Notley to skip premiers conference as pipeline deadline looms

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Premier Rachel Notley says the idea of having polite conversations with her B.C. counterpart is unthinkable amid the ongoing pipeline row, as she announced she will skip this week’s Western Premiers’ Conference in the Northwest Territories.

Notley tweeted Monday that she will stay home to work on securing a deal for the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline, with just 10 days before Kinder Morgan’s self-imposed deadline.

Deputy premier Sarah Hoffman will represent Alberta at the annual meeting, the premier stated.

“With 10 days remaining before Kinder Morgan’s deadline, my only priority is to make sure the pipeline gets built,” Notley tweeted Monday. “It would be surreal and exceptionally tone deaf for anyone to think we could politely discuss pharmacare and cannabis when one of the players is hard at work trying to choke the economic lifeblood of the province and the country,” she wrote, apparently referring to B.C. Premier John Horgan.

The pipeline company has said if it doesn’t receive political certainty on the project by May 31, “it’s hard to conceive of a scenario under which we can proceed.”

Plans to triple capacity along Kinder Morgan’s existing Trans Mountain pipeline from Edmonton to Burnaby have pitted Alberta and the federal government against B.C.’s government, which has expressed concern about the effect a potential spill would have on the province’s environment and economy, and has thrown up repeated roadblocks to construction.

“We’re protecting our interests, (Notley is) protecting hers. We understand that, but there are very important issues on the table here and it’s important that the premiers come and represent that, to discuss that,” said Sheena McConnell, a spokeswoman for Horgan.

“We feel we’re doing what’s responsible for B.C.”

Horgan’s focus at the conference will be on a variety of issues, McConnell said Monday.

“The pipeline issue is one of many topics on the agenda and the big one being pharmacare for us,” she said. “That is what we’re focused on. Of course we’ll talk about transportation routes, pipelines and the other items on the agenda, but I think it’s really important that the premier goes and represents all of B.C., especially on something as important as pharmacare.”

Horgan had previously said he wasn’t expecting any drama with Notley at the premiers meeting over the pipeline dispute.

“I believe, largely, the issue is around transporting diluted bitumen, whether it is by rail or by pipeline,” Horgan said Friday. “I believe the risk of a diluted bitumen spill to our environment, to our economy, is too great. I’ve made that abundantly clear. I don’t think there’ll be any surprises next week.”

In a statement, Alberta’s UCP  said it continued to support efforts to ensure the Trans Mountain expansion gets built.

“It’s unfortunate that the NDP and their Trudeau Liberal allies tried to ignore the growing threat posed by the B.C. NDP government for several months, allowing this to grow into the full-blown crisis we see today,” the Alberta Opposition party stated.

Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau said last week that the federal government is committed to getting the pipeline built even if Kinder Morgan pulls out of the project.

Kinder Morgan stopped all non-essential spending on its $7.4-billion project after delays from the B.C. government, environmental groups and protesters.

Morneau said he believes there are “other private-sector actors that would be willing to move forward” with the project if Kinder Morgan pulls out.

But tensions have only escalated since, with Horgan accusing Morneau of “rhetoric and hyperbole,” and Notley warning Horgan she’s “ready and prepared to turn off the taps” and restrict fuel shipments to B.C. if the project is further delayed.

The provincial government passed a law last week that would allow politicians in Edmonton to control the flow of oil, natural gas and refined products out of province in response to B.C.’s opposition to the pipeline project.

The B.C. government said it would seek legal remedies should Alberta restrict shipments, and source its oil needs from Washington state.

Notley has also clashed with federal NDP counterpart Jagmeet Singh over the pipeline project, after Singh tweeted that the Trudeau government was giving Kinder Morgan “a blank cheque while dumping all the risks on Canadians.” Notley fired back, calling Singh “absolutely, fundamentally, incontrovertibly incorrect in every aspect of that tweet.”

— With files from The Canadian Press

shudes@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/SammyHudes

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