The B.C. government is not backing down from a pledge to do what it can to stop what could soon be the federal government-owned Trans Mountain pipeline project.
Premier John Horgan says Ottawa’s planned $4.5-billion purchase of pipeline does “not change the risk” of a catastrophic effect of a potential oil spill.
“Today’s announcement by the federal government does not reduce the risk of a diluted bitumen spill and the impact it would have on B.C.’s economy or environment. It does not change the course the province of British Columbia has been on since it has been sworn in in July 2017,” Horgan said. “I will continue to do my best to protect B.C.’s interests ensuring our coasts, our water, our land are kept pristine.”
WATCH HERE: “Today’s announcement does not reduce the risk of a diluted bitumen spill,” B.C. Premier John Horgan says
On Tuesday morning, while most British Columbians were still sleeping, federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced plans to spend $4.5 billion to buy the Trans Mountain pipeline and all of Kinder Morgan Canada’s core assets.
Morneau says that in return, Kinder Morgan will go ahead with its original plan to twin the pipeline this summer while the sale is finalized, which likely won’t happen until August.
Kinder Morgan had put in a May 31 deadline to ensure that Ottawa could find a path to get the project completed. The company was threatening to walk away from the project if those assurances were not in place.
When asked if he thinks the pipeline expansion will actually be built, Horgan said his goal is still the same as it has always been.
“I will continue to do what I can to ensure that while I am leading British Columbia, we will do everything to protect those things that are precious to the people of B.C.,” Horgan said. “Our coast is significant to not just British Columbians but all Canadians.”
WATCH: ‘This is entirely due to the actions of Premier Horgan’: Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi.
The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is expected to cost more than $7.4 billion to build.
The money Ottawa agreed to pay Kinder Morgan for the project does not include any of the construction costs associated with the project.
LISTEN: Alberta environment minister weighs in on Trans Mountain deal
But B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson says that because of the B.C. government’s fight to hold up the pipeline, it should be held accountable for the taxpayer money going to the project.
“British Columbians and all Canadians will now be paying for the construction of the Trans Mountain Expansion Project. This unprecedented action taken by the federal government is entirely a consequence of the actions of John Horgan,” Wilkinson said. “John Horgan picked a fight with Alberta and provoked a constitutional crisis with Ottawa over this project, and this is now the embarrassing result.”
WATCH HERE: ‘I do believe the federal government is now totally accountable’:B.C. Premier John Horgan
The spat between B.C. and the federal government started soon after B.C. moved ahead with public consultation to consider restricting the flow of bitumen by rail or pipeline through the province. That spat led to Alberta banning the import of B.C. wine into the province and the controversial Bill 12, which would give Alberta the right to turn off the oil and gas taps to other jurisdictions.
The federal government only stepped in to make the purchase as a last-ditch effort to save the project. Horgan does not believe he should be held financially accountable for that decision.
WATCH HERE: Morneau light on details about how to force Trans Mountain through B.C.
“I made no such undertaking of tax dollars, quite the contrary. The accountability for those decisions should rest with those who made them and that is federal government and by inference the government of Alberta,” Horgan said. “The good news, if there is any to be had today, is that the government of Canada needs to be accountable for the Ocean Protection Plan and if there are gaps in that plan, I will be able to speak directly to the owners of the pipeline.”
Green Party leader Andrew Weaver called the decision by the federal government a “betrayal” and does not believe Ottawa should be funding projects that put both whale populations and climate targets at risk.
“This is a betrayal by a government who ran on a hopeful vision for a better future,” Weaver said. “A government that promised to end fossil fuel subsidies and to champion the clean economy should not be spending billions of dollars of taxpayer money to buy out a fossil fuel expansion project. We should be investing in growth industries that are clearly where the world is heading. Investing in this pipeline is like investing in the horse and buggy industry at the advent of the car.”
WATCH HERE: How does feds’ Trans Mountain arrangement deal with opposition from B.C.? Alberta’s Notley weighs in
Tuesday’s decision by Ottawa does not end B.C.’s legal challenge. The province is still asking the B.C. Court of Appeal to rule on whether legislation could legally be put in place that would restrict the flow of bitumen. There are also ongoing court cases with First Nations around the approval process for pipeline twinning.
“It does change from a federally approved project to a federally undertaken project. But the reference case, though, did not speak to a specific project. It spoke to the transportation of diluted bitumen through British Columbia by rail or pipeline,” Horgan said. “So our reference case remains. I said as much to the prime minister this morning.”
Horgan says he expects that there will be continued protests against the project and that “we live in a country that is governed by the rule of law and I am hopeful that peaceful protests will be the order of the day.”
WATCH HERE: The full press conference with John Horgan: