No escalation, at least not yet, on trade war with B.C., Notley says

The Alberta government will be rolling out an online plan to allow regular citizens to have their say about the ongoing trade dispute with B.C., but Premier Rachel Notley has no other plans to escalate the trade sanctions — at least not yet.

'The ball is in B.C.'s court,' premier says as talks continue between B.C. and federal government

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, speaking to Alberta reporters on Monday, says she's prepared to hold off escalating the trade war with B.C. - at least for now. (CBC )

The Alberta government will roll out an online plan to allow the public to have a say about the ongoing trade dispute with B.C., but Premier Rachel Notley has no current plans to escalate the trade sanctions.

At a news conference Monday, Notley said talks are underway between the federal and B.C. governments about the "unconstitutional threat" launched by B.C. Premier John Horgan, who has threatened to limit B.C.-bound shipments of bitumen from Alberta's oilsands.

For now, Alberta is prepared to let those talks proceed in hopes that B.C. will back down. If that doesn't happen, "we will have no choice but to respond," Notley said.

'We don't want a trade war'

"We don't want a trade war," she said. "But the government of British Columbia must understand that an attack on the jobs of a neighbouring province" will not go unanswered.

"If they didn't get it a week ago, I certainly hope they get it now."

The trade dispute began when the B.C. government said it was considering rules to limit any increase in the import of diluted bitumen until an independent review concluded it was safe — a move that could delay construction on the federally approved Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion project.

Notley was quick to retaliate. First, she cancelled talks to buy electricity from B.C. Then last week, she announced an immediate Alberta ban on B.C. wine imports.

B.C. Premier John Horgan says he wants more research into the effects of expanding the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline. Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says B.C. can keep its wine until the impasse is resolved. (Bottom left: CBC/All others: The Canadian Press)

By the end of the week, Notley had created a task force — including such notables as former New Brunswick premier Frank McKenna, former deputy prime minister Anne McLellan, former Syncrude Canada president Jim Carter and legal scholar Peter Hogg — to explore other measures that could be taken in response to the proposed restrictions. 

That will be followed up Tuesday, Notley said, when the Alberta government intends to roll out an online tool that will allow Canadians to "engage with people in other parts of the country" about the B.C. bitumen ban.

The premier said she is hopeful that talks between Ottawa and B.C. will settle this issue. "It is a critical moment for our country. The ball is in B.C.'s court."

Horgan last week showed no sign of capitulation following the boycott.

​In 2017, Alberta imported about ​17.2 million bottles of wine from B.C., Notley said. That amounts to about $70 million per year paid to B.C. wineries. About 95 per cent of Canadian wine sold in Alberta liquor stores comes from B.C. 

Meanwhile, Notley confirmed that she will not attend the federal NDP convention, which takes place this weekend in Ottawa.

Notley laughed off a suggestion that it was a political boycott, and said she is not attending in order to keep her focus on tasks at home.

"We're getting ready for a throne speech and a spring session and a budget, and my focus is on Alberta," she said. "I know that is not the case for all Alberta politicians these day, but my focus is definitely on spending my time here in Alberta."