August 10, 2017 5:08 pm
Updated: August 11, 2017 1:57 am

Stakeholders divided over BC NDP plans for Trans Mountain pipeline expansion

The new NDP government is acting on a key plank in its election platform. In a news conference held Thursday, they outlined their plans to stop the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project. Keith Baldrey on the landmark legal battle ahead.

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Reaction is pouring in to the BC NDP government’s strategy to block the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion.

Earlier on Thursday, Attorney General David Eby and Environment Minister George Heyman said the province would seek intervenor status in ongoing First Nations litigation over the project — and that no construction could occur on Crown land without improved First Nations consultation.

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READ MORE: Trans Mountain Pipeline is not in B.C.’s best interest says BC NDP government

The move has drawn a mixed response from stakeholders across the province.

Kinder Morgan president Ian Anderson issued a statement Thursday afternoon saying the company “will be carefully reviewing” the government’s plans, and that it “remains ready and willing to meet with the Government to work through their concerns.”

Anderson added the company still plans to get shovels in the ground by next month.

“We have undertaken thorough, extensive and meaningful consultations with Aboriginal Peoples, communities and individuals and remain dedicated to those efforts and relationships as we move forward with construction activities in September.”

LISTEN: BC Liberal MLA Ellis Ross slams NDP for using First Nations as “tools”

The Opposition BC Liberals wasted no time blasting the NDP’s plans, which they said sends the message that B.C. is closed for business.

“They got all the permits, they went through the environmental assessment successfully,” said Liberal MLA for Skeena and former Haisla Cheif Councillor Ellis Ross.

“And then for a government to come up at the last minute with maybe more rules, basically you’re sending a message to all of the industry across the world [that] even if you come to B.C. and follow the rules there’s a pretty good chance you’re not going to get your project built anyway.”

READ MORE: B.C. NDP government to make Trans Mountain Pipeline announcement Thursday

Speaking with Mike Smyth on CKNW’s Simi Sara show, Ross said the NDP is using First Nations as a political tool, a strategy he said eventually could end with the government giving Indigenous communities an absolute veto over projects by implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

“I think there’s a misconception that consultation and accommodation are a tool to get agreement,” he said, adding that 41 First Nations support the project and getting 100 per cent indigenous buy-in would be impossible.


LISTEN: Green Party leader Andrew Weaver reacts to Kinder Morgan announcement

Across the aisle, the BC Green Party is celebrating the move.

“We’re delighted with the approach that has been taken,” said Green Leader Andrew Weaver.

READ MORE: B.C. election results put federally-approved Trans Mountain pipeline in jeopardy

He said he’s looking forward to working with the government to stop the project, and believes the NDP strategy will work.

“I honestly think Trans Mountain will never get built — the extension. I don’t see it happening. I just don’t see it happening.”

Weaver said the National Energy Board review was flawed and can’t see a judicial review finding otherwise.

WATCH: What’s to stop Kinder Morgan from breaking ground on the pipeline?

The environmental sector echoed Weaver.

Peter McCartney with the Wilderness Committee said the move is a big step to ensuring Indigenous rights are upheld.

“Even if the courts do not stop this project, the people of British Columbia are ready to get up and take action in their own hands. So we’re very hopeful that it won’t come to that and that the court cases will come through for us.”

He said they were thrilled to see Thomas Berger as part of the legal team, adding he played a key role in the fight against the Mackenzie-Valley Pipeline.

LISTEN: Chris Gardner with the ICBA says the move sends the message business is unwelcome in B.C. 

The Chief Investment Officer of Auspice Capital Advisors, which trades heavily in the oil and gas sector, thinks Canada’s resource industry will falter without oil being sent overseas.

Tim Pickering says the pipeline is needed so Canadian oil isn’t dependent on our neighbours to the south.

“You need to get the best price you can for that resource, so that you can pour that economic value back into society. And we’re not going to do that in Canada because we are handicapped by selling it to one buyer. We sell our oil to one buyer – the United States. One. Not three, not two, one.”

Reception to the NDPs plans was less favourable in the construction industry.

Chris Gardner, president of the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association, echoed concerns voiced by the BC Liberals.

“Because effectively, government approvals and environmental assessments in British Columbia aren’t worth the paper they are printed on, because the government can come around, a new government can be elected and on a whim, change its mind and head in a different direction and you don’t have a project,” he told Smyth.

Gardner says the loss of the project would mean the loss of key jobs that support families in the construction industry.

The Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation is also warning that fighting the project could will cost British Columbians “a ton.”

B.C. director Kris Sims said the decision to fight the expansion comes with a high price tag.

“If they’re going to turn around and fight Justin Trudeau’s federal government, which approved this expansion of the pipeline, then that’s a double whammy for Canadian taxpayers.”

And she said that could only be half of the cost.

“Will Kinder Morgan, will this company, this private company, even then try to counter-sue for losses? What happens if that happens?”

–With files from Liza Yuzda and Kyle Benning

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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