PHOTOS: One of the few photos your blogger could find of Dan Miller (found on the Internet, original source unknown). Below: Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, B.C. NDP Leader John Horgan and B.C. Premier Christy Clark (from the Canadian Encyclopedia).

There’s more evidence out of British Columbia this week that Rachel Notley’s social licence approach to pipeline development continues to work – this time on the province’s New Democrats, who up to now have been taking a hard line against the idea of more pipelines from Alberta.

This is speculative, of course, but if it turns out to be true, you can expect Alberta’s political right, increasingly dominated by hysterics, to react with fury, not a more appropriate emotion such as, say, gratitude.

Yesterday, one of B.C.’s former New Democratic Party Premiers, Dan Miller, published an opinion piece in the Vancouver Sun strongly backing expansion of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline and taking up Ms. Notley’s argument that it’s possible to sell Canadian oil abroad and still protect the planet’s climate.

This is nothing new, by the way. Mr. Miller has stated such opinions on several occasions. But this time, the Sun’s veteran political columnist, Vaughn Palmer, found a suggestion in NDP Leader John Horgan’s reaction to the argument by the man often identified as the B.C. Opposition leader’s mentor that the NDP might soften its opposition to pipelines from Alberta in return for meaningful guarantees that West Coast waters will be protected.

With a provincial election scheduled in B.C. on May 9, 2017, and at least a possibility Mr. Horgan’s NDP could defeat Premier Christy Clark’s Liberals, who despite their party’s name are really conservatives, such a development could turn out to be quite significant for Alberta’s New Democrats.

“The Trans Mountain Pipeline is good for our province and our country because it embodies the values that have helped Canada become the envy of the world – a country where prosperity is widely shared across a vast and varied landscape,” Mr. Miller wrote.

“Key to the creation of wealth in Canada has been the division of powers between the federal and provincial governments – a central feature of Confederation,” he went on. “One necessary division of power is to give the federal government responsibility for interprovincial trade, including responsibility for pipelines that cross provincial boundaries. To do otherwise would lead to the kind of balkanization and squabbling between provinces that would degrade and diminish our economy to the detriment of all Canadians.”

“Implicit in this understanding in our Confederation is that we cannot deny landlocked provinces like Alberta … the opportunity to export their resources,” Mr. Miller said. He noted that “British Columbia has benefited enormously from this arrangement.”

The former premier concluded by arguing the Kinder Morgan project will bring hundreds of millions of dollars in investment to B.C., including many jobs, more money for improved government services and, because of the Alberta NDP’s cap on emissions, it would not contribute to global climate change.

Many environmentalists, I am sure, will take issue with the final point. Just the same, while Mr. Miller was not B.C.’s premier for very long – six months in 1999 and 2000 following the resignation of premier Glen Clark – he is not an insignificant figure in B.C. politics.

A former mill worker and Prince Rupert city councillor from the traditional labour wing of the NDP, he has no problem with good jobs based on resource extraction. He has been a New Democrat mover and shaker for most of half a century. And he played a significant role in advancing Mr. Horgan’s leadership ambitions. So his opinions matter.

He’s pretty tough, too, as I recall. I met him more than once in the late 1970s when I lived in Prince Rupert. I’m not surprised Mr. Miller has no qualms about speaking his mind on this topic, though he is doubtless fully aware it would arouse some sharp and unpleasant criticism from people he might normally consider political allies.

So while Mr. Horgan has not withdrawn his opposition to Kinder Morgan, the Sun’s Mr. Palmer saw signs of an opening in the B.C. NDP leader’s recent talk of the need to refine tar sands bitumen here in Alberta and to protect coastal waters better.

“A Premier Horgan might take a different view of the Trans Mountain Pipeline were the product upgraded or the coast better protected,” he wrote on Monday. He concluded: “Perhaps those possibilities explain why Horgan’s old friend Dan Miller continues to entertain thoughts of voting for him, never mind how they disagree publicly about the … pipeline.”

If something like this were to happen, it would save Ms. Notley’s New Democrats the mild embarrassment of having to tacitly support Ms. Clark’s Liberals in May, not to mention discipline any staffers who travel to B.C. to support a party that at the moment advocates policies that would hurt the Alberta economy.

Alberta’s conservatives, meanwhile, will naturally continue to pray that all efforts to actually get the Kinder Morgan expansion built now that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals have approved the project will somehow fail.

From their perspective, nothing would suit them less than the pipeline continuing to move forward, oil prices maintaining the surge that followed news on the weekend several major oil powers would cut production, or anything at all happening that might make it difficult to pass off the fatuous claim the Alberta NDP is secretly in league with environmental “extremists” in the B.C. version of the party.

Regardless, with the direction and key messages of Alberta’s elected conservatives increasingly set by the alt-right extremists at Rebel Media, we should all brace ourselves for more apoplectic outbursts as the conservative opposition looks for dark clouds to overshadow any annoying silver linings that may brighten the gloomy provincial economy.

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  1. Very few BCers, even NDP BCers remember or know this guy.

    The new KM line will likely get killed in the courts (like Gateway) or perhaps on the ground like DAPL.
    Even if Christie finagles another sleepwalk to the polls win this year. The momentum could eventually get the current line shut down too. Dilbit sinks, has an absurd environmental footprint and now, nobody wants it.
    A prudent province would sell its sweet crude and gas and use the proceeds to clean up from ff and start green energy industries.

    Should the tar sands return to economic viability then the product should be refined into a clean consumer product in Alberta. That way the jobs – and the environmental impact and risk – stay home where they belong.

    If the BC NDP can hold firm on KM they might sweep the lower mainland and coast.

    1. Thanks for this, Ron. I can’t claim to be an expert on B.C. politics nowadays. When I left, Bill Bennett was still the premier – although I can say that I used to deliver (prescription) drugs to his daddy at WAC’s Victoria apartment in the late 60s! I completely agree with you that it makes far more sense for Alberta to refine tar sands products here in Alberta and ship the value added product. How the major oil companies, which had spare capacity at refineries on the Gulf of Mexico they wanted to use, persuaded the entire Alberta political class that pipelines were not only the answer, but the only answer, is one of the great mystery stories of our generation. That said, this story is all about the optics here in Alberta.

      1. The Kinder Morgan pipeline historically has carried both “clean” and dirty products which is why even those in favor of more upgrading in Alberta like the Northwest Redwater folks support this particular expansion. (The gasoline/diesel terminals in Kamloops are supplied by Kinder Morgan and bring in clean product from Edmonton for example). One downside though for BC in having Kinder Morgan supply both clean and dirty product is it drove out of business all of the Vancouver area refineries par Chevron that chose to bring in product from Edmonton or Washington State instead that in most cases had the same ownership.

        Also remember some pretty big sections of BC are supplied from Alberta independent of Kinder Morgan. Most gas station in southeast BC(Cranbrook) are supplied out of Calgary by truck and northeast BC is supplied out of Edmonton by truck.

    2. sand tar is economically viable even in present low oil price circumstances.
      Suncor’s cost is $22 per barrel. the only problem is that south of border quite powerful cohort of oil traders have for long time greatly benefited from discounted AB oil and they will do everything to disrupt change of present status quo.
      i won’t be surprised if pipeline project will be killed not by court’s decision but rather absence of investors.

    3. I agree with you as well, Ron. For the life of me I cannot see the point in pushing sand through a pipe out to the coast along with the oil. It has to crank up the cost of running the pumps, and having sand rubbing the inside of the pipe has to cause more wear. BC doesn’t need more sand for its beaches does it?!

      My understanding is that if you take in all the factors from the ground to the tailpipe, oil sands originated fuel has a 17% larger greenhouse gas footprint. If we follow your suggestion, loyal Albertans could at least start to mitigate the 17% share of the greenhouse gas penalty by being really energy efficient. Jason Kenney could show his patriotism by making his unite Alberta tour in a Tory blue Prius instead of a pick-up! Phallicly challenged young men need to be convinced that the bicycle is a better way to compensate for their ‘shortcomings’ than a monster truck. ‘Hang your truck nuts on a bike’ needs to become the new provincial motto.

      OK, I got a little silly for a minute, but my medication will kick in in a moment. Meanwhile, I do believe you are correct, and my tongue in cheek suggestions are examples of the social license people talk about.

  2. FWIW
    It appears the current leader of BC NDP is digging in quite deep against Kinder Morgan. Maybe not so much traction today for former NDP leaders arguing the tradition of jobs first, and then we’ll see what we can do to minimize environmental damage.

    excerpt: ‘“This is a project that I believe is not in the interest of British Columbia, not in the interest of our marine environment, not in the interest of our economy,” Mr. Horgan said in an interview Tuesday’

  3. FWIW A citizen of BC might ask us: Hey Albertans, you’ve had all that oil money for decades, with conservative gov’ts (gov’t’s that always claim to make people wealthy) and yet now you’re broke, and now you want us?! to suck it up for you and kiss your ring-finger for a 7-fold increase in tankers shipping your dilbit/bitumen sinking shit thru our waters?

    If the roles were reversed, I guarantee, with the urging our conservative political leaders including the press, we Albertans would be urged to take our rifles down out of our gun racks and load’em.

    Our right-wing/conservative leaders are so myopically provincial it’s just bloody embarassing. Apparently it’s all about us.

    And FWIW re ad hominem retorts to my view: I’m a born and raised Albertan. My parents born here. A farm kid. I worked the rigs. And like maybe 60-70% of us, profited from the last oil boom. A Lougheed conservative. Lougheed warned us against over development. Lougheed tried to make us save. But, we/Klein pissed most of it away. And now our current right wing leaders are crying that the rest of Canada has concerns about our pipelines’ whiny little wimpy babies mewling that the rest of Canada won’t kiss our butts. Gawd. Entreprenurial mavericks? yuck. Self-serving narcissists, that’s what.

    1. As a former Edmontonian and now Islander, I agree. Alberta youth seem also seem to forget the Ralph Klein mantra, “let the eastern bastards freeze in the dark.” Thirty years has sure changed that philosophy of a me me province to a ………. No forget it, Alberta is still a me me province.

    2. Review of 9,000 Studies Finds We Know Squat About Bitumen Spills in Ocean Environments

      By Judith Lavoie • Friday, December 9, 2016 – 12:43

      But hey BC, trust us, we promise… we’ll figure it out. Someday.
      You know…Like we have with tarsands mining…


      excerpt: Cleanup techniques still experimental

      Despite efforts by oilsands companies to figure out how to clean up tailings, there is still no method that is proven to work.

  4. Dave you are not the first person to suggest the NDP in BC was softening it’s position, as Sam points out Mr. Horgan has doubled down on his opposition to Kinder Morgan. So much for social license!

  5. This is the problem with the ubiquitous and incessant right/left bifurcation on every issue. No one in their right mind would call you a right wing nut job David but your ideological defense and promotion of ‘Albertan’ oil and ‘Notley’ energy policy certainly resembles the nut job screed.
    There is no such thing as protecting the Coast from this material; when a tanker spills, not if but when, the Coast will be irreparably damaged, at least in the lifetimes of the following 7 generations. As you say, there can be be guarantees against such an event and some guarantees are ‘more meaningful’ than others, but not a single one is worth a hill o’beans.
    As for Mr. Miller, well it’s quite a stretch to tout him as a NDP Premier, even though he did fill the role for a few months. Importantly, he was not elected to this position, he had no policy that resonated with voters; he was simply appointed as an uncontroversial place-holder after a particularly nasty set of events in which a non-NDP premier, Glen Clark, blew up the very effective party of Mike Harcourt. Mr. Millar is more accurately described as a cheerleader for big oil and big timber corporations, despite his start in an all but extinguished sustainable and locally controlled resource extraction industry.
    It’s true that most thinking and sensible people disagree with the conservatives because of their unfair labour policies and rapacious environmental policies and I suppose that over time one has become synonymous with the other. But make no mistake; thinking and sensible people are not in favour of rapacious environmental policy regardless of who proposes them. That the benefits accrue to only a few foreign shareholders and their political lap-thingys seems a hallmark of all rotten deals.

    1. This is hyperbole: “when a tanker spills, not if but when, the Coast will be irreparably damaged, at least in the lifetimes of the following 7 generations.”

      Those waters already have a lot of marine traffic, and stopping the pipeline won’t necessary prevent an increase, if the oil were to be shipped by rail.

      A tanker spill would be bad, locally. “The Coast” will not suffer irreparable damage for 7 generations. Some small areas, maybe. There are dangers, but it’s irresponsible to exaggerate them.

      There are also dangers to reelecting a next-generation Harper government, or to hardening attitudes in Alberta, and putting the very extreme right into power. There are dangers in making the pipeline expansion a hill to die on when you probably don’t have the power or political backing to stop it.

      1. From Wikipedia, re the Exxon Valdez spill:

        The oil … eventually covered 1,300 miles (2,100 km) of coastline, and 11,000 square miles (28,000 km2) of ocean

        1. If you do the arithmetic, that comes to 3 cubic centimetres per square meter of ocean (if all the oil ended up on the water) or 47 liters per m of shoreline (which would be very bad, of course, if all of the oil ended up on the shore, which clearly it didn’t) Obviously the true figures are somewhere in between.The better word that wiki should have used rather than “covered” would be effected to some degree. Obviously, some areas must have been much worse affected then others.

          A spill of similar size in the Georgia Straight would be very, very bad. It would still not be the utter and permanent catastrophe some are painting.

          Some perspective, and some accuracy, are needed to correctly assess threats. Is a shipwreck more or less likely than a train derailment?

          1. Well my little piggy; you are really living up to your name.
            At the outset I have to admit my utter shame at having anything at all in common with a person like you. But, by your reply I can see that we are in agreement; you have absolutely nothing to say about “if” a spill occurs but expend all yer rant on “when” a spill occurs. Unfortunately for my sense of self-respect, we are in complete agreement on this.
            So you say that these spills will just occur in “some small areas” and would not be an “utter and permanent catastrophe” in any case. Certainly no reason to interfere with yer incredibly important job that pays you a 6 figure salary, that pays for yer F-350, yer sleds and yer quads and yer 30′ 5th wheel. All of which you are naturally entitled to because of yer 8th grade education and yer hard-workin Albertan attitude.
            Have you thought about which particular small areas should suffer some non-permanent catastrophe? Not likely. It’s probably where some Indians live or some pot-smoking hippie fishermen or loggers, certainly not any really important folks, like you. Besides it’s in the national interest; how dare a province in the West hold up any sensible national energy program that benefits so many Canadians.
            The hyperbole comes entirely from yer side piggy. All the breathless fantasy job numbers, the fantasy ‘world-class’ this or that, the fantasy clean-up technologies, the fantasy safety records and the fantasy ‘responsible’ petro-corps.

          2. That wasn’t an either/or statement – the oil covered 2100 km of shoreline AND 28000 sq km of ocean surface.
            And even with your attempt to minimize the amount of oil at the scales we usually work at – consider the effect of a film of oil that adds up to 3cc/m2 on the plumage of a seabird that surfaces through it. And whether or not the oil washed ashore evenly or not over the stretch of affected coastline, remember that this is a cold-water ecosystem and the more refractory components of petroleum are slow to break down, especially when they’re sequestered under rocks or in crevices. It took decades for the littoral communities in Prince William Sound to partially recover.
            And if you’re comparing trains and tankers – a train accident may spill oil where it can be widespread by water. A tanker accident inevitably will dump oil into the ocean, and there’s very little that can be done to contain it when that happens.

  6. Moving oil, even bitumen, that is going to be moved and sold anyway, is not the end of the world that many seem intent on painting it. We can’t refuse all transit of Alberta oil no matter what, as the article says. The big win was a No to northern gateway. Can’t we celebrate that instead of tilting at windmills? The Lower mainland, and the NDP, would be better of focussing on the stranglehold local developers have on the entre area, and less on a dubious line in the sand contra expansion of an existing pipeline to transit resources whose extraction is already determined.

    Yes, most of the WSBs heavy oil and bitumen has to stay in the ground, and most of it going to. That does not mean that not one single drop more can be moved. Transition to a carbon neutral economy will take a few decades, and we have to pay the bills in the meantime. And it would be nice if we could hold the country together while we are doing it. The deal arranged by Trudeau and Notley is a master stroke that could put a spike through the heart of a re-emerging right wing in the west, and buy the Alberta NDP enough time to actually put Alberta onto a different path. If you want to see bad climate policies, just you put the Deform Party back in Edmonton and Ottawa next election. In that light, is moral purity about the pipeline expansion really such a good idea?

  7. I think this shows that despite the vocal position of environmentalists, opinion in BC is still divided on this issue. Also, it is not just a left/right split. Many people in BC work in resource industries or have close ties to these industries. They understand that these days, these industries are one of the few sources of good jobs.

    I think this issue has the potential to lose as well as gain support for both major parties in BC, which might explain why the BC Liberals have always been only lukewarm in their support. I am not sure if either party has much, if anything to gain by making it a big election issue.

  8. Almost o/t

    How to make mine operators pay for the mess they make
    – by Frances Woolley, Worthwhile Canadian Initiative

    “Suncor is the largest operator in the oil sands. In the first three quarters of 2016, it produced 1.4 million barrels from its oil sands operations. Its total cash flow was $3.6 billion. Its net new contributions to the Mine Financial Security Program? Zero.”

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