British Columbia

Alberta's Bill 12 more about politics than practicalities, says energy expert, politician

Supporters and opponents of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion alike are questioning the impact of a new bill introduced in Alberta’s allowing its energy minister to restrict exports of oil and gas to British Columbia.

Proposed law to restrict oil experts to B.C. will drive up gas prices, consultant says

Bill 12 gives the Alberta government the ability to retaliate against the B.C. government for delays to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion by restricting shipments of petroleum products. (Trans Mountain)

Supporters and opponents alike of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion are questioning the impact of a new bill introduced in Alberta allowing its energy minister to restrict exports of oil and gas to British Columbia.

Alberta unveiled Bill 12, titled Preserving Canada's Economic Prosperity Act, on Monday. It's the latest instalment in the ongoing feud between the two provinces over the pipeline project.

David Hughes, an energy consultant and president of Global Sustainability Research Inc., is concerned the move could wreak havoc with B.C. gas prices if the bill is implemented.

"It would potentially restrict supplies and that's certainly going to crank up prices," he told Stephen Quinn, the host of CBC's The Early Edition.

As it is, gas in Metro Vancouver is hovering around a sky-high $1.50-plus per litre.

"This is a case of politics more than practical realities," Hughes said. "If [Alberta premier Rachel Notley] did turn off the supply to B.C., it would hurt Alberta and B.C.'s economies."

Hughes, who worked as an earth scientist with the Geological Survey of Canada for more than three decades, said pipeline capacity is increasing even without Trans Mountain.

"One of the things that few people talk about when we're talking about the Kinder Morgan pipeline is the fact that there are two other pipelines in the works to export Alberta oil," he said.

The Enbridge Line 3 expansion to Wisconsin and Keystone XL to Nebraska will provide more than double the capacity of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, Hughes said.  

Kinder Morgan has set May 31 as its deadline for deciding whether it will proceed with the Trans Mountain project. ​

The future of the Trans Mountain pipeline project is uncertain and the company has given the Canadian government until May 31 to provide a clear path forward. (Erin Collins/CBC)

Politics in the way

Alberta-based Tim McMillan, president and CEO of Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said he supports Premier Notley's efforts to clear a pathway for the pipeline.

He described the bill as "thoughtful" and giving the government "a range of options."

McMillan said he hopes, however, that the bill will not be implemented and that the federal government will step in to smooth over the "very political debate."

"We want to step back as an industry from there and just look at how do we move this project forward," he said. "Canada's reputation today is a country that dawdles, can't get their act together and is losing investment."

Calls for a quick resolve to the Trans Mountain pipeline dispute are reverberating on this side of the B.C.-Alberta border as well.  

Peter Milobar, the opposition critic for the environment and MLA for Kamloops North Thompson, introduced a motion on Monday imploring B.C. to meaningfully engage with Alberta and the federal government.

"It's really calling for the posturing to end," Milobar told Shelley Joyce, the host of Daybreak Kamloops.  

"People in their day-to-day lives are going to be impacted by this and it's getting beyond the point of silly."

'Every inch of our jurisdiction'

B.C. Environment and Climate Change Strategy Minister George Heyman said the debate isn't over.

"The bottom line for us is we don't think it's a good project," he told Chris Walker, host of CBC's Daybreak South.

"It's been approved and if it's not overturned, we believe we should use every inch of our jurisdiction to protect British Columbian jobs, our environment and the rights of First Nations."

The province plans to take Alberta to court to have the bill declared unlawful under the constitution if it is implemented, Heyman said.     

With files from The Early Edition, Daybreak Kamloops and Daybreak South.