Protesters interrupted Finance Minister Bill Morneau during a speech at a Calgary Chamber of Commerce luncheon Wednesday as he begins the job of selling Ottawa’s purchase of the Trans Mountain pipeline.
Reaction has been mixed, with the energy industry welcoming the news the expansion project is more likely to be built, but concerned the government is spending 4.5-billion dollars to buy a private company’s assets to achieve the goal.
A prominent BC environmentalist is predicting the protests over the pipeline project will be even bigger than the 1990s War in the Woods against logging on Vancouver Island.
WATCH: Bill Morneau talks to reporters after his speech in Calgary
Tzeporah Berman said the fight against the pipeline expansion is even bigger than those over logging in Clayoquot Sound.
Canadians are angry the government is shelling out $4.5 billion to purchase the Trans Mountain pipeline rather than investing in clean energy after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s climate-change promises during the 2015 election and his later commitment to the Paris climate accord, she said.
“My experience is that people are motivated by betrayal, they’re motivated by a lack of fairness, they’re motivated by a sense of shared common purpose and outrage. In this case we have all of that,” said Berman, who was cleared of aiding and abetting protesters at the Clayoquot blockade and is now an adjunct professor of environmental studies at York University in Toronto.
The CEO of the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association, Chris Bloomer, said Canada needs infrastructure like that designed to triple Trans Mountain’s capacity to move crude oil and refined products from the Alberta oilsands and Edmonton refining complex to the West Coast.
But he said the association is “deeply concerned” that the government felt it had to purchase the project to get it built. Ottawa’s move comes 18 politically fraught months after it had been approved.
“Something had to happen,” Bloomer said of delays blamed on opposition by British Columbia’s provincial government, municipalities, Indigenous groups and individual protesters.
“It’s a little confusing that the government felt it needed to nationalize this asset and own it in order to assert what we all thought along the way was its jurisdiction.”
Pipelines that cross provincial borders are federally regulated, but B.C. argues in a court challenge that it has the right to restrict diluted bitumen shipments within its boundaries.
The situation has created a “confused” marketplace in which different pipeline projects are treated unequally and no one knows the rules future proposals are expected to follow, Bloomer said.
Watch below: A day after he announced the federal government may become the owners of the Trans Mountain pipeline, Bill Morneau hit the road to sell the idea. As Tom Vernon reports, the finance minister’s first stop was in Calgary.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at a conference Tuesday that federal control over the pipeline could simplify development of at least this project.
“When you shift the ownership of the pipeline from a private corporation to … a federal government that has explicit control over resource projects that go between provinces, a lot of the legal barriers and a lot of the challenge points actually disappear,” he said.
The federal move is welcome to get the stalled project going, said Tim McMillan, CEO of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, adding he also is pleased that Ottawa has committed to put the project back in private hands “where it belongs.”
“I think these are extraordinary circumstances and we should work very hard never to find ourselves in this position again.”
Kinder Morgan Canada will continue to hold an integrated network of crude tank storage and rail terminals in Alberta. It will also own a terminal in Vancouver and the Cochin Pipeline system which transports light condensate from the United States to Fort Saskatchewan, just northeast of Edmonton.
The company will work with the government to try to find a third party to buy the assets by July 22. Separately, Morneau said there is no absolute deadline to find a buyer.
Kinder Morgan Canada had ceased all non-essential spending on the Trans Mountain expansion in April, vowing to cancel it by a deadline of this Thursday unless it received assurances it can proceed without delays and without undue risk to shareholders.
*With files from Global News