As It Happens

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley defends Trans Mountain pipeline expansion ahead of B.C. visit

Rachel Notley will travel next week to British Columbia, where political leaders and First Nations groups remain strongly opposed to the oil pipeline plans announced by the federal government this week.
(Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

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Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline pumps 300,000 barrels of oil a day from Edmonton to Burnaby on the west coast of British Columbia. And this week, the federal government agreed to let the company triple its flow. 

In announcing the pipeline expansion, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also revealed the government's approval of Enbridge Inc.'s plan to rebuild its Line 3 pipeline, which carries oil from Alberta into the United States.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley visited Ottawa this week in support of the announcement. This was a year after her government introduced a climate change plan that includes both a tax on carbon and a cap on emissions.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, left, shake hands during a meeting on Parliament Hill after the federal cabinet gave the green light to Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain expansion, and Enbridge's Line 3. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Notley says that the pipeline project and Alberta's climate plan go hand-in-hand. Trudeau said as much when he explained that he would not have felt comfortable approving the pipeline proposals without Alberta's climate goals.

The next challenge for Notley is to convince leaders in British Columbia that the Trans Mountain expansion is a good idea. Politicians and First Nations groups there have expressed their opposition, along with plans to fight the decision in court. Notley will visit the province next week.

Rachel Notley spoke to As It Happens guest host Dave Seglins on Thursday. Here's part of their conversation.

Rachel Notley: What's so great about this [Trans Mountain] pipeline is it allows us to diversify our markets. It allows us to sell our product east to China and other Asia-Pacific markets. And in so doing, we get rid of this price discount that we are subjected to by selling solely to the U.S. So we get that bump. And it also gives us a higher level of economic independence generally by way of being able to pick and choose our markets based on the best timing here or there … It was a good decision, and I think ultimately an excellent example of balancing thoughtful and effective progress on environmental decisions with the need to support Canadians and their jobs.

People listen during a protest against the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project in Vancouver on Tuesday. The project is unpopular among several political leaders in Vancouver, including the city's mayor, Gregor Robertson. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Dave Seglins: Well, on the environmental concerns, the Prime Minister is tying the approval for this pipeline expansion to the carbon tax. He says that a national price on carbon pollution should start at about $10 a tonne – that's in 2018 – and should move up to $50 a tonne by 2022. Is Alberta prepared to commit to that?

RN: Well, we are. The thing that's so critical in this is, we actually began working very hard on our climate leadership plan right after our government was elected in May of 2015. In the beginning of November 2015, we were able to announce a very comprehensive, wide-ranging, well-consulted, made-in-Alberta climate leadership plan. We are actually ahead of the federal government's plan, in that the $20-per-tonne price comes into effect this January 1, and then moves to $30 in January of 2018. And then we will basically hold it until the rest of the country catches up, and then we'll move with them. And of course, the other key part of our plan is that it puts a cap on emissions from the oil sands. That cap means that with this pipeline or a whole bunch of pipelines or no pipelines, the fact of the matter is that what comes out of the oil sands in terms of greenhouse gas emissions is unaffected, because we have an independent plan here in Alberta that is keeping track of that and managing that.

DS: But help us understand: How does the approval of an expanded pipeline, moving out more oil for consumption around the globe, affect capping emissions?

The twinning of the 1,150 kilometre-long Trans Mountain pipeline will nearly triple its capacity to an estimated 890,000 barrels a day and crude oil-carrying tanker traffic from the Westridge Marine Terminal could increase from about three vessels a month to one a day.
The Trans Mountain expansion would add to an existing pipeline that runs from Edmonton to Burnaby, B.C., increasing the line's capacity to 890,000 barrels a day from 300,000. (CBC)

RN: That's the key. This does not increase the amount of oil that's produced. It simply makes sure that we get better value for it as we sell it, and then we take that value and we convert that into the work we're doing to reposition our economy as a more progressive energy producer, to move Alberta towards more renewable energy and to help us, for instance, with our coal phaseout. These are responsible decisions, but they have to be taken carefully with a view to watching what it does to the economy, using it as a diversification tool, as opposed to moving so quickly that people lose their jobs and their economic security.

We can't simply declare that the whole Asia-Pacific market is off limits because absolutely no place along the western coast of our nation is appropriate for us to be able to ship this product.- Alberta Premier Rachel Notley

DS: You're going to have to sell this politically. We know you're going to British Columbia next week. We've heard that there is a lot of opposition, especially in the Vancouver area. City councilor Adriane Carr told As It Happens this week that she feels "betrayed" by the approval. And the Premier of B.C. has outlined a number of serious conditions before she'll agree. How are you going to convince people in B.C. that this is a good idea?

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark listens to a question while responding to the federal government approval of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion project, during a news conference in Vancouver on Wednesday. Clark has set out five conditions that must be met before she supports the project. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

RN: It's not black and white, but there's a fair amount of support for it already in B.C. There's no question there are legitimate concerns around port safety and coastal water safety, and I think those need to be addressed. The other thing is that it's a question of understanding that there are a number of British Columbians who make their living in the oil patch, or as a result of money coming from the oil and gas sector in Alberta. So this is about striking that balance with respect to job creation. Will everybody agree? Probably not. But we're going to try to have a respectful conversation and try to have people at least understand where we're going from. They won't all necessarily agree. But at the end of the day, oil and gas amount to about 20 per cent of all of Canada's exports, and we can't simply declare that the whole Asia-Pacific market is off limits because absolutely no place along the western coast of our nation is appropriate for us to be able to ship this product, which makes up so much of what the country of Canada uses as export as part of the foundation of its economic growth. So even as we try to transition away from it, we need to do it intelligently, and this is part of that process.

DS: Who are you going to be meeting with next week, and will you be meeting with indigenous and First Nations groups?

RN: At this point, I'm still working out my schedule in terms of who I'll be meeting with. But I'm certainly hoping to have some opportunities to speak publicly about what we're doing in Alberta, what's in our climate change leadership plan, how that benefits B.C.'ers, as well as how we see this benefiting B.C.'ers with respect to jobs and economic growth.

This interview has been condensed and edited. For more on this story, listen to our full interview with Alberta's Premier Rachel Notley.