Putting up barriers

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Surely, there are more than a few people in this province who are having a bitter little chuckle at the news just now, trying to figure out just why it is some issues spring into the national consciousness so clearly and others simply vanish.

Take Alberta Premier Alison Redford’s call for a national energy strategy: the strategy would streamline the process for energy projects that are in the national interest and remove barriers set up by individual provinces. This, from the very same province that has, for decades, hated the federal Liberal party and the government of Pierre Trudeau, in particular, for its temerity in suggesting that an overarching national energy policy was a clearcut federal responsibility.

Or more to the point — take B.C. Premier Christy Clark, currently being pilloried by commentators across this country for suggesting that her government will stop the $6-billion Northern Gateway pipeline if her province doesn’t get a “fair share” of tax revenues from the project. She’s said the B.C. government deserves the additional cash for taking on the environmental risks of the pipeline.

Cue the commentators — the National Post’s Andrew Coyne called it an “extortion attempt,” saying “The demand, in particular, that the government of B.C. be paid an unspecified sum as its ‘fair share’ of the fiscal and economic benefits flowing from the project is so outrageous that it is difficult to believe it was not done for show.”

Coyne is perhaps the first to pile on — he won’t be the last.

Imagine that. One province making it difficult — or expensive — for another to transfer some form of energy commodity across its territory.

What a stupid concept.

Oh, wait a minute: maybe the rules are different when you’re talking about oil pipelines and, say, hydroelectricity.

Just like it’s different when you’re talking about a big province making demands, and a small province making similar ones.

Alison Redford has a point, although not really the one she’s trying to make. There is a clear national interest in having the federal government oversee and protect the transfer of commodities across provinces — and to ensure that particular provinces don’t turn the cross-national and international shipment of those commodities into little local cash cows.

When you ship a tanker-load of water from Nova Scotia to Manitoba, there aren’t special tollgates set up in New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario where those provinces line up to collect their share of the booty. There isn’t a “wood tax” tacked on in Saskatchewan and Alberta for B.C. lumber being shipped to Ontario.

Why should that be any different for oil, gas or hydroelectricity?

Interprovincial trade barriers are expensive, counterproductive, and just use the imperative of geography to shuffle a fixed amount of money among different players.

In the energy industry, the federal government should be in the business of lowering interprovincial barriers — regardless of which province is setting them up.

Organizations: National Post

Geographic location: Alberta, B.C., Nova Scotia Manitoba New Brunswick Quebec Ontario Saskatchewan

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Recent comments

  • Rob Taylor
    July 27, 2012 - 13:12

    This is the perfect time to remind Canadians of the Royal Screw--- NL got at the hands of Quebec and the federal govt on the Churchill Falls Project. If we had a real premier, she would speak up. I can't imagine Danny Williams remaining quiet.

  • David
    July 27, 2012 - 10:22

    Finally, someone in the media...someone...has brought this spectacularly, eerily similar circumstance into the discussion. But the damning fact is that no national media person, not even the usually dependable and well-informed Coyne, even remembers our situation ...even after being beaten over the noggin with such a 'deja-vu' moment. Newfoundland's plight is completely ignored in this Quebec-centric, politically obsequious country. Crickets.