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Bar chat helped put pipeline deal back on track | Northern BC Business

Bar chat helped put pipeline deal back on track

Braid: Bar chat helped put pipeline deal back on track

B.C. Premier Christy Clark (left) and Alberta Premier Alison Redford meet in Vancouver, Tuesday, Nov.5, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

By Don Braid of the Calgary Herald

Many a Canadian political fracture has been anesthetized in a bar.

It happened again early Tuesday morning, when the fading hope of Alberta-B.C. energy co-operation was salvaged at Vancouver’s Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel.

Premier Alison Redford had already put out a note announcing cancellation of her scheduled Tuesday meeting with B.C.’s Christy Clark.

The parties ran aground on Clark’s fifth condition for pipelines, which would ensure that B.C. “receives a fair share of the fiscal and economic benefits of a proposed heavy oil project.”

Alberta thought this would require the province to negotiate with energy companies on B.C.’s behalf.

Redford says this wasn’t just an impression, but a fact. She couldn’t agree to it.

So the whole thing was off, even though the provinces agreed on four other conditions, including spill prevention, working with First Nations and completing all the stringent environmental reviews.

Symbolically, failure of this basic cross-border agreement would have been disastrous, stalling progress for many more months or even years.

Northern Gateway’s many opponents would have declared victory, to the great annoyance of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who declared at the Conservative convention last weekend, “In this party, we will not accept that environmental protection must stop economic development. We must have both.”

American opponents of Keystone would have gleefully welcomed more evidence that even Canadian provinces can’t agree on pipelines.

The stakes in a routine negotiating session unexpectedly soared to the national level and beyond.

Then, Stefan Baranski and Ben Chin ran into each other in the bar at the waterfront Pacific Rim (what — you thought these people stayed at the Burnaby Super 8?)

Baranski is Redford’s communications boss; Chin holds the same job with Clark. As they talked, according to both officials, they realized there was no difference that couldn’t be resolved.

They got back to bureaucrats who’d already been working on problems all day.

Consensus emerged. Redford and Clark signed off. Their meeting and news conference were back on schedule.

Neither Baranski nor Chin, smart guys, want to take credit for this.

Baranski said in an email: “Our bar meeting was just the start of hours of work to get to the agreement. Don’t want you to think there was a pipeline of beer last night.”

For Redford, there was a major victory in B.C.’s immediate acceptance of her Canadian energy strategy.

In July 2012, Clark shocked the Albertans by refusing to agree to Redford’s inclusive scheme until Alberta agreed with her pipeline conditions.

Some thought she was just talking tough until her election was done. That turned out to be wrong; with a solid majority, won in part because of her stand, she turned out to be more resolute than ever.

With Tuesday’s deal, Clark not only secured Alberta’s agreement, but created new preconditions for heavy oil pipelines in Canada.

Other provinces may well use variations if the eastern line to Saint John, N.B., is approved.

Most important, Clark has actually cut heavy oil and bitumen out of the pack, establishing them as more dangerous products that require special rules.

Redford ending up agreeing with B.C.’s agenda after tough negotiations on the details.

That’s to her credit, and not just because Alberta needs pipelines through B.C. to the coast.

Her acceptance shows that Alberta really will be co-operative in energy matters, just as her national policy suggests.

And the truth is that Christy Clark’s five conditions are a reasonable set of hurdles for bitumen pipelines to clear before they’re built.

Perhaps they should become a national standard. That might do Canada a lot of good in the world. And we’ll be able to say it started in a bar

By Don Braid of the Calgary Heraldhttp://www.calgaryherald.com/opinion/columnists/Beer+talk+helped+pipeline+deal+back+track/9129658/story.html


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Posted by on 10:46 am. Filed under Alternative Energy, BC Economy, Economic Development, Featured, First Nations, Kitimat, Liquified Natural Gas, North Coast, Oil & Gas, Viewpoints. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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