Notley's visit to B.C. unlikely to change pipeline opinions, says UBC political scientist

A political scientist from the University of British Columbia is pouring cold water on Alberta Premier Rachel Notley's B.C. charm offensive.

Kathryn Harrison said opponents won't be won over by Alberta's climate change policies

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley is in B.C. trying to sell the province on the recently approved Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

A political scientist from the University of British Columbia is pouring cold water on Alberta Premier Rachel Notley's B.C. charm offensive. 

Notley is in the province trying to sell the merits of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion that will see more Alberta oil shipped to the coast after it was approved by the federal government last week. 

"I don't think people will really be fooled," said Kathryn Harrison on CBC Calgary News at 6 when asked about Notley's attempt to de-link climate change and pipelines with the province's climate leadership policies. 

She said there is support for Alberta establishing a carbon tax, but that doesn't offset the increases in emissions for industry. 

"I think it's very hard to argue that an expanding oil and gas industry is de-linking the economy from climate change, particularly when we're building new infrastructure that will last for decades," she said. "So I'm not sure British Columbians will be won over by that argument."

Global shift

Harrison said there's a good chance the global economy will shift before any pipelines are built — particularly given the delays expected from court cases and protests — turning away from oil in general, and Alberta oil in particular. 

There is a B.C. election in May 2017, with an ideological split when it comes to pipelines. The NDP oppose Trans Mountain while the governing Liberals are supportive. 

"Ironically to the extent Premier Notley changes any minds, it's probably shifting voters from the anti-pipeline NDP to the pro-pipeline Liberals," she said. 

Trans Mountain still faces tough opposition in B.C. from citizens, environmental groups, politicians including Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, and First Nations. 

Harrison said there's also the chance for citizens to initiate referendums in B.C. and if the pro-pipeline Liberals are returned to power in May, she could foresee environmental groups initiating one the issue of coastal pipelines.