It wasn’t long after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, B.C. Premier John Horgan and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley spoke to reporters about their hastily arranged meeting to discuss the Trans Mountain pipeline that the leaders of Alberta’s opposition parties bemoaned what they saw as a lack of progress on resolving the divisive political deadlock.
“Today we have yet more proof of the total failure of the Liberal/NDP strategy to defend Canada’s energy industry,” United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney told reporters on Sunday. “Even after this emergency meeting, British Columbia Premier John Horgan has doubled down on his opposition to Canada’s energy industry. We are no closer to getting this critical project built.”
Just last week, Kinder Morgan suspended all non-essential spending on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, presenting the federal government with a May 31 deadline to give it assurance the project will be able to be completed. The project, which would triple the pipeline’s capacity to transport Alberta oilsands bitumen to the West Coast, has faced stiff opposition in B.C. In the form of protests, legal challenges, and regulatory hurdles presented by the B.C. Government and some municipalities. B.C. Premier John Horgan has said he wants more certainty about who would pay for the cleanup in the event of a catastrophic oil spill and about environmental safeguards being in place.
“A week ago today, we heard the market speak when Kinder Morgan shareholders sent a message to that company to suspend any major future spending, pending a review, with the possible cancellation of this project just six weeks away,” Kenney said.
Watch below: Some videos from Global News’ ongoing coverage of the controversy surrounding the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.
The UCP leader blasted Trudeau for what he called a “total lack of leadership” and said the federal government should consider several legal options that are at its disposal, including using its “constitutional declaratory power” to bring certainty to the project’s investors. Kenney added that the easiest option to bring B.C. Around on the pipeline issue might be for the federal government to suspend funding to the province.
“If the federal government was serious about this, the simplest thing would have been two weeks ago to pick up the phone and say, ‘You know that meeting we’ve scheduled to sign $4.5 billion in infrastructure funds? Yeah, that’s on indefinite hold,'” he said.
Alberta Party Leader Stephen Mandel said he was also frustrated by a lack of tangible progress made on Sunday.
“I don’t want to be overly critical of anybody,” he said. “It’s simple to be critical, but they (Liberal government) do have the authority to push this forward, otherwise we don’t have a country if interprovincial trade and projects like this that have to go through the regulatory process cannot move ahead because somebody or some province says no to it.”
The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project was approved in 2016 — first by the National Energy Board and then by the federal Liberal government.
“Get it done, let’s get moving and create the jobs,” Mandel added. “This is one of those projects that should have been easy.”
Mandel said he believes Notley has inflamed the situation by addressing B.C.’s opposition to the project so publicly.
“We shouldn’t have gone public with this and made it such a political football. As soon as you push any politician in a corner, they’re going to have to stiffen their back.”
In a statement, Alberta Liberal Leader David Khan said he believes “it will take more than last minute meetings and photo ops like today to get this built.”
“This is an issue of national importance,” he added. Khan also questioned Notley’s suggestion that if Kinder Morgan backs out of the project, Alberta would consider investing in the pipeline or even buying it outright.
“Rushing into billions of dollars of public investment in the pipeline is reckless without a detailed plan on how the project can move forward and benefit Albertans,” Khan said.
Watch below: On April 10, 2018, Tom Vernon filed this report after the prime minister called an emergency meeting in Ottawa to deal with B.C.’s continued opposition to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.
Kenney has offered some support for Notley’s suggestion to invest in the pipeline but said the criteria to consider such a move are not there at this point.
“I’m not opposed to some form of indemnification as a last resort… but that will not work unless there is certainty on the legal front.”
Mandel was bluntly critical of Notley’s idea.
“Why are we as a province going to start buying pipelines?” he said. “This is ridiculous… where are we going to get all this money?”
After the meeting on Sunday, Trudeau said his government is in consultations with Kinder Morgan about how to move the project forward and said legislation is coming that will
“reassert and reinforce” the fact that the federal government is well within its jurisdiction to approve the project.
Watch below: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he has the jurisdiction to approve the building the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.
Notley reiterated that she will ensure the project is completed while Horgan said the meeting has not changed his position.
“I’m quite confident that should these discussions end successfully, that the pipeline will be built — and that is good, because the pipeline is in the national interest,” she said.
Following Sunday’s meeting between the prime minister and the two premiers, Kinder Morgan Canada Ltd. Issues a statement.
“Our objectives are to obtain certainty with respect to the ability to construct through B.C. and for the protection of our shareholders in order to build the Trans Mountain expansion project,” the statement reads. “As we said last week, we do not intend to issue updates or further disclosures on the status of consultations until we’ve reached a sufficiently definitive agreement on or before May 31 that satisfies our objectives.”
-With files from The Canadian Press