Saskatchewan premier says no minds were changed on Trans Mountain at premiers’ meeting

Approved sections of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. National Energy Board

With just over a week before Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion deadline, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe is calling on the federal government to do more outreach with British Columbia residents.

“This is the opportunity for the federal government to enter into these conversations at a much more engaged level to ensure British Columbians are comfortable. You will never take away all of the risk of something happening when you’re transporting products,” Moe said

“But when you move that product from a rail to a pipe you start to diminish that risk. Those are the conversations that we should be having.”

Speaking from Yellowknife, NWT, the controversial pipeline expansion became a key part of the western premiers’ meeting; in ways over-shadowing the main focus on the agenda, pharmacare and legalized cannabis.

READ MORE: B.C. premier says Trans Mountain would be ‘different discussion’ if product was refined in B.C.

For his part, B.C. Premier John Horgan said the discussion would be different if the plan was to refine the bitumen in B.C., instead of focusing on exports.

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“The existing pipeline provides refined products for consumption in British Columbia and one that has been going on for a long time and would be subject to existing trade agreements between provinces,” said Horgan.

“With respect to the twinning if there was product coming to the Lower Mainland and it wasn’t just focused on export then we might have a different discussion but that is not my understanding of what the plan is.”

Horgan has previously raised concern over the impact to the B.C. economy, environment and coastline if there was a spill and concerns of First Nations’ communities not being adequately addressed.

READ MORE: Notley defends move to skip premiers’ meeting, says Kinder Morgan deadline too important

If completed, the $7.4 billion pipeline expansion would see the Trans Mountain pipeline triple its capacity between Edmonton and Burnaby, B.C.

Kinder Morgan has given Ottawa until May 31 to give them assurance the federally approved pipeline will go ahead.

B.C. currently has a reference question before their Court of Appeals asking if they can introduce legislation to mandate import permits for companies looking to increase their flow of bitumen through the province. If B.C. wins that case, it could effectively kill the project.

Energy Export Act

Following Alberta’s lead, the Saskatchewan government continues to work toward passing the Energy Export Act. This legislation would allow Energy and Resource Minister Bronwyn Eyre to require permits for the shipment of energy products.

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While the written legislation is broad-based, Premier Scott Moe has said that if Alberta turns off the taps of B.C., Saskatchewan will not be there to backfill the energy demand.

READ MORE: B.C. taking legal action against Alberta over bill allowing province to cut off gas

Eyre said that Saskatchewan has received a legal opinion that the proposed legislation is constitutional. However, B.C. is currently suing Alberta over their near-identical legislation.

Even with the potential of a lawsuit, Eyre said Saskatchewan can’t afford not to act.

“The cost of inaction and the cost of doing nothing is too great. It’s a cumulative effect over a number of projects and a number of years. Now we’re getting to a point where again, $2.6 billion lost by the sector is pretty significant if you’re talking about risk to a sector,” Eyre said.

With files from Richard Zussman

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