BY BILL PHILLIPS
With the possibility of restricting oil to British Columbia raised in the Alberta throne speech last week, Nechako Lakes MLA John Rustad put a motion on the floor of the B.C. Legislature today to debate the simmering dispute between Alberta and B.C.
Following United Conservative Party of Alberta leader Jason Kenney’s suggestion that he would cut off B.C.’s oil in a heartbeat if he became premier, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley suggested she would do the same to counteract British Columbia’s attempts to block construction of the TransMountain pipeline. When the issue first arose, Alberta immediately hated talks to import B.C. electricity and blocked B.C. wine imports into Wild Rose Country. The wine blockade was lifted when British Columbia said it would let the courts decide whether B.C. can block the pipeline.
“Some people have asked how far we are willing to go,” said Alberta Lieutenant Governor Lois Mitchell in the speech from the throne. “Today, we reaffirm we will do whatever it takes. In the past, when workers in our energy industry were attacked and when the resources we own were threatened, Premier Peter Lougheed took bold action. Your government has been clear: Every option is on the table. We will not hesitate to invoke similar legislation if it becomes necessary owing to extreme and illegal actions on the part of the B.C. government to stop the pipeline.”
Lougheed blocked oil exports to eastern Canada when Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau introduced the National Energy Program.
Rustad says it’s time for the British Columbia Legislature to debate the issue.
“It is pretty significant when a provincial premier uses a Speech from the Throne to put a shot over the bow of a neighbouring province,” said Rustad, in a statement. “This dispute is far from over, despite the ban on B.C. wine imports being lifted by Alberta. If Premier Notley makes good on her promise to block the shipment of oil to B.C., we could be looking at a crippled economy.”
Peace River North MLA Dan Davies echoed Rustad’s concerns, laying all the blame for the heated rhetoric at the feet of Premier John Horgan.
“We live in a country that depends on trade to pay for crucial social services like health care,” said Davies. “I can guarantee you that 100 per cent of the population in both provinces will suffer if Mr. Horgan continues to force a trade war.”
Meanwhile, the province has retained Joseph J. Arvay, OC, QC, as external counsel to government to prepare and present a reference case related to British Columbia’s right to protect B.C.’s land, coast and waters.
Arvay holds law degrees from the University of Western Ontario law school and Harvard law school, and is called to the bars of both British Columbia and the Yukon. He has been counsel on a number of landmark cases in the Supreme Court of Canada.
Along with the proclamation of BC Wine Month in April, the province has committed $100,000 to the BC Wine Institute to help in the promotion of B.C. wine to British Columbians.