B.C. Premier John Horgan is a smooth operator — charming, jocular, civil and (in B.C.) quite popular.
Albertans might even like the guy, if he wasn’t so determined to block a vital pipeline.
At the Western Premiers Conference in Edmonton on Thursday, the NDP premier was the soul of good cheer, joshing comfortably with three conservative provincial leaders.
Horgan left during the final news conference to catch a plane that we are given to understand runs on hemp.
“Don’t write the story that he stormed off,” Premier Jason Kenney, the host, joked to reporters.
“I’ll walk slowly if it helps,” Horgan rejoined.
Ho ho. Farewell, Premier Horgan. Once again, you made absolutely no sense.
With a straight face, Horgan said the federal government is perfectly within its rights to build the Trans Mountain pipeline. That it is a federal responsibility.
“We have not been dragging our feet,” he said, referring to permits for the project. “The rule of law is paramount in Canada.”
But he does not endorse or approve TMX. That’s because he also believes the project is “a shared jurisdiction” with Ottawa.
Now, excuse us.
Ottawa either has an unchallenged right to build the pipeline, or B.C. shares jurisdiction with Ottawa.
It cannot be both. But within a couple of minutes, Horgan said it’s both.
At one point, he said: “I think Premier Kenney and I are off on the right foot” and “I have no quarrel with the people of Alberta.”
It’s hard to tell from a video livestream, but I thought I heard Kenney banging his head on the desk.
With the pipeline reapproved, and plans for construction ramping up, Horgan might seem less formidable.
But we shouldn’t count on him fading away. There’s plenty of scope for mischief as the pipeline is built (or not) across the territory of his hostile government.
Horgan leaves open the possibility of B.C. joining more First Nations Court challenges. He will appeal to the Supreme Court his thumping 5-0 loss on the issue of controlling bitumen shipments.
Kenney said: “Frankly, I think the (B.C.) legal position is futile.”
Maybe it will be in the end, but meanwhile it’s time-consuming and breeds more investor uncertainty.
Remember, Horgan’s sly disruptions are what sent Kinder Morgan investors back to Texas with a pot of Canadian cash.
They forced Ottawa to spend $4.5 billion in public funds to save the project from collapse.
This premier of a minority government, in office for only two years, has had a significant effect on national politics and economics — mostly negative.
His adamant opposition was a significant factor in the defeat of the only other NDP premier, Rachel Notley.
Their bitter dispute helped divide the national NDP and fed the rise of provincial and federal Greens, a development Horgan may yet regret.
Horgan can congratulate himself for Kenney’s dismantling of Notley’s climate change policy, which he never acknowledged as a factor in favour of TMX.
Most of all, the delays he caused have cost Alberta’s and Canada’s economy untold billions in lost revenue.
Kenney was polite to Horgan at their first personal meetings. His current strategy is to pitch straight to the people of B.C., most of whom support the pipeline.
“We’re like sibling provinces,” Kenney said. “Both of us get frustrated with Ottawa from time to time. Both of our economies were built on resources.
“We don’t need Albertans and British Columbians going at it in some kind of phoney war. We just need a B.C. government that respects the Canadian constitution.”
Kenney added: “What we won’t accept, ultimately, is a campaign of obstruction, but we want to start by finding common ground.”
The trouble is that with John Horgan, there is no common ground that doesn’t shift.
Charming guy, though. Nice suit, too.