Conservatives accuse Justin Trudeau of ‘waiting for the clock to run out’ on Kinder Morgan pipeline
As the feud over the Kinder Morgan pipeline in Western Canada continues, Conservatives in Ottawa kicked off debate on a motion calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to table his plans for getting the pipeline built by accusing him of “waiting for the clock to run out” so the project approval eventually dies.
“I can’t help but wonder if the reason the prime minister is sitting on his hands and failing to get involved and lead is because he’s just waiting for the clock to run out,” said Shannon Stubbs, the Alberta Conservative MP for Lakelands, pointing to the fact that the authorization for the pipeline expires on Sept. 30, 2021, unless construction has begun on the project.
Stubbs also argued that repeated delays, combined with the escalating feud between B.C. and Alberta, risk damaging the integrity of a stamp of approval by the federal government and will cause other companies to question the practicality of pursuing similar projects in Canada.
“The question here is what does a federal approval of a pipeline that has already gone through Canada’s rigorous, stringent energy approval process … mean when the project can be continually delayed?”
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The National Energy Board approved the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline expansion in May 2016, which will triple the capacity of Kinder Morgan’s pipeline between Edmonton and Burnaby, B.C.
Tanker traffic in the Burnaby terminal is expected to increase to 34 per month from roughly five vessels per month because of the expansion.
The NDP government in B.C. banned the expansion of oil imports through the province last month in an attempt to stop the pipeline, which faces widespread opposition in the province.
Alberta NDP Premier Rachel Notley immediately vowed to retaliate and last week announced the province will no longer import B.C. wine because of the efforts to obstruct the pipeline expansion.
Supporters of the pipeline argue it is vital to Alberta’s ongoing economic recovery, while opponents argue the risk of a spill along the B.C. coast poses too great a risk to allow the project to proceed.
The question at the heart of the fight centres around whether a province has the right to impede the progress of a federally-approved project, and one that the government deems to be in the national interest.
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Trudeau vowed repeatedly over the last several weeks that the pipeline “will get built.” And last week, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna announced federal officials had been dispatched to liaise with the B.C. government in an attempt to come to a resolution.
Still, the Conservatives argued Monday that the government is not doing enough. Conservative MP Jamie Schmale called for the government to “look at invoking the use of special powers under Section 92 of the Constitution.”
Section 92 of the Constitution lays out the areas of provincial and federal jurisdiction and states that “where such a law of Parliament and a law of a province conflict, the law of Parliament prevails to the extent of the conflict.”
Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr defended the government’s handling of the dispute and took aim at the policies of former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper as a large part of the reason opposition to pipelines in B.C. has been so fierce.
“The moment Harper decided to use all means available for pipelines is the moment he lost the public trust,” Carr said.
He accused the Conservatives of using the motion to inflame regional tensions and reopen old wounds between Alberta and the rest of the country over its energy industry and policies that have attempted to constrain or curtail it.
Carr likened the motion as an attempt to use a “sledgehammer” when there are more constructive options, including ongoing discussion.
However, he repeated the warnings from Trudeau and McKenna over recent weeks that attempts by B.C. to delay or stop a federally-approved project will not be tolerated.