Rachel Notley doubles down on threat to cut B.C. oil shipments

Drew Anderson
CBC News
March 9, 2018

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said she's serious about a threat to cut the flow of oil to British Columbia if that province continues to block construction of the Trans Mountain pipeline.

She made the promise in her throne speech to the Alberta legislature on Thursday. 

The fight over the project, which would carry Alberta bitumen through B.C. to the coast, has pitted the two NDP-led provinces against each other. 

Notley earlier implemented a short-lived ban on B.C. wines in order to try to push the pipeline through. 

"I think there's no question everybody here is pushing the envelope a little bit," she said Friday on Alberta@Noon.

She also said the province has other means at its disposal to force the issue — ones that won't require legislative changes like halting oil exports would. 

"You don't necessarily show your whole hand when you're engaging in this kind of process," she said when asked what those might be. "We'll roll those out if and when we need to."

Notley's government is eager to see the Trans Mountain project move forward, allowing industry to ship oil overseas through West Coast ports and funnel more resource money into the provincial treasury.

She said it's important to realize that even with a push to renewable energy, there is a significant number of Albertans who still rely on the oil and gas industry for their livelihood. 

Notley said she's confident those in the oilpatch are supportive of the threat, but that no decisions would be made without first consulting industry. 

"I think it's fair to say they're a little bit nervous about it, and that's no big surprise," she told CBC News after her radio appearance. 

Mark Scholz, president of the Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors, applauded the move. 

"I think the premier is showing some pretty bold leadership on the part of the Alberta government. I think it's a necessary position to take from our perspective," he said. 

That said, Scholz doesn't want to see a trade war between the two provinces, or for the industry to take another hit in the form of reduced exports to B.C.

"I don't think it's in anybody's best interest. I think, at the end of the day, if that's the ultimate decision we get to, we lose as a country," he said. 

Another industry group, the Explorers and Producers Association of Canada, was also cautiously supportive. 

"The statement by the premier is useful to remind Canadians that the stakes for Alberta are very high and that the federal government needs to resolve this, and quickly," said president Gary Leach in an email. 

"It also reflects the political currents in Alberta where the leader of the opposition has been taking a more aggressive tone on the pipeline and market access issue."

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers was more circumspect in its reaction. 

"The oil and natural gas industry appreciates and supports the Government of Alberta's commitment to ensure our natural resources get to tidewater so we can diversify our markets, but we encourage collaboration between governments rather than divisiveness — values shared among our industry's energy producers," it said in an emailed statement.

Story: CBC News