Genial and in control, Alberta premier fields questions about B.C. politics with aplomb at hospital announcement

Posted on May 31, 2017, 2:28 am
6 mins

PHOTOS: Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and Health Minister and Deputy Premier Sarah Hoffman announce a new hospital on Edmonton’s south side. Alberta Health services CEO Verna Yiu is visible on the right. Below: Infrastructure Minister Brian Mason, controversial B.C. environmentalist Tzeporah Berman and some of the crowd at the hospital announcement.

We may have been standing in a field on the south side of Edmonton to talk about a new hospital, but it was the genial ease with which Premier Rachel Notley fielded reporters’ questions about the continuing political gong show in British Columbia yesterday morning that really gave the sense grownups are in charge here in Alberta just now.

If Ms. Notley doesn’t frighten the leaders of the Wildrose Opposition and Progressive Conservative Party, by gosh she should!

If the only thing the crowd of reporters wanted to talk about was what the alliance of the British Columbia New Democratic Party and the B.C. Greens might mean for the prospects of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion project, that was OK with Ms. Notley, and Health Minister Sarah Hoffman too. They were prepared.

The premier dispatched reporters’ questions with aplomb, forcefully making the point the pipeline expansion will go ahead – “mark my words, that pipeline will be built; the decision has been made” – but also that any change of government in B.C. illustrates why the argument must continue to be made that environmental sustainability and economic growth can go hand it hand.

Of course the idea a healthy bitumen-based economy and a thriving planetary environment are complementary concepts is controversial. This is why nothing would suit British Columbia’s many pipeline opponents, not to mention the province’s emerging cadre of eco-separatists, better than a conservative government in Alberta that has no plans for building export infrastructure beyond bluster and bullying.

Can you imagine what would happen if a brainiac like PC Caucus Leader Ric “Knife-in-the-Back” McIver was handling this file?

Ms. Notley did sound tough, if characteristically thoughtful, for which later in the day the usually hostile business press would give her an adoring review – “the Alberta premier is no pushover in showdowns, as oilsands leaders who caved to her agenda found out,” the Financial Post gushed, sort of.

But she leavened the vow “we will not stop fighting for this pipeline” with a little dig at the B.C. economy, just true enough to be funny and dangerous at the same time: “The province of B.C. can’t grow solely on the basis of escalating housing prices in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland,” she reminded all participants in the ongoing debate west of the Rockies.

The premier tapped aside a question about environmentalist Tzeporah Berman, favoured punching bag of the Alberta right, who dared to Tweet her pleasure at the NDP-Green pact in B.C. while serving on the Alberta Government’s Oil Sands Advisory Group. What kind of credibility would the process have with our restive neighbours, Ms. Notley wondered, if the committee was just an echo chamber?

She dispatched another query about the possibility political aides returning to B.C. with a wry smile – she’ll wish anyone departing bon chance et bon voyage (my phrase, not hers) … next question?

And she summed up, with only a hint of exasperation, “federalism doesn’t mean every province without access to a coastline doesn’t get to engage in international trade.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, speaking in Rome, made many of the same points – none of which means, of course, that there isn’t actually plenty pipeline opponents on the West Coast could do to throw a monkey wrench into Kinder Morgan’s and other pipeline plans once they get into government, however much longer that takes.

Oh, and about that hospital, which the premier announced along with Ms. Hoffman, Infrastructure Minister Brian Mason and Alberta Health Service CEO Verna Yiu? It’s a big deal, actually.

The city’s south side has already seen some of the highest recent population growth in the country, and the need for a hospital is undeniable. The project is another example of the NDP Government’s commitment to supporting front-line public services when conventional conservative thinking calls for austerity and cutbacks.

The 350- to 500-bed hospital will be located at the intersection of Ellerslie Road and 127th Street – site of the news conference – and ground will be broken in 2019 with construction commencing the next year. There’s $400 million in the budget now for the project – enough to get it started, but more will need to be approved to complete it.

The timing is significant, of course, with an election likely to take place between groundbreaking and construction. With Progressive Conservative Leader Jason Kenney lurking in the wings, vowing to undo every single NDP policy and itching to slash budgets, the inference is obvious.

8 Comments to: Genial and in control, Alberta premier fields questions about B.C. politics with aplomb at hospital announcement

  1. Raja

    May 31st, 2017

    If the BC Green/NDP coalition form a government they will throw all sorts of roadblocks (environmental reviews, legal challenges, etc) to stop the pipeline. These will be a nuisance and could cause further delay to this project — a project that will ultimately go ahead.
    I do find the cognitive dissonance among Postmedia readership to be amusing. Trudeau and a NDP Premier Notley standing up to Eco-warriers and supporting big business is something they can’t get their heads around. Do I hear the crickets chirping at the putative You-See Pee?

  2. David

    May 31st, 2017

    When things don’t go well in the short term, it’s probably a good idea to think beyond the short term. The BC arrangement between the Greens and NDP is numerically fragile and I doubt it will last long. Within a year or two, the people of BC will likely be faced with another election when they will have to make a more decisive conclusion. The questions they will probably ask themselves will be, did the NDP minority do a good enough job to be trusted with a majority and/or have the Liberals learned their lesson and listened to some of the voters concerns about their policies/ performance and benefited from their time out.

    For now, most resource development in BC will be on hold or will proceed very slowly to accommodate the Greens. However, I suspect it will eventually become clear to people in the lower mainland that their economy is not totally insulated from the resource economy of the rest of BC. Another big question is as an economic slow down takes hold in BC and starts to affect them, who will they blame – the Greens, the NDP or both? While the BC NDP has a strong environmental side, they are also quite concerned about jobs and it will be a challenge to balance this while working with the Greens. If it is any consolation to the BC NDP, history has often shown that the smaller party supporting a minority government often takes the blame for the bad things it does in the eyes of the electorate, while the larger party takes the credit for the good things.

    I agree with Premier Notley that the pipeline will eventually proceed, but it will take a bit of patience and some persistence. The patience will be in the short term and the persistence will be needed after that.

  3. political ranger

    May 31st, 2017

    As I’ve said before, no one alive today will see another inter-continental pipeline built in N.America.
    You said, “the idea a healthy bitumen-based economy and a thriving planetary environment are complementary concepts is controversial”. Hardly controversial David, rather seriously delusional and completely divorced from reality.
    As long as your ‘bitumen-based economy’ was built on publicly subsidized petro-corps and the freedom to pollute private lands and destroy public resources (by building regulators like EUB, ERCB & AER that specifically have “no duty to protect” Alberta citizens) while providing some with jobs that paid fantastic wages things were “advantageous” out there in Albaturda.
    No such purpose-built fantasy in BC.
    There is no economic benefit to BC; none. It’s highly doubtful that the project is even viable without Alberta incentives (subsidies).
    But you’re right, Notley does present in a very sober and serious way.

  4. ronmac

    May 31st, 2017

    Those BC Greens got everyone turning red.

  5. Sam Gunsch

    May 31st, 2017

    The window was missed. Higher prices via tidewater to China/Asia no longer holds…Kinder Morgan’s economic argument has evaporated. Less net per bbl than shipping to US. Bottlenecks in US have been fixed. And Trudeau and Trump have approved sufficient pipelines to US.

    excerpt: ‘In damning report, David Hughes challenges claims that Trans Mountain will boost Canada’s oil prices.’

  6. Bill Malcolm

    May 31st, 2017

    Well, genial was not the thought that came to mind when I heard Notley’s words, Tough, sure. Combative, definitely. Un-environmental, yes. Self-serving, most definitely.

    When are you Albertans of any political stripe going to wake up and discover that nobody wants your dilbit muck? Build your own damn refineries and process it there if you have to. No other solution is acceptable to the rest of us who have to put up with you. Other Canadian provinces are not obligated to let dilbit cross their territory, so far as I know. If you read the BNA and its derivatives, provinces have control on energy crossing their land, so Manitoba Hydro cannot strike a deal with Hydro Quebec and automatically expect Ontario to let the energy flow across their territory.

    No, I’m sorry, Notley and Trudeau are the two-faced “progressives” who cannot seem to get it through their thick heads that environmental worries are here to stay. No saying one thing internationally then acting like Conservative grubbers at home in Alberta for the vote. And that my friends, is that, from my point-of-view here on the East Coast.

    • Sam Gunsch

      June 1st, 2017

      The constant flow of propaganda from the petroleum industry/RW thinktanks/RW media for 5 decades now has convinced roughly 60-70% of Albertans that the industry’s interest is equivalent to the public interest. One recent polls showed 75% of Albertans agree with Notley about the need for tidewater pipelines.

      So… no choice… Notley’s NDP has to fight as hard as the conservative opposition to obtain pipelines to tidewater or the NDP have zero chance of re-election.

      And FWIW, to make matters worse for the NDP, as much as 60% of conservative AB voters don’t believe climate change is happening or if they do, they think it’s just a natural cycle, according to one national and one provincial poll conducted in the last 18 months. And if the votes in the last federal election are indicative of AB’s, well over half of AB’s are conservative voters.

      The NDP, who I voted for, like any gov’t, can’t ignore these majority opinion realities. Because of my acceptance of the science and political forecasts that climate change will collapse modern societies under BAU, I don’t support further investment in any fossil fuel development or infrastructure, but Albertan’s like me are a relatively small, maybe tiny minority.


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