Prominent Western Canadian mayors are engaging in a war of words over the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion.
The expansion of the existing pipeline would almost triple the amount of bitumen from Alberta to an export terminal in Burrard Inlet.
Concerned about the impact of increased tanker traffic, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, along with three local First Nations leaders, was in Ottawa today to convince the Trudeau government to kill the proposed expansion.
“We’ll use every tool at our disposal to prevent this pipeline from being built,” Robertson told reporters at a press conference. “An expanded Kinder Morgan pipeline is not in Vancouver or Canada’s environmental or economic interest.”
But Robertson’s words are pitting him against his counterpart a province over, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi.
In the past, Nenshi has said Robertson’s concerns over the project amount to fearmongering and Tuesday said they are overblown.
“I wonder if he’s forgetting that the port of Vancouver is the third-largest port in North America and every single day it transports caustic soda, coal, sugar,” Nenshi said, sarcastically adding, “what happens when there’s a sugar spill, that’s probably not very good for the wildlife.”
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Earlier today, Robertson responded to Nenshi’s comments by saying, “I don’t think they’re helpful.”
Tasked with breaking up the fight is the federal government, and it won’t be easy. Liberals campaigned on fighting climate change and forging a better relationship with First Nations but they now also talk about the importance of getting resources to market.
Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr avoided wading into the mayoral dustup today.
“It’s the job of the government to factor in all the opinions of Canadians,” he said.
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley threw her support behind the pipeline expansion when asked about the Robertson-Nenshi war of words.
“From my perspective as a premier I’m simply going to say I think the merits outweigh the arguments against it,” Notley told reporters in Edmonton. “But that being said, every community needs to be heard.”
The federal cabinet is set to make a decision on the pipeline expansion by the end of the year. The National Energy Board has already made its recommendation – conditionally approving the project – but another round of consultations is set to take place before then.
Kinder Morgan Canada president Ian Anderson told Global News Ottawa will have to decide what’s in the national interest.
“Local interests are important,” Anderson said. “They’re important in the design and consideration of projects like ours, but it’s the national interest that’s at stake.”