As pipeline battle heats up, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley calls on PM to show 'greater' leadership

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says she told Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday he must do more to stop B.C. from blocking the Kinder-Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion

Province ends talks with B.C. on electricity purchase

Premier Rachel Notley said she told Prime Minster Justin Trudeau in a phone call Thursday to show 'clearer' leadership with B.C. and get the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion built. (CBC )

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says she told Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday he must do more to stop B.C. from blocking the Kinder-Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

Notley said Trudeau's statements on CBC Radio Edmonton AM earlier in the day — in which he described the dispute as an inter-provincial matter — were not strong enough. She said the prime minister needs to show "greater and clearer leadership" on the issue and "turn up the dial." 

"This is not an Alberta-B.C. issue," she said at a news conference at the Alberta legislature. "This is a Canada-B.C. issue."

Notley said Alberta's initial response to the dispute is to formally end talks with British Columbia on buying electricity on existing transmission lines.

Asked whether she was being tough enough with B.C., Notley said the response has consequences. 

"I would say suspending talks on a project that had the potential to deliver up to half a billion dollars a year to B.C. Hydro is not 'not tough,'" she said. Notley added the discussions are not related to the Site C hydroelectric project in northern B.C., putting down speculation that the dispute could endanger talks on that issue. 

The province also plans to take the issue to court. 

"There are grounds for legal action, and we will be taking legal action," she said. "But we want to make sure that we come up with the best legal strategy possible."


British Columbia Premier John Horgan said Thursday that he doesn't understand why Notley is upset. 

"We have not put in place anything at this time," Horgan said, in his first public remarks since his government's announcement Tuesday. "We are going to put in place a scientific panel to look at the consequences of a catastrophic spill. I don't think that's unreasonable. I'm surprised with the reaction we're getting from Alberta."

Horgan said there is nothing for Alberta to take to court at this point. 

"Should those regulations run afoul of Ms. Notley's aspiration, I'm sure she'll take action," he said. "But it's way premature to talk about these sorts of issues, when we're just putting together a paper to put before the people we represent.

"Sabre-rattling doesn't get you very far." ​

On Wednesday, Notley threatened legal and economic action against the British Columbia government, which this week proposed new restrictions on shipments of oil through the proposed expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline from Alberta to the West Coast.

She also called an emergency cabinet meeting Wednesday to discuss Alberta's options.

"The B.C. government took this action with no provocation and almost no warning," Notley said. "The government of Alberta will not, we cannot, let this unconstitutional attack on jobs and working people stand."

The meeting wrapped up after an hour without a decision.

When B.C. announced its intentions on Tuesday, Notley immediately termed the move "unconstitutional" and said Alberta would fight it.

"The B.C. government has every right to consult on whatever it pleases with its citizens," Notley said at the time.

"It does not have the right to rewrite our Constitution and assume powers for itself that it does not have. If it did, our Confederation would be meaningless."

Trudeau is in Edmonton for a town hall meeting Thursday evening at MacEwan University. He and Notley spoke on the telephone for half an hour.

In an interview Thursday morning on CBC Radio's Edmonton AM, Trudeau said the federal government will stand by its 2016 approval of the $7.4-billion pipeline project. "I'm not going to opine on disagreements between the provinces in this case," he said.

"We're just going to reiterate that the decision we made was in the national interest, and we're going to move forward with that decision, which means we're going to get the Trans Mountain pipeline built."