British Columbia

Calgary mayor defends 'balancing environment and economy' while recruiting tech talent in Vancouver

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi doesn't pull any punches criticizing B.C. politicians who oppose the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion — a stance that is now spilling over into the federal carbon tax plan.

Naheed Nenshi is in Vancouver this week to help attract tech workers and businesses to Calgary

Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi sat down with CBC's The Early Edition to discuss the federal carbon tax plan and Trans Mountain pipeline. (CBC)

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi doesn't pull any punches criticizing B.C. politicians who oppose the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion — a stance that is now spilling over into the federal carbon tax plan.

Nenshi is in Vancouver this week to help attract tech talent and businesses to Calgary.

He sat down with Stephen Quinn, the host of CBC's The Early Edition, to talk about the federal carbon tax plan and the Trans Mountain pipeline moving forward with B.C.'s newly elected mayors.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley has made it clear that she won't support the federal carbon tax until the Trans Mountain pipeline moves forward.

Where do you stand on the federal carbon tax plan?

I think she is exactly right. Alberta's climate leadership plan is probably the best in the country in terms of looking at being very realistic in terms of balancing environment and economy.  

But that was always part of the deal: market access in return for a hard cap on emissions in the oil sands, as well as the carbon levy. She had no choice but to do that.

That said, the pipeline is going to get built, so this may be a moot conversation, as we move forward.

On Tuesday, the federal government announced a carbon tax on the provinces and territories that did not sign on to the pan-Canadian framework on climate change. (Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)

What does the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline mean for Calgary?

It means a lot.

The reason I'm actually here in Vancouver today is to talk to the Vancouver tech sector about both Calgary companies that could be clients of Vancouver-based businesses — we'd rather buy Canadian — as well as talk to Vancouver tech talent about jobs in Calgary.

Calgary was the economic engine of this country for many years, paying for federal infrastructure everywhere, and we're not in good shape now.

We're currently selling a declining natural resource that we have in Canada at a $50 per barrel discount to the world price. That is unthinkable. What kind of a country does that?  

The status quo is actually leading to much more emissions and not getting any money out of it. It's a terrible outcome.

What I've heard B.C. politicians say is that they're concerned with the increased amount of tanker traffic, spills on land that could affect waterways and our coast.

Those are all legitimate concerns which the courts have ruled that all but the increased amount of tanker traffic were dealt with in the NEB decision, through an incredible rigorous, never ending process.

In terms of the killer whale population, I've spent a ton of time with the Port of Vancouver understanding what they have in place, in order to protect against tanker spills.

B.C.'s southern resident killer whales are considered at risk because of their small population, low reproductive rate and threats including marine traffic. (Valerie Shore/Shorelines Photography)

You know how many tanker spills they've had in the history of the Port of Vancouver? Zero is the answer. Because they know what they are doing.

These are the kind of facts that I think need to get out in front of people.

It's not necessarily in the Port of Vancouver, though. People are very concerned about what happens out in the open waterways.

OK. So how many spills have there been in the Strait of Juan De Fuca? Again, the answer is zero. How many spills have there been in Salish Sea?

Well, not heavy oil spills, but there have been diesel and bunker fuel spills.

Every single vessel that goes through that port and through those straits has a fuel tank. They're way more dangerous than triple hulled oil tankers that are designed to prevent spills.

Why increase the risk?

Well, that's an excellent question and the answer is: what is important to us in terms of prosperity for the nation?

This interview aired on The Early Edition on Oct. 25 and has been edited for clarity and length. To hear the complete interview, click on the audio below:

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