OTTAWA - The governing British Columbia Liberals have placed their cards on the table over the Northern Gateway pipeline project.
On Monday, provincial Environment Minister Terry Lake and Aboriginal Relations Minister Mary Polak laid out five "minimum" requirements for the approval of any heavy oil pipeline proposals for B.C., including "world class" marine and land oil spill response.
The province also asked for an unspecified "fair share" of any economic benefits related to pipeline projects and respect for Aboriginal treaty rights.
In a statement, federal Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver avoided addressing B.C.'s demands, instead reiterating his government's commitment to gaining access to more emerging energy markets and pointing to what he called current "rigorous" environmental standards.
"Our government is determined that Canada seize today's enormous opportunities in a careful and responsible manner, for the benefit of Canadians now and in the future," he said.
Lake danced around questions from reporters over whether B.C. had the power to nix the Northern Gateway if Ottawa failed to meet its conditions.
"As Canadians, we've always found our way through these issues," he said, but hinted that the province did have bargaining chips if it came down to discussions between the parties.
The project requires 60 provincial permits in order to get the go-ahead, Lake noted.
The $5.5 billion, 1,170-kilometre Enbridge project would carry Alberta crude to Kitimat, B.C., where it would loaded onto tankers and shipped to Asian markets.
Simon Fraser University's Doug McArthur, a public policy expert, said both levels of government face some potentially difficult talks down the road - especially over concerns of a coastline oil spill.
"It would involve some interesting B.C.-federal government discussions and negotiations," he said.
Energy issues - including pipelines - will also be raised when the provincial premiers meet in Halifax later this week.
Northern Gateway is currently being reviewed by the National Energy Board, which is scheduled to table its report in December 2013.
A B.C. provincial election is planned for May 2013. The Opposition NDP now outstrip the Liberals in the polls and have come out against the project.