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Even if oil-rich Alberta were to break from Canada as a separatist movement wants, the landlocked heart of Canada’s oil industry will still have a tough task getting its oil out of the province, according to experts who discussed the ‘Wexit’ idea with The Canadian Press.
After the federal election in Canada, won by the Liberals of Justin Trudeau and considered to be bad news for the pipelines in the works to get Alberta’s oil out of the province, a separatist movement has gained traction in Western Canada. ‘Wexit’, the term borrowed from the now notorious Brexit, calls for a referendum on Alberta and Saskatchewan breaking away from Canada.
“We’re separating and that’s what’s going to happen,” Wexit leader Peter Downing said at a recent meeting.
And according to the Wexit movement, once Alberta is free from Canada, it can use the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to have the oil pipelines it desperately needs built.
The 1982 convention does say that “land-locked States shall enjoy freedom of transit through the territory of transit States by all means of transport.”
But the convention also notes that “The terms and modalities for exercising freedom of transit shall be agreed between the land-locked States and transit States concerned through bilateral, subregional or regional agreements.”
Considering that one of the neighbors to a potentially independent country of Alberta would be British Columbia, experts don’t see how breaking from Canada would make completing oil pipelines, especially the extension of the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline, easy for Alberta.
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“You can imagine how that would play out up here if Alberta, Saskatchewan leave ... We’ve seen enough out of B.C. to know how that would play out,” Carlo Dade, director of the Trade and Investment Centre at the Canada West Foundation, told The Canadian Press.
According to Silvia Maciunas, a fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation in Waterloo, Ontario, an independent Alberta can’t just tell Canada ‘we have the right to pass through here, so here we go.’
“They have to talk to the other state, which would be Canada,” she said.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews.