Premier John Horgan pledged Tuesday to keep fighting in court to protect B.C.’s coast despite a federal government decision to buy the Trans Mountain pipeline and other Kinder Morgan Canada assets for $4.5 billion.
“I will continue to do my best to protect B.C.’s interests by ensuring our coast, our water and our land is kept pristine,” he said.
The province will pursue its reference case in the B.C. Court of Appeal, where it is asking for confirmation that it has the right to regulate and restrict interprovincial movement of oil.
Horgan said the province remains concerned about the “catastrophic consequences” of a spill, “regardless of the owner of the pipeline, regardless of the owner of the rail cars.”
Ottawa’s purchase means B.C. is seeking court approval for the right to regulate not just a federally approved project, but a federally owned one. Horgan said that makes some difference in the paramountcy of the federal government, but the case will continue.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who spoke with Horgan Tuesday, reiterated his government’s opinion that it has jurisdiction over interprovincial pipelines.
The federal Liberals say the project will be successful because of Canada’s world-leading Oceans Protection Plan, ongoing consultations with Indigenous communities and strengthened environmental standards.
Trudeau’s cabinet signed off on the purchase Tuesday morning just days before Kinder Morgan’s self-imposed deadline to decide whether to halt or go ahead with the pipeline. The purchase is subject to the approval of Kinder Morgan shareholders.
Green Party MP Elizabeth May, representing Saanich-Gulf Islands, and Victoria NDP MP Murray Rankin both panned the federal move.
“It’s the kind of epic disaster of the last century I couldn’t imagine a modern government doing, but that’s exactly what we are doing,” May said.
Rankin called it a “ridiculous” amount of money to spend on an aging pipeline given other pressing issues.
“The cost of meeting the shortfall for clean water on First Nations reserves is $3.2 billion,” he said in a statement.
“Instead, the Liberals want to buy a 65-year old pipeline for $4.5 billion that endangers the future of Victoria and the south coast of B.C.”
The B.C. Chamber of Commerce welcomed the move, although it expressed concern about Canada’s “broken” regulatory regime.
“It’s long-overdue good news that Canada will get its resources to tidewater and stop selling to a single customer,” president Val Litwin said in a statement.
“But the fact that our federal government had to step in proves there’s still deep uncertainty around investing in Canada.”
B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson accused Horgan and the NDP of forcing the Trudeau government to bankroll a project that should have been financed by the private sector.
“This is a bad day for British Columbia, because John Horgan has decided to kick the feds in the shins and now they’re coming back with our tax dollars to fix the problem,” he said.
B.C. Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver suggested that Trudeau got “suckered” into putting Canadian taxpayers on the hook for a questionable project.
“What about the companies who invest in wind farms or solar farms? What about an electric vehicle company? Why is the government picking a company from the last century and trying to double-down on yesterday’s economy?”
Horgan said that Ottawa is now directly responsible for everything from wellhead to tidewater and beyond.
He added that if Trudeau “believes [in] building a pipeline to export raw materials to other jurisdictions to create jobs and wealth in other places, he’ll have to be accountable for that.”
In return for the purchase, Kinder Morgan will go ahead with its original plan to twin the pipeline this summer while the sale is finalized, which isn’t expected to happen until August, Morneau told the news conference in Ottawa.
Once the sale is complete, Morneau said, the federal government will continue construction on its own, with a view to eventually selling the whole thing, once market conditions allow for the best price.
— with files from Canadian Press