This week’s election in British Columbia threatens to upset that balance. While recounts are ongoing, Liberal Christy Clark appears headed toward a minority government. This could create headaches for the already approved Trans Mountain expansion project, since the NDP and Green Party leaders staunchly oppose the oil line from the Edmonton area to Burnaby.  If the $7.4-billion Trans Mountain expansion doesn’t proceed, the underlying tradeoff of short-term pain for long-term gain — Alberta gaining social licence to build oil pipelines — could unravel. “I have never once believed that bargain was going to work and I will be the first to say I told you so,” said Mark Scholz, president of the Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors, which represents the country’s drillers. “It was incredibly naive and … we have to go back to the drawing board, because obviously the strategy didn’t work.” Alberta’s new carbon tax, now at $20 a tonne, is set to rise to $30 next year, while an impending federal carbon price will reach $50 per tonne in 2022. Scholz and others in the industry, as well as opposition critics, have questioned the wisdom of Alberta and Canada agreeing to drive up costs for business — and consumers — to win social licence, while the United States lacks such added expenses. Last November, the bargain appeared to have worked. In approving Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain project, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau credited Alberta’s climate actions for helping pave the way for the decision. On Thursday, federal Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr visited Calgary and reiterated his backing of the pipeline, but didn’t want to speculate on whether a minority government in B.C. could imperil its future. He stressed the proposal went through a rigorous regulatory process in front of the National Energy Board and was approved by Ottawa with 157 conditions.

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