British Columbia Premier Christy Clark. Photo: Province of British Columbia/Flickr

Surely the weirdest political news story so far in the dull dog days of Summer 2012 was British Columbia Premier Christy Clark’s secret meeting last Thursday with Alison Redford, her Alberta counterpart.

Secret diplomacy is generally held nowadays in polite circles to be a poor idea, but seeing as Western Canadian provinces are not sovereign states — no matter the dreams of those fellows in their broken-down and bumper-stickered camo pickup trucks — it’s probably just a venial sin, diplomatically speaking.

Just the same, you really ought to agree to an agenda in advance with whomever you’re getting together for a private business meeting, an elementary bit of commonsense that seems to have been overlooked in this case.

Well, whatever. Precious little is known about the July 19 summit between the two neighbouring premiers, what they talked about or hoped to accomplish. Edmonton Journal columnist Graham Thomson managed to assemble enough facts to cobble together a column, which is a major accomplishment on any political topic nowadays.

And it was he who provided the details of the clever ruse by the Legislature’s security men and women — good trade unionists every one, members of AUPE Local 003 — who arranged for a big black Suburban to sit idling at the Legislature’s front door while Clark slipped into a big black suburban idling at the back door, thereby evading the whip sharp observers of the Legislative Press Gallery and allowing the B.C. premier to escape back to the airport.

At any rate, other than establishing that the Alberta Legislative Press Gallery is pretty easy to fool, that’s about the sum total of our knowledge of the brief meeting. Except, of course, that Redford claimed to be disappointed Clark failed to endorse the increasingly unpopular idea of a bitumen pipeline being built through the mountain ranges of British Columbia. The plan calls for the pipeline to empty into the sea (literally or figuratively, depending on whom you’re talking to) near Redford’s home port of Kitimat.

“It’s incredibly frustrating to me,” Redford later told reporters about her counterpart’s refusal to take a firm position one way or the other on the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline proposal. (The Alberta premier’s idea being, I guess, that if someone says Hell No, you can always try to talk them out of it.)

Observers less committed to the pipeline than Redford may perhaps feel a teensy bit of sympathy with Clark.

After all, her polls say she is likely to be run out of town by voters who despise the pipeline plan. They can do this because there is a political party in B.C. apparently committed to doing the will of the population.

This is quite different from the situation faced by Redford before her April 23 election, in which the polls suggested she was about to be defeated by a group of voters upset she wasn’t doing enough for the same pipeline, abetted by a party determined to build pipelines to all points of the compass!

Redford has proved to be a shrewd politician, so she must understand how sharp are the horns of the dilemma on which Clark finds herself uncomfortably perched. Clark can do what her voters want and possibly save enough votes to survive, but only by incurring the wrath of the folks who pay the freight!

So we can guess that during their private parley Clark begged Redford to shut the heck up about the pipeline because, if the Alberta premier wouldn’t, it would likely sink her leaky B.C. Liberal ship! By the sound of it, she had a similar meeting with Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, a member of the so-called Saskatchewan Party.

Clark seems not to have made the same request of Manitoba’s premier, Greg Selinger, who unlike the other three western premiers is not a member of some form of conservative political entity. This decision was likely made on the perfectly reasonable assumption Selinger is a New Democrat, just like Adrian Dix, the B.C. Opposition leader who is (at this moment, anyway) expected to beat Clark on May 14, 2013. That Tuesday is, of course, B.C.’s apparently unavoidable fixed election date.

Nevertheless, I imagine (which is something as a blogger that I can permit myself to do) that Clark did have some other questions for Redford:

CHRISTY CLARK: So, why do you think the polls got it all wrong about you and Danielle, I mean Ms. Smith? Tell me that story again, would you?

ALISON REDFORD: I’ll tell you, but only if you tell me first that you’ll endorse the Northern Gateway Pipeline!

CHRISTY CLARK: Jeeze, Alison, you know I can’t do that. If that got out, I’d be toast on a stick!

ALISON REDFORD: C’mon Christy, just endorse it a little bit!


ALISON REDFORD: What’s that, Christy, I couldn’t hear you?

CHRISTY CLARK: I’m not going to do that, Alison, and don’t do your tough-premier act on me! I’m a premier too! Just tell me this: Have you got a number for that Stephen Carter fellow, the guy who ran your campaign?

ALISON REDFORD: I’ll give it to you if you’ll endorse the pipeline. I won’t tell anyone. Just endorse it to me!

CHRISTY CLARK: Awww, Alison, that’s no fair! You know I can’t do that! Can you just give me his email address?

ALISON REDFORD: Endorse the pipeline first! …

Now there’s an important disclaimer about that conversation, and that is this: I just made it up! There is nothing whatsoever, no facts on the ground in either British Columbia or Alberta, to suggest a conversation remotely like that actually took place.

That’s because, whatever it was that was said, it’s a secret!

Just the same, you’ve got to wonder, eh?

This post also appears on David Climenhaga’s blog, Alberta Diary.

David J. Climenhaga

David J. Climenhaga

David Climenhaga is a journalist and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. He left journalism after the strike...