

"The people on that side of the house, who ratified internal trade agreements, that are being violated right now by the government of Alberta, are standing with Alberta, because they've petty, they're partisan, and they don't have the provincial interest at heart," said Horgan, after Michael Lee suggested the government did not "respect the rule of law."

It came at the end of a question period dominated by talk of the Kinder Morgan pipeline and the wine boycott enacted by Alberta. 

"Does the premier accept that a trade war with Alberta does not serve the interests of British Columbians at all?" asked Wilkinson as his first question.

"When it comes to standing up and defending B.C.'s interests, I'll take no lessons from those on the other side. I believe we are well within our jurisdiction to stand up and defend our economy and our environment, and that's exactly what we're doing," countered Horgan.

And so it went for the next 50 minutes. All 14 questions the B.C. Liberals asked were on the topic, with only questions by Andrew Weaver about tax evasion in the real estate industry breaking up the back and forth.  

Different pipeline in jeopardy?

Wilkinson also brought up the fact Alberta has raised opposition to the proposed $1.4 billion North Montney Mainline Extension pipeline, which could help connect B.C. natural gas with eastern markets.

"It's an exceptional coincidence if the Alberta government has decided to get in the way of gas exports from British Columbia at this time," he said.

Alberta's concerns were part of a submission to the National Energy Board.

But Energy Minister Michelle Mungall argued Alberta is only pushing back on the type of tariff companies would pay to put natural gas through to the pipeline, and that it was originally raised last year.

"This has absolutely nothing to do with what is going on right now in terms of our desire to consult with British Columbians on what we would do in the case of an oil spill," she said.

Late Wednesday, the province announced it was declaring April B.C. Wine Month, and that public liquor stores would run month-long promotions in support of the industry. 

About the Author

Justin McElroy

@j_mcelroy

Justin is a reporter for CBC Vancouver, covering political stories throughout British Columbia.

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