Escalating Kinder Morgan dispute prompts Trudeau to call joint meeting with Notley, Horgan
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will be flying back to Canada from Peru this weekend for a joint meeting with Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and B.C. Premier John Horgan over the Kinder Morgan pipeline dispute.
A spokesperson for the Prime Minister’s Office confirmed the meeting to reporters on board the prime minister’s plane bound for the Summit of the Americas in Peru shortly before issuing a press release.
Tensions between Alberta and B.C. have escalated dramatically over the last several weeks following a decision this past weekend by Kinder Morgan to suspend all non-essential spending on its Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.
WATCH: Morneau comments on Trudeau meeting with B.C.-Alberta premiers
Kinder Morgan also issued a deadline of May 31 for the government to provide a clear guarantee that it will be able to ultimately complete the project once it ramps up the next phase of investment and construction.
“The prime minister will be returning to Ottawa following his visit to Peru to convene a meeting on Sunday, April 15 with the premiers of Alberta and British Columbia to discuss next steps for moving the Trans Mountain Expansion project forward,” said spokesperson Eleanore Catenaro.
“Further details will be made available in due course.”
WATCH BELOW: Finance Minister Morneau talks about Kinder Morgan pipeline project
Trudeau is departing for a 10-day trip set to see him attend the Summit of the Americas in Lima, Peru, the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London, and a bilateral meeting in France.
Following a stop in Peru, Trudeau will now return to Ottawa for a meeting with both Notley and Horgan on April 15 before continuing on to Europe.
The decision to call a joint meeting of the leaders comes amid escalating threats by Notley to cut off its oil exports to B.C. in an attempt to make the province suffer for its continued efforts to delay development of the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion.
Horgan, whose government is supported by the three-member Green provincial caucus, was elected on a pledge to do everything to oppose the project.
In a tweet issued minutes after news of the meeting became public, Horgan confirmed he will attend the meeting and said he will do so to represent B.C’s interests.
His tweet did not explicitly mention continued opposition to the pipeline development but in a press conference Thursday afternoon, he vowed to continue fighting when asked whether he would stand down.
“I’m not prepared to do that. We are in a court of law which is what civilized people do. I don’t understand why it was okay in February when we proposed the reference – the premier of Alberta said that was the right course of action – and a press release is issued on a Sunday afternoon and all of a sudden I am in the way,” Horgan said.
“I have been doing what I said I would do and that is defend B.C.’s coast. We’re doing it in a lawful manner and there’s nothing to stand down from.”
Notley has not yet commented on the meeting but has been demanding Trudeau step in to take concrete action to get progress on the pipeline moving, and said Alberta would consider taking a financial stake in the project if that is what is required to get it done.
The federal government has not suggested it supports nationalizing the pipeline but Finance Minister Bill Morneau said at a public policy forum in Quebec on Thursday that the government has the tools it needs to make sure the project moves forward.
He did not say whether the government is also looking at taking an investor stake in the pipeline and also rejected the notion that the government needs to get Alberta and B.C. to compromise on the matter.
“What we’re trying to say is it needs to move forward,” he said before noting the government has already looked at concerns raised during the initial approval process by tabling legislation it says will strengthen protections for the coast and oceans.
“The idea of compromise, I would put it differently. There may be ways we need to address some of the risks that were unexpected.”
He said one of the risks that may need more consideration is that there are financial implications to projects taking longer to be studied and approved, but did not specifically point to federal investment as a means to shore up investor confidence.
“We will need to listen along the way but that is the outcome we will achieve,” he said.
“Failure is not an option. We’re going to get this done.”
WATCH BELOW: Is it time for the government to take a hard line against BC over the Kinder Morgan pipeline?
While Alberta argues it needs the pipeline and increased access to oil tankers along the coast, opponents to the project argue the risk of a spill and environmental damage is too great.
Currently, Alberta’s oil exports go largely to the American market and fetch a lower price against the American crude also on the market there.
While the pipeline in question already exists, the expansion Kinder Morgan is pursuing would triple its capacity.
The permit granted to Kinder Morgan for the project expires in 2021 if work on the $7.4-billion project has not begun.
So far, Kinder Morgan has spent roughly $1 billion but says it cannot jeopardize investor funds and begin ramping up spending if it does not have a clear guarantee it will be able to complete the project.
Repeated legal challenges and protests have so far derailed efforts to begin construction in earnest.
Last month, dozens of protesters including Green Party Leader Elizabeth May and NDP MP Kennedy Stewart were arrested for violating a court injunction barring protests from crossing into the work site at Burnaby Mountain in B.C.
A B.C. judge is now recommending they face criminal rather than civil charges for the violation.
The B.C. attorney general has not yet decided whether to pursue those recommendations.