The premiers of British Columbia and Alberta will join their counterparts from Western Canada and the North at meetings next week in Yellowknife, but John Horgan doesn’t expect any drama over the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.
Horgan acknowledges he and Alberta’s Rachel Notley have differences on the pipeline, but he said Friday they are in agreement on a number of other matters and have been friends for 20 years.
The ongoing tensions over the Trans Mountain project should not spill over into the expected major focus of the gathering, which is the development of a national pharmacare program, Horgan said. The provinces have always led the way on cost savings for prescription drugs and B.C. wants to be at the forefront of the issue, he added.
“The federal government now wants to talk about a national program,” Horgan said. “We’re excited about that, but we don’t want to be pushed aside after all the work we’ve done here in B.C. at the provincial level and to have the federal government come in and tell us where and how and what we should be doing.”
He said B.C. wants to ensure the provinces continue to play a leading role in the development of pharmacare.
Horgan said he and Notley only disagree on the Trans Mountain project, otherwise their views “are lockstep.”
On Thursday, B.C. announced plans to launch a lawsuit over new Alberta legislation that could restrict fuel exports to the West Coast.
B.C. Attorney General David Eby said his province will ask the Court of Queen’s Bench in Alberta to declare the legislation unconstitutional on the grounds that one province cannot punish another.
Notley said Thursday that Alberta is confident it has the authority to control the export of its own resources and she believes the new law will withstand a legal challenge, adding her province must safeguard its interests.
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 says it fears the impact a spill would have on the province’s environment and economy.
“I believe, largely, the issue is around transporting diluted bitumen, whether it is by rail or by pipeline,” said Horgan. “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.”
B.C. filed a reference case in the province’s Court of Appeal last month to determine if it has jurisdiction to regulate heavy oil shipments. It also joined two other lawsuits launched by Indigenous groups opposed to the $7.4-billion project.
Kinder Morgan has ceased all non-essential spending on the project until it receives assurances it can proceed without delays, setting a May 31 deadline on getting those guarantees.
Finance Minister Bill Morneau said Wednesday the federal government is prepared to offer an “indemnity” to help ease the political risks for any investors to ensure the pipeline expansion can proceed.
By Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press