Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says the decision by Kinder Morgan to halt all non-essential work and related spending on its Trans Mountain pipeline in the face of continued opposition to its construction is a “devastating” blow to the Canadian energy sector.
Over the weekend, Kinder Morgan announced it needed to protect shareholders and would not be spending or doing anything more than the bare minimum to maintain the project in light of the controversial legal challenge and a vow by B.C. Premier John Horgan to do whatever it takes to stop the program.
That prompted Alberta Premier Rachel Notley to declare the province was prepared to become an investor to keep the project alive and for federal Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr to demand that Horgan stand down.
But as of Monday, there appears to be little progress in efforts to resolve the dispute between Alberta and B.C. on the pipeline and Scheer put out a statement taking aim at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s handling of the matter.
WATCH BELOW: Kinder Morgan halting Trans Mountain pipeline expansion result of ‘uncertainty’ due to B.C. opposition: Carr
“This is devastating news for Canada’s energy sector and Canadian workers,” Scheer said.
“The blame for this development rests squarely on the shoulders of Justin Trudeau. He has failed to take a single concrete step to ensure this project is completed. All he has done is give us empty words with no action.”
So far, Kinder Morgan has spent roughly $1.1 billion of the $7.4-billion it has budgeted for the cost of the pipeline project.
Speaking in a press conference Monday, Notley said vowed the provincial government was serious about becoming an investor in the project and that it would move forward against the legal challenges from B.C. “aggressively.”
She also said suggestions that the future of the pipeline pose a constitutional challenge for the federation of Canada are not inaccurate.
“I don’t know really that that’s far off,” she said.
Notley will be in Toronto this week for meetings with stakeholders as well as federal officials.
Kinder Morgan has set a deadline of May 31 for talks with “various stakeholders” to proceed seriously on the project.
WATCH: Green Party leader Elizabeth May slams Kinder Morgan for ‘artificial’ deadline
The pipeline expansion is a politically sensitive area for the federal Liberals.
Trudeau has been faced with protesters throughout multiple trips to Alberta and B.C. in recent weeks. The protestors opposed the prime minister’s support for the pipeline as well as vows he has made in recent months that the pipeline will get built regardless of the opposition to it.
Concerns centre around the fact that the project will triple the capacity of an existing pipeline to transport oil and increase tanker traffic along the ecologically sensitive B.C. coast.
Protests dogged several town hall visits by Trudeau in January and February in B.C. Opponents claimed he betrayed voters in B.C. by approving the Kinder Morgan pipeline.
However, the Liberals are also looking to gain more seats in Alberta in the next election, in addition to the three seats currently held by Kent Hehr, Amarjeet Sohi and Randy Boissoneault.
Given Alberta’s economic reliance on the energy sector, the failure to get the pipeline built likely will not cost the Liberals hugely in that province but could cause heavy damage to the Liberal brand and give the Conservatives added fire to attack them on their economic priorities during the upcoming election in 2019.
If work does not begin on the project by 2021, the permit issued allowing its expansion will expire. Conservatives have accused Trudeau of saying he supports the project while actually “waiting for the clock to run out.”
One of the environmental groups that signed that letter, Rainforest Action Network, issued a short statement in response to the halting of work and spending by Kinder Morgan, saying investors should not be surprised by the extent of opposition to the project.
“Every bank was warned,” said Jason Disterhoft, a campaigner with the group. “They knew exactly what they were getting into financing Trans Mountain.”
A court injunction was issued on March 15 barring protesters from blocking the expansion work but opposition has continued.
WATCH BELOW: Green Party leader Elizabeth May arrested live on-air broadcast
On March 25, federal Green Party Leader Elizabeth May and B.C. NDP MP Kennedy Stewart were arrested for joining protesters who crossed the injunction line at the Burnaby Mountain work site.
Conservatives say Trudeau missed a huge opportunity to save the Trans Mountain pipeline last week when he failed to meet with Horgan.
After visiting oil facilities in Alberta’s Fort McMurray, Trudeau headed over to Vancouver Island to visit the Canadian Coast Guard offices where he discussed the balance needed between environmental protection and natural resource development as pipeline protesters looked on.
WATCH BELOW: Trudeau hugs woman begging for him to ‘protect our coastline’ referencing Kinder Morgan pipeline
Although the event was just over one kilometre from the B.C. legislature, no meeting with Horgan was planned — something Conservative MP Chris Warkentin says should have been a priority.
Warkentin says Trudeau should immediately demand a meeting with Horgan if he is really serious about actually getting the Trans Mountain pipeline built.
With files from the Canadian Press