For months, the future of the proposed pipeline expansion has only grown hazier as tensions and tempers grow more fraught over attempts by British Columbia to delay construction of the project and counter-efforts by Alberta to make opposition to it hurt.
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said earlier this month a constitutional crisis over the deadlock was not “too far off” and in an interview with Global’s Eric Sorenson on The West Block, Kenney went one step further.
“Yes, I do think this is becoming a constitutional crisis,” he said.
“You have a provincial government that is illegally asserting a power to violate federal jurisdiction to attack the country’s economic interest, basically to say that it can, at whim, decide which products are exported from one of Canada’s two major coasts. This is ridiculous. This is a complete violation of the concept of Canada from Confederation as an economic union, and if this is allowed to stand, what does it say about this country?”
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Two weeks ago, Kinder Morgan executives issued an ultimatum on the night of the vigil being held for the tragic Humboldt Broncos bus crash, and warned that without a clear guarantee that they would be able to complete the pipeline expansion, they were halting all non-essential work on the project.
That move sharply escalated tensions between the provinces and forced all eyes onto the federal government and what it will do to fulfill its vow to get the pipeline expansion built.
Notley has said the Alberta government is willing to become an investor in the project in order to ease qualms among Kinder Morgan shareholders about the potential for returns on their investments in the pipeline.
The firm has invested roughly $1 billion so far on the project with a total estimated price tag of $7.4 billion.
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The next phase of that spending is expected to ramp up quickly once construction begins in earnest.
Before committing to that, Kinder Morgan wants a clear sign it will be able to complete the work it starts.
If work on the expansion does not break ground by 2021, the permit authorizing the expansion will expire.
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Advocates for the pipeline argue it falls clearly within federal jurisdiction and that there should be no question of the federal government’s right to force it through even against opposition from the B.C. government.
Opponents, however, support the move by B.C. Premier John Horgan to file a reference question in B.C.’s Court of Appeal to ask for a judicial ruling on the extent of federal and provincial authorities on the matter.
A ruling on that question would not be issued in time for the May 31 deadline set by Kinder Morgan in its ultimatum.
Because of that, Kenney argues that the federal government must act now to ensure the pipeline gets built, and that it should start by clawing back discretionary transfers for billions of dollars worth of infrastructure and job training funds slated to go to B.C.
“We cannot assume that they are bluffing.”