B.C. businesses and industry groups are slamming a court decision that has quashed the approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
“It’s truly a national shame when opponents are able to use the courts as a means of derailing a project of this scale, scope and significance,” said Paul de Jong, president of the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada (PCA).
The group, which represents a number of member companies involved in building the project, said the court ruling will delay construction — costing jobs and staining the country’s reputation as a place to do business.
“It’s a sad day. An energy project that’s met more conditions and approvals than virtually any other in history can’t move forward,” he added.
The Federal Court of Appeal essentially froze the project on Thursday, with a unanimous three-judge ruling.
The court found the National Energy Board’s (NEB) approval process was flawed, failed in its constitutional duty to adequately consult with First Nations and incorrectly excluded the effects of increased tanker traffic from its decision-making process.
WATCH: Reaction to bombshell court ruling to stop Trans Mountain pipeline construction
The BC Chamber of Commerce echoed the PCA’s concerns, issuing a statement that it was “extremely disappointed” that the project had been put in “legal limbo.”
“The message we just sent to investors is that it’s nearly impossible to get resource projects done in Canada, despite following a robust federal regulatory process,” said chamber president and CEO Val Litwin.
“How much consultation is reasonable for the approval of resource projects? This opens up the floodgates to have a never-ending consultation process where the goal posts are ever-changing.”
The Greater Vancouver Board of Trade (GVBoT) also expressed dismay at the decision, issuing a statement warning that the ruling undermined the authority of both the federal cabinet and the energy regulator.
“Clearly, Canada’s regulatory system is broken,” said GVBoT president and CEO Iain Black.
WATCH: B.C. Green Party leader on environmental impact of Trans Mountain pipeline
“This project was approved two years ago by the federal government, following the most rigorous process and environmental assessment in this country’s history… This decision sets a precedent that once again calls into question Canada’s ability to get any major project built, and/or responsibly develop our natural resources.”
While Thursday’s decision came in response to a court challenge from B.C. First Nations, who argued it impinged on their rights and title, Black said the ruling will also have negative consequences for other Indigenous groups in western Canada.
He said the 51 First Nations communities which have signed project benefits agreements worth more than $400 million will suffer.
Michael LaBourdais, Chief of Whispering Pines Indian Band which is part of the Shuswap Nation represents one of those groups.
WATCH: Court of Appeal quashes approval of Trans Mountain
He said the community had hoped to use revenue from the project to help raise its standard of living.
“[To] catch up to Canada really, health-wise, [on] elders’ retirement, educating our youth, all that kind of stuff. Because the Indian Act handcuffs us in such a fashion that we don’t enjoy the same health standards, educational standards. We have to work longer before we retire, that kind of stuff,” he told CKNW’s The Lynda Steele Show.
However, LaBourdais said feelings about the outcome of the case were complicated, with the community happy for the Tsleil-Waututh and Squamish First Nations who’ve had their rights and title upheld.
“We have to address [their] concerns… and listen and hear them. We can’t just pass them off or try and ram this through,” he said.
“You really have to pay attention to what it is they’re trying to articulate when it comes to Burrard Inlet. So maybe Burrard is not the place to be. Maybe we have to move that pipe somewhere else.”
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