The provincial government is barking up the wrong tree in asking Alberta to share oil revenues, according to former Prince George mayor Colin Kinsley.
Kinsley, who works part-time for the Enbridge-affiliated Northern Gateway Alliance group, said there's no constitutional basis for the B.C. government to extract money from its neighbour as a condition for approving the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline.
"It's a no-go to share resource [revenue between] provinces," Kinsley said Tuesday, during a break in National Energy Board (NEB) hearings into the $6.5 billion project at the Ramada. "To charge another province for something would be quite a shift because we've been sending B.C. natural gas through Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba for a very long time."
The B.C. government has set five conditions that need to be met before it will consider approving the project to transport diluted bitumen from Alberta to Kitimat for export to Asian markets. The most controversial of the five is the demand the province get a larger share of the pipeline's benefits.
Kinsley said the issue, which has seen B.C. Premier Christy Clark and her Alberta counterpart Alison Redford trade barbs publicly, is "a political hot potato."
Rather than try to convince Alberta to give B.C. a cut of its royalty payments, Kinsley said the province should shift its focus to Enbridge and try to work out a deal with the company behind the bid to build the pipeline. He said he didn't know the ins and outs of how such a deal could be structured, but said opening a dialogue would be a good first step.
Earlier this month provincial Environment Minister Terry Lake said it would be improper for the government to sit down with the pipeline proponent while the environmental assessment is ongoing.
Citing figures from Northern Gateway, Kinsley said the project as it's currently constituted will already provide substantial benefits to B.C. municipal governments. He said the $1 billion which would pour into their coffers over 30 years could be spent on a variety of public services.
"They pay taxes year after year," Kinsley said of the three pipelines which already traverse Prince George. "And they don't use municipal services. There's no pothole repairs, there's no snow removal, there's no crack sealing, there's no administration... The actual cost to the taxpayers is zero."
The other four provincial requirements - namely completion of the NEB review, world class marine spill response, world class land spill response and consultation with First Nations - can all be accomplished, Kinsley said and he believes there is some political will within the Liberal government to push the project forward.
"I'm not so sure there isn't a lot of members of the B.C. Liberal caucus that are in favour of it [but] they're cautious of course because their leader, Premier Clark, has taken the position she has," Kinsely said. "That's fine, but the way through that is to sit down and talk about it."
Kinsley has attended the last two days of Joint Review Panel hearings and as been impressed by the questions of all the interveners aside from NDP MP Nathan Cullen. He said the answers the Northern Gateway witnesses have provided could help to convince those on the fence to support the project.
As chairman of the Alliance, Kinsley meets with business and community groups along the proposed route to provide them with information on the benefits of the plan.
"The trick here is to educate them," he said of the undecided group in B.C. "Information will sway people."