MLAs weigh in on premier’s energy stance

Premier Christy Clark announced that B.C. would not sign onto the National Energy Strategy unless principles are met.

While in Halifax Friday Premier Christy Clark announced that B.C. would not sign onto the National Energy Strategy unless principles outlined by the B.C. government are met.

In a statement issued by her office, the premier said: “I am committed to working co-operatively with my fellow premiers on issues of national importance, and I am hopeful that as work continues on process to support a national energy strategy, there will be consideration of British Columbia’s five principles with respect to heavy oil pipelines. British Columbia is the gateway to Asia, and we will be happy to re-join the discussions when we are satisfied our requirements will be addressed.”

The five principles she’s referring to were issued by the minister of environment earlier in the week.

They include:

• Successful completion of the formal environmental review processes.

• World-leading marine-oil spill response, prevention and recovery systems for B.C.

• World-leading practices for land-spill prevention, response and recovery systems for B.C.

• Legal requirements regarding aboriginal and treaty rights must be addressed and First Nations be provided with the opportunities to benefit from these projects.

• B.C. receives a fair share of the fiscal and economic benefits of proposed heavy oil projects that reflect the risk borne by the province.

Cariboo Chilcotin Liberal MLA Donna Barnett told the Tribune Friday she applauds Clark’s latest stance on Enbridge and the National Energy Strategy.

“We have to take very good care of our environment — that’s our first consideration — and a lot of questions have to be answered. I think the five points the minister of environment put on the table, along with the minister of aboriginal affairs, are very valid,” Barnett says, adding she doesn’t believe Clark’s moves are all about politics.

“When I read them and the concerns there, it’s not about politics. It’s about environment, social aspects, and the economy comes last.”

If a company, like Enbridge, can fulfill those environmental pieces from then on government can start negotiating other issues, Barnett notes.

“You can’t have a National Energy Strategy that leaves out sensitive parts of the country. We’ve got a coastal shoreline here that nobody I believe in Canada has and we have a province that is unique in its geographic nature and values.”

Barnett hasn’t seen the proposed National Energy Strategy, but commends the premier for holding her stance until the needs and objectives of British Columbia are met.

“From time to time you get surprised at things, but I’m not surprised because of the issue of Enbridge. I believe that if Enbridge wasn’t on the table, the sensitivity for many things would have not been there, but not seeing what’s in the energy strategy I can’t respond, but I commend the premier for taking a stand to ensure that all the environmental issues are taken care of,” Barnett says.

Meanwhile Independent MLA Bob Simpson says Clark is focusing her attention on a “hypothetical” revenue stream and created a fight and dispute with Alberta.

“The reality is the Enbridge pipeline has no social licence in British Columbia. We’ve had numerous local governments say unanimously they don’t want the pipeline. All the First Nations along that pipeline that have made public declarations are in opposition and most of the presenters at the hearings for the national energy board have been in significant opposition.”

In contrast, the premier is “creating a spat with Alberta about getting a fair share of the revenue” of a pipeline that in all likelihood should not be approved because of how B.C. has presented itself, he adds.

Instead, Simpson suggests the premier should be focussing her attention on B.C.’s Peace region where the biggest beneficiary of oil and gas development is Alberta.

“Alberta workers pay income tax in Alberta. The contractors buy their equipment in Alberta. Three of every four vehicles are licenced and insured in Alberta. If the premier was serious about making sure we’re getting a fair share of our natural resource revenues then she should be dealing with that issue in the Peace and instituting policy to make sure that we get maximum benefit from our own oil and gas reserves,” Simpson says.