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Bell: NDP energy boss says turning off taps to B.C. no bluff


Energy Minister Margaret McCuaig-Boyd.Ed Kaiser / Postmedia

Take that, Vancouver!

Turning off the oilpatch taps to B.C. is often dubbed the nuclear option in these parts.

We wait for the big bang.

The thought of it gets the political blood of many an Albertan flowing, this twist of the arm so gas prices in B.C.’s Lower Mainland soar and the government on the Left Coast cries uncle over all this pipeline nonsense.

Yes, a law giving the Notley NDP the power to drop the hammer is expected to be jawed over by provincial politicians later this week and get the green light soon.

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Much of the opposition thinks the Notley government will never pull the trigger. They quote B.C. Premier Horgan telling us Notley told him the Alberta government didn’t necessarily think they would act on it.

Marg McCuaig-Boyd is the energy minister, one of Notley’s inner circle. Marg is from up in the Peace Country and she pushes back in plain English.

“This isn’t just talk. B.C. keeps throwing up roadblocks in front of us. This isn’t a bluff. We’re absolutely prepared to use it, should we need to use it.”

May 31 is a big date. Kinder Morgan, owners of the stalled pipeline to the west coast, want to know they can build their Ottawa-approved project without all the games being played to delay construction.

The NDP energy czar says the Notley government could trigger a turning off of the taps before or after May 31.

“There’s no timeline. If we need to use it, we’ll use it sooner. We’re not messing around,” says McCuaig-Boyd, adding she’s promised the oilpatch there’d be no surprises on how it would roll out.

Marg says she’s got plenty of emails of support from folks out of work, folks looking for work, folks from the part of the Peace Country she represents.

She’s met with many oilpatch types, talked about this plan.

“Why would I waste their time if we weren’t prepared to do it?” she says.

There are learned legal beagles who believe Alberta’s turning off the taps won’t fly in court and B.C. would fight back and almost certainly try to get an injunction to turn the taps back on.

The Notley NDP has heard a lot of legal advice. McCuaig-Boyd is confident Alberta is on solid ground.  In fact, she’s confident shovels will be in the ground this construction season.

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Really?

“As Northern Marg would say: Damn straight,” says the energy minister.

“We’ve been relentless. We’re going to continue to be relentless. We’re going to keep pushing from our end. Don’t count us out — ever.”

United Conservative leader Jason Kenney is in quite the position, ahead of his time.

Kenney has talked about turning off the taps to B.C. for months and was mocked coast to coast by Notley, ridiculed as a wannabe Trump building a wall around Alberta.

“All I can tell you is if I was premier I’d prepared to turn off the taps. I’ve been dead serious about this from Day One,” says Kenney, of the last resort option.

For Kenney, it’s like a military deterrent, it only works if the other side thinks you might use it.

The United Conservative leader believes it’s “not much more than a piece of political theatre” for the NDP.

“If she’s really serious about all this stuff, whatever happened to her wine boycott,” says Kenney, of the premier.

‘They can do their best to try to copy our language and approach but they’re not doing it with any heart or belief or credibility.”

Whatever your political stripe, if you’re Albertan you’re almost surely steamed. Alberta has been, in the words of Kenney, “the milk cow of Confederation.”

And now, to find a much-needed pipeline expansion stuck in a world of endless aggravation.

“Albertans are not suckers and they feel right now that many people in the rest of the country are treating us like suckers,” says Kenney.

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Tough talk.

The Notley NDP says the Trudeau government is working like hell to make this pipeline a go. We haven’t seen a proposed new law from Trudeau making it clear to B.C. the federal government is the boss on pipelines.

In Vancouver, Trudeau says his Liberal government is looking at “an array of choices” to deal with this pipeline argy-bargy.

Up in Edmonton, the premier says Alberta is “getting very close to success.”

United Conservative Ric McIver asks the government what proof they can offer Albertans that they will ever take action.

By day’s end, we wait for the pudding.

rbell@postmedia.com

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