BATTLE OF THE PIPELINE BEGINS
NDP and Greens vow to stop Trans Mountain
B. C. Premier Christy Clark admitted Tuesday that her Liberals looked doomed, but the question now is whether her fall will also kill off the Trans Mountain pipeline project.
B. C. NDP Leader John Horgan and Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver on Tuesday vowed to use “every tool available” to stop the expansion of the pipeline as they announced a deal agreeing to unite to form a minority government.
Horgan said they had a responsibility to “defend” the coastline of British Columbia against a pipeline that would increase tanker traffic sevenfold off B.C.’s coast.
“The challenge here is to demonstrate to British Columbians, as we are today, that people from different political persuasions can come together in the interest of British Columbians so people don’t fear minority governments, in fact, they embrace them,” Horgan said.
But the issue has all the hallmarks of a political battle royal, both provincially and federally.
Both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley defended the pipeline expansion on Tuesday, saying it was in the best interests of all of Canada.
“We will continue to advocate on behalf of all Albertans and quite frankly all Canadians’ economic interests to get that pipeline done. And mark my words: that pipeline will be built,” Notley said.
Trudeau also stood by the project.
“Regardless of a change in government in British Columbia or anywhere, the facts and evidence do not change,” he told reporters in Italy during an official visit.
The constitution allows Trudeau in theory to declare the project to be for “the general advantage of Canada,” which would let Ottawa take control. That could trigger political outrage among provincial governments.
Federal Conservatives already smell blood.
Newly-minted Leader Andrew Scheer said there were “forces uniting” to kill the Trans Mountain project and Trudeau did not have the political stamina to stand up to them.
“The Prime Minister personally approved this pipeline,” Scheer said in the House of Commons.
“He said that it was a fundamental responsibility to get Canadian energy to market. Will the Prime Minister finally stand up to the forces that are seeking to kill these jobs, or will he fold like a cardboard cutout?”
Greg MacEachern, a former Liberal strategist who is now a vice- president at Environics, said whatever happened in the B.C. legislature there would be areas of com- mon ground and room for negotiation.
“If there is a new NDP/ Green government they are also going to have demands,” he said. “What this likely will come down to is the economy.”
But federal Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said Tuesday she thought Trans Mountain was “dead.”
Both Horgan and Weaver campaigned against Trans Mountain, a factor University of British Columbia professor George Hoberg said was certainly part of the election result and a sign that a majority of British Columbians did not want the pipeline to be twinned.
“A l ot has c hanged,” said Hoberg, of the politics around Trans Mountain.
While interprovincial pipelines remain the jurisdiction of Ottawa, he said a province could put up road blocks, such as refusing logging permits for construction or insisting on a provincial environmental assessment.
“If it does either of those things the federal government would have to go to court to force B.C. to stand down and respect federal jurisdiction,” said Hoberg. “They would probably win. That would take a couple of years.”
He said any delays could further erode the confidence of investors, who were already showing some skittishness about the project during Kinder Morgan’s initial public offering Tuesday.
University of British Columbia law professor Jocelyn Stacey agreed, saying, “There’s lots of room for the province to sort of complicate things, to drag things out.”
A source in the federal government acknowledged events in B. C. had made people in Ottawa nervous. The pipeline had already caused strife for the ruling party among supporters and even within the caucus with several B.C. Liberal MPs opposing it.
The project would increase Pacific exports of Canada’s landlocked crude, a move that would help the country’s large oil industry. It has met opposition from environmentalists and aboriginal groups in British Columbia who are worried about oil spills from the increase in tanker traffic it would cause.
Clark’s Liberals won 43 seats in the May 9 election, but together the Greens and NDP have 44.
Clark said she was not ready to walk away from office before recalling the legislature to see if she could get support to continue governing.
But Clark appeared resigned to losing a confidence motion, opening the way for the second- place NDP to be given a chance to form a government by Lt.- Gov. Judith Guichon.
Ultimately, Clark said, it would be up to the lieutenant- governor to decide whether the NDP got the green light or whether a new election was called.