B.C. Premier John Horgan is defending his government’s plans to challenge a National Energy Board (NEB) ruling that will allow the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion to ignore a pair of Burnaby bylaws.
The province announced Saturday that it would seek leave to appeal the December ruling, which would permit the pipeline company to begin construction at its two Burnaby terminals over the objection of the city.
The province said it planned to argue that the NEB “erred by too broadly defining federal jurisdiction over interprovincial pipelines.”
On Sunday, Horgan said his government was well within its rights to act.
“We’re appealing as we’re entitled to do. We have a whole host of initiatives that we’re looking at,” said Horgan.
However, the premier said his primary focus is not on the growing pipeline dispute with Ottawa and Edmonton.
“What we’re focused on right now is tabling a budget that works for people in British Columbia. We’re going to be tackling the housing crisis, we’re going to be tackling childcare. That’s our focus this week. Other jurisdictions can talk about what they want to talk about.”
British Columbia is locked in a tense standoff with Alberta over the proposed 1,150-kilometre pipeline expansion.
The province has proposed banning any increase in diluted bitumen shipped to B.C. until there is stronger science on the ability to clean up a marine spill.
Alberta has retaliated by banning the import of B.C. wines, and Premier Rachel Notley has threatened that her province will escalate actions if B.C. doesn’t back down this week.
BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson said with the new appeal, Horgan was risking further retaliation from B.C.’s neighbour to the east.
“They’re trying to drag this out, and clearly the prime minister and the Alberta government are interested in a firm answer in the near future,” he said. “And British Columbia will probably lose in the courts. Do we want to do that?
“Alberta has clearly set its sights on winning this fight. John Horgan started this battle and it is totally unnecessary. And he really has to rise to the occasion, swallow his pride, and make that phone call to Edmonton to make this all go away. Because this is hurting British Columbia, and it’s going to get worse.”
Horgan, however, suggested the province would forge ahead, despite critics’ fears the dispute will hit the B.C. economy.
“We’re leading the country in job creation, we’re leading the country in private sector investment. I think things are going pretty well. We’re going to keep the course,” he said.
Last week, the NEB granted Trans Mountain permission to begin clearing and grading work for a tunnel on Burnaby Mountain, despite that city’s strong opposition.