Christy Clark, the BC premier, published a letter addressed to Alberta Premier Alison Redford this week, sort of letting Redford know that she’s coming to town, just in case Redford wants to chat. Last time Redford was in BC, she made no effort to visit with Clark.
Redford says she found out about the letter from social media –a good indication of the state of the communication channels between Victoria and Edmonton since last July.
It is important to point out that Premier Clark is coming to Alberta to raise funds for her election campaign. The slight change in her position to oppose the construction of Northern Gateway unless Alberta gives her a “fair share,” though she claims that there has been no change, is likely aimed at softening the wallets of some key Albertans.
The letter reiterates Clark’s five demands to make it acceptable for the Northern Gateway pipeline to be built across her province. Nothing new there. What is new is that Clark now makes it clear that she is not looking for royalty revenue sharing:
With respect to fiscal and economic benefits, it is important to note that my government has not placed any conditions on these discussions. While others may have characterized this conversation as somehow sharing Alberta’s royalty payments, we have been careful to avoid discussing the source of any benefit-sharing, or indeed the very nature of any increased benefits to British Columbia. We believe that this is a discussion that rightfully takes place between our governments, and the federal government.
I read here Clark saying “I want money but I didn’t mean to say from your royalties.” She may be aiming directly at Enbridge now.
I suspect that when Clark speaks to her would-be Alberta benefactors, she will use the above paragraph, she will back-pedal somewhat and come clean about attacking Alberta purely for political gain. Nothing personal; it’s just how the game is played. She may even whisper that she doesn’t really meant to shut the pipeline down.
She also will introduce the threat of the NDP bogeyman. “You may not like giving me money,” she might say, “but it is in Alberta’s best interests that I get to form a government again, lest you want to contend with the NDP.”
It is true that the NDP may not be looking for Clark-style extortion. They will want to shut down the pipeline to improve their electoral lot across the country, presenting themselves as the only national party willing to stand up to the big, bad, rich Albertans. Pauline Marois, Dalton McGuinty, Tom Mulcair and Christy Clark have proved that beating on Albertans pays at the polls.
It is a reasonable threat but the threat is more and more empty by the day. The wheels are falling off the Clark political wagon, and just last week she lost her chief of staff, who was expected to pull her failing rule from the fire. There will likely not be a Clark electoral miracle and Alberta will have to deal with an NDP BC government come the Spring. So, why bother?
Redford can exercise some influence in that regard as well. It is clear that Redford is in no mood to help Clark. Accepting to meet her in Calgary is worse than rejecting her. Clark needs conflict to appear strong in order to gain more traction with BC voters. By denying her the confrontation Clark seeks, Redford might ensure that the media covers Clark passing her hat among Albertans instead of locking horns with Alberta’s premier.
Albertans will receive the BC premier in their typical hospitable way, but may not put more than their polite good wishes in her hat.