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Alberta declines signing western premiers' agreement as Trans Mountain dispute looms

Last Updated May 23, 2018 at 6:06 pm MST

B.C. Premier John Horgan (far left) and Alberta Deputy Premier Sarah Hoffman (third from left) at the Western Premiers Meeting in Yellowknife.

It took a meeting in Yellowknife for some of the top government officials of British Columbia and Alberta to speak together publicly, with the tension between the two sides not subsiding at all.

B.C. Premier John Horgan and Alberta Deputy Premier Sarah Hoffman attended the western premiers meeting, but Hoffman declined Wednesday to sign the conference’s closing communique, which details future cooperation on efforts like PharmaCare and police resources.

The reason was clear.

“We had one key issue of importance that we were here to discuss, unfortunately we didn’t get consensus on that item,” she said of support for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. “While I love PharmaCare, while I love work that we’re doing to ensure that youth and our streets are safe with the legalization of cannabis, all of this costs money.”

“We didn’t get consensus on Trans Mountain today.”

Canada’s biggest current political drama has a looming deadline, as Kinder Morgan will decide by May 31st if it will continue with expansion or walk away, as multiple court challenges by B.C. put its future in jeopardy due to investor uncertainty.

Despite the provincial and federal governments offers of potentially buying a stake in the project to keep it alive, no other energy companies have expressed any public interest in taking over the expansion if Kinder Morgan stops.

Horgan said they had frank discussions.

“Certainly Alberta made their case as they always do in a strong and passionate way,” he said. “And I laid out my concerns about risk and the court cases that we are currently enjoined in.”

“Beyond that, which was significant, I don’t want to diminish that in any way, but we did make great progress on a range of other issues that are important to British Columbians and western Canadians.”

But just after Horgan made that statement, Hoffman followed up with a rebuttal.

“I understand that some of our colleagues might not feel as passionately about the jobs and the opportunities,” she said. “I don’t disagree with the other initiatives that were discussed in the communique, but Pharmacare doesn’t grow on trees, we need those jobs to generate income tax, to have a strong national economy, to be able to fund things.”

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley didn’t attend the meeting in order to focus on the Trans Mountain issue at home.

The meeting came a day after B.C. filed a statement of claim in Alberta’s Court of Queen’s Bench, challenging Alberta’s Bill 12, which would authorize the restriction of oil shipments to B.C.

There’s also a court challenge in B.C. going on and Horgan was asked if these specific challenges will be the final ones.

“We are in court and we are awaiting the outcome of those proceedings and then we’ll make other decisions at that time,” he said.