Hor­gan says B.C. will con­tinue pipe­line fight

The Prince George Citizen - - Front Page - Rob SHAW HOR­GAN

VIC­TO­RIA — B.C.’s premier is vow­ing to con­tinue le­gal chal­lenges against the Trans Moun­tain pipe­line ex­pan­sion, in what may now be mostly sym­bolic op­po­si­tion to a pro­ject Ot­tawa has again ap­proved.

John Hor­gan said he’s dis­ap­pointed the fed­eral government gave an­other green light Tues­day to a plan to twin the ex­ist­ing pipe­line from near Ed­mon­ton to Burn­aby, which will triple ca­pac­ity to 890,000 bar­rels a day.

B.C. has main­tained an oil spill on the ocean from in­creased tanker traf­fic would be cat­a­strophic, though it has also ac­knowl­edged it lacks the power to reg­u­late or ban tankers.

While B.C. will con­tinue two court chal­lenges, Hor­gan said the prov­ince will grant any law­fully re­quested per­mits to start con­struc­tion on the twinned pipe­line this sum­mer.

“Al­though I re­gret the fed­eral government’s de­ci­sion, it is within their au­thor­ity to make that de­ci­sion,” he said.

The premier did not rule out throw­ing the B.C. government’s sup­port behind fu­ture First Na­tions or en­vi­ron­men­tal chal­lenges, but said he’d con­sider it on a case-by-case ba­sis.

Ot­tawa’s ap­proval did not come as a sur­prise, given the fed­eral government pur­chased the pipe­line from Kin­der Mor­gan for $4.5 bil­lion in 2018, say­ing its ex­pan­sion was in the na­tional in­ter­est to get more oil from Al­berta to over­seas mar­kets.

Hor­gan’s en­trenched op­po­si­tion is equally un­sur­pris­ing, given the B.C. NDP cam­paigned in 2017 “to use every tool in our tool box to stop the pro­ject from go­ing ahead” and its mi­nor­ity government holds power through an agree­ment with the B.C. Green party that says the prov­ince must do ev­ery­thing it can to block Trans Moun­tain.

But it ap­pears Hor­gan is mostly out of op­tions, said Richard John­ston, Canada Re­search Chair in pub­lic opin­ion, elec­tions and rep­re­sen­ta­tion at the Uni­ver­sity of B.C. “We’re into a kind of sym­bolic phase now as far as the B.C. government is concerned,” he said.

“What else can he do? It’s clear he can’t en­gage in per­mit­ting ac­tions whose ob­vi­ous in­tent is to de­stroy the pipe­line, the courts have made that clear.”

B.C. has is­sued 310 per­mits so far for the Trans Moun­tain pro­ject.

Hor­gan said B.C. is ask­ing the Supreme Court of Canada to re­view pro­posed leg­is­la­tion – which the B.C. Court of Ap­peal ruled un­con­sti­tu­tional – to re­strict the flow of oil­sands bi­tu­men into B.C. on en­vi­ron­men­tal grounds.

And B.C. will also con­tinue to challenge Al­berta leg­is­la­tion that threat­ens to cur­tail the flow of oil to B.C. through the ex­ist­ing pipe­line if B.C. con­tin­ues to op­pose the ex­pan­sion.

Al­berta Premier Jason Ken­ney praised the fed­eral ap­proval, and called for im­me­di­ate con­struc­tion.

“This sec­ond ap­proval of the Trans Moun­tain pipe­line isn’t a vic­tory to cel­e­brate, it’s just an­other step in a process that has, frankly, taken too long,” said Ken­ney.

“That’s why we’ll mea­sure suc­cess not by to­day’s de­ci­sion, but by the be­gin­ning of ac­tual con­struc­tion and, more im­por­tantly, by com­ple­tion of the pipe­line.”

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau said Canada must twin the pipe­line to im­prove the econ­omy, but that he is also con­fi­dent of the en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tions put in place.

“To Bri­tish Columbians who worry about a spill, for ex­am­ple, know that we take your con­cerns very se­ri­ously,” said Trudeau.

“Our top pri­or­ity is mak­ing sure there’s no spill in the first place. But we know we need to be pre­pared for any­thing.”

B.C. En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Ge­orge Hey­man said there are gaps in Ot­tawa’s pro­posed marine re­sponse plan – mainly around spill pre­pared­ness and re­sponse ca­pac­ity for lo­cal gov­ern­ments and First Na­tions.

First Na­tions and en­vi­ron­men­tal groups lined up Tues­day to de­nounce the de­ci­sion and prom­ise protests and court ac­tion.

Trudeau said he’s con­fi­dent his government has ad­dressed con­cerns about a lack of mean­ing­ful First Na­tions con­sul­ta­tion, and im­pact on en­dan­gered killer whales, raised by the Fed­eral Court of Ap­peal when it quashed ap­proval for the pipe­line in 2018.

Trudeau also said he’d wel­come Abo­rig­i­nal in­vest­ment in the pipe­line, which sev­eral In­dige­nous-backed groups have shown in­ter­est in pur­su­ing.

“It could be an eq­uity stake, rev­enue shar­ing, or some­thing else al­to­gether. We’re com­ing to the ta­ble with an open mind.”

Green Leader An­drew Weaver said he’ll work to find ad­di­tional ways to op­pose Trans Moun­tain.

“Mr. Trudeau fails on the cli­mate file, he fails on this file and frankly I think Canadians de­serve bet­ter,” said Weaver.

“It’s a sad day for all, that this has moved for­ward purely for po­lit­i­cal rea­sons and not for eco­nomic of en­vi­ron­men­tal rea­sons.”

Protests and le­gal chal­lenges are likely to ramp up as con­struc­tion be­gins in the com­ing weeks.

“There is still a num­ber of im­me­di­ate steps to do in terms of per­mit­ting,” said Trudeau.

“But the plan is to have shov­els in the ground this sum­mer.”

Trudeau’s ap­proval of the pipe­line sends a mes­sage that “this is a government pre­pared to stay the course on the cour­ses of ac­tion that it adopts,” said John­ston.

But it could also come with se­ri­ous ram­i­fi­ca­tions for the Trudeau government’s chances in B.C. dur­ing this fall’s fed­eral elec­tion, said John­ston.

“I think the Lib­er­als were al­ready in se­ri­ous trou­ble in parts of the coun­try with the parts of the elec­torate that would be most concerned with this de­ci­sion, en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists in B.C. and res­i­dents of the coast gen­er­ally,” said John­ston.

“The Lib­er­als have lost ground in the polls. I think they are in se­ri­ous trou­ble.

“In Al­berta, this isn’t go­ing to sal­vage their po­si­tion. No change there, they are just go­ing to lose those seats I think.

“And then for the rest of the coun­try the elec­tion will turn on other ques­tions.”

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