Depriving British Columbia of Alberta oil would be devastating, say experts

Alberta’s threat to cut off oil deliveries to British Columbia to secure the future of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion should be taken very seriously, analysts say.

On Thursday, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley announced that her government will introduce a bill to this effect.

Dan McTeague, Chief Analyst for GasBuddy, is forecasting a $2-per-liter price increase for British Columbian consumers if such a scenario occurs.

Rachel Notley says the goal is to convince British Columbia’s leaders not to go after the Trans Mountain project, which promises to triple the amount of oil transported by the existing pipeline.

“If the Horgan government does not take this situation seriously, it is understood that consumers will take it seriously,” says McTeague.

A harder tone

The Prime Minister said that her government will introduce a bill that will allow it to act flexibly when needed. Oil, but also natural gas could be affected, and the province does not rule out measures that could penalize not only British Columbia but the rest of the country.

Rachel Notley says the goal is to convince BC leaders not to attack Trans Mountain while creating the least negative impact for residents. “We do not want to create a crisis, we will be measured and cautious,” she promised.

This statement contrasts with the more conciliatory tone adopted by the Alberta premier in recent weeks. She suspended the wine embargo against British Columbia, which she accused of blocking the Trans Mountain project. Victoria had meanwhile brought the case to justice.

This hardening brings the New Democrats’ position closer to that of the official opposition, the Alberta Conservatives.

Visiting British Columbia on Monday, their leader, Jason Kenney, spoke of an interruption in Alberta’s oil deliveries and the imposition of British Columbia natural gas tolls via Alberta.

The Conservative leader wanted a stronger position from the Notley government for several months. “The government has accepted my position that must be done to the end,” he said Thursday.

In British Columbia, Environment Minister George Heyman does not expect this threat to be implemented. “I see no reason to believe that Alberta will take unfair measures,” he said.

He adds that his government is only defending the interests of the province.

The Prime Minister said that her government will introduce a bill that will allow it to act flexibly when needed. Oil, but also natural gas could be affected, and the province does not rule out measures that could penalize not only British Columbia but the rest of the country.

Rachel Notley says the goal is to convince BC leaders not to attack Trans Mountain while creating the least negative impact for residents. “We do not want to create a crisis, we will be measured and cautious,” she promised.

In British Columbia, Environment Minister George Heyman does not expect this threat to be implemented.

This move would be “unprecedented,” according to Simon Fraser University political scientist Nicolas Kenny. He noted, however, that it is difficult to predict how much the discussions around the Trans Mountain project could escalate.

“The more this debate grows, the more we risk seeing a constitutional crisis around this issue,” he concludes.

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