B.C. premier Christy Clark stopped in at the Revelstoke Golf Club on July 31, addressing a mostly female audience in what was originally billed as a women-only event.
Clark’s address to the audience of business community reps, Liberal supporters and local movers ‘n’ shakers started off on a family-values theme. She fielded local-interest questions on small business concerns and the condition of the Trans-Canada Highway through Revelstoke.
Clark brushed aside an audience member’s suggestion for a toll booth to pay for improvements on the treacherous stretch from Kamloops to the Alberta border, saying it would unfairly impact locals. “Maybe we could toll just people from other provinces,” she joked – quickly emphasizing it was in jest.
It was, of course, an allusion to her Northern Gateway gambit, which has propelled her into the national spotlight over the past week. The B.C. government outlined its five conditions for the controversial Enbridge pipeline a week ago. This was followed by a war of words between Clark and Alberta premier Alison Redford over B.C.’s demand for more fiscal and economic benefits from the project, culminating in Clark’s walkout on the Council of Federation meeting in Halifax, where she vowed to boycott any national energy strategy until the B.C. government’s Northern Gateway issues are addressed.
Clark said B.C. will benefit to some extent during the construction of the Northern Gateway pipeline, but the minimal benefits would dwindle once it is completed.
“For the first five years, we’ll get some benefit,” Clark said. “For the next 25, really not very much, so we’ve got to improve that.”
Clark outlined figures supporting her position. She said Alberta and the federal government will take the lion’s share of $81 billion in tax benefits. She added Alberta will earn 100 per cent of the estimated $103 billion in royalties generated by sale of the oil to Asian customers.
“In addition to that, there are the billions of dollars in incremental new profits that the companies are going to take, and here we are in British Columbia taking all the risk for this and getting eight per cent of the benefits and very, very few jobs.”
She estimated the pipeline could generate fewer than 100 long-term jobs over the next 30 years.
It didn’t take any prompting for Clark to continue her war of words with the Alberta premier, regaling the audience with tales of her tough talk last week. “What I said to Alison Redford is, I said, ‘Look Alison, you have a much stronger interest in this than we do, frankly. It’s going to benefit your province way more than it’s going to benefit mine. So, if you want this pipeline to go ahead, you need to sit down at the table and start having a conversation about how we’re going to make sure British Columbia workers, British Columbia’s economy sees some benefit from it. Otherwise, we’re not going to have it. It’s just not going to happen.'”
Clark also indicated her willingness to play a waiting game, saying the B.C. government is prioritizing natural gas resource development in the north, including the development of five natural gas pipelines from the Northeast to north coast refineries for shipment to Asia. “We’re going to have a trillion-and-a-half dollar industry starting up in British Columbia. That’s my economic priority, frankly, because it’s going to benefit everybody in our province,” Clark said. “So I said to Alison, ‘Look, I know you want this pipeline, but I got five – and we’re busy.'”
Clark said her stance on improving marine oil spill response capabilities on the B.C. coast would have an added benefit, improving B.C.’s capability for non-tanker oil spills. “We don’t have adequate spill response for that now,” she said. “We have to have nothing less than the world’s best spill response protection. So, let’s go look at Norway and Scandinavia where they’ve been moving a lot of oil for a long time down a very difficult coastline, and they’ve done a great job of it. Let’s look at them and see how we can meet or beat their standards.”
She reiterated calls for the same world-leading standards for terrestrial spills.
Clark is on a road tour through the region. On July 30, she appeared in Sicamous, a popular summer lake retreat for Albertans that was heavily impacted by flooding in late June. Clark promised a B.C. government advertising campaign in Alberta to send the message that Sicamous is back open for business. The usual steady summer flow of Alberta pickups full of oil patch workers hauling jet boats has ebbed since the flooding.
On the evening of July 31 she’ll travel to the NDP stronghold of Golden, B.C. While there, she’ll attend the acclamation ceremony of Columbia River–Revelstoke BC Liberal candidate Doug Clovechok. He will contest the riding held by popular incumbent NDP forest critic Norm Macdonald.
Watch video of her presentation here. Or click the link to an interview with the premier below.