B.C. Premier John Horgan says he is disappointed with the decision by the federal government to re-approve the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and vows to continue fighting the project in court.
Horgan says the province will continue all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada with a reference case to restrict the flow of bitumen through British Columbia. But he would not go as far as to commit to joining court cases that could be filed by different First Nations communities.
“We’ll have to see what the substance of their applications are,” Horgan said. “Again, what we’ve tried to do from the beginning, we campaigned on the notion that this project was not in our interest here in British Columbia. We continue to hold that view.
“But we also understand and respect the rule of law,” Horgan added. “If the federal government sees themselves back in courts, whether it’s the Tsleil-Waututh, the Squamish or others, we’ll certainly take a good, hard look at that.”
Horgan spoke to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday before the federal government formally announced approval for the project. The Liberal government purchased the $4.5 billion pipeline because of investor concerns around British Columbians’ lack of support for the project.
Trudeau’s government was forced by the courts to relaunch a National Energy Board approval process that included First Nations consultation. As part of the approval, the federal government announced every dollar the federal government earned from the project will be put into clean energy projects.
The prime minister also spoke directly to British Columbians during his prepared remarks.
“To British Columbians who worry about a spill, for example, know that we take your concerns very seriously. I lived in Vancouver when I was a teacher, and I have deep B.C. roots. I understand your desire to protect the coastline and ocean, because I share it,” Trudeau said.
“Our top priority is making sure there’s no spill in the first place. But we need to be prepared for anything.”
WATCH: Coverage of the Trans Mountain pipeline decision on Global News
The B.C. government has long argued that there are problems with Ottawa’s spill response.
“I had a conversation with the prime minister this morning and I reiterated our concerns about the consequences of a catastrophic marine spill and the impact that would have on not just our marine environment, but our economy here in British Columbia,” Horgan said.
“I believe it’s my job as the premier of British Columbia to always be vigilant to protect those things that matter to British Columbians and I’ll continue to do that although I regret the federal government’s decision.”
B.C. Environment Minister George Heyman says tens of thousands of British Columbians jobs are at risk and billions of dollars of economic activity are also at risk. The province continues to express concern over a seven-fold increase in tanker traffic.
“So let me say to British Columbians who value our environment, who cherish our coast, who expect their government to stand up for their interests,” Heyman said. “We will not abandon our responsibility to protect our land and our water.
There are expected to be significant protests in the province over the approval of the project. Horgan was asked on Tuesday whether he would participate in protests himself or allow his caucus to participate.
“I did make it pretty clear to my colleagues that you take on a different responsibility when you put your name forward for election,”
“When you’re successful, you’re not just representing the party that you ran for, you’re representing the entire community.”
B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson says the approval sends a clear message to Horgan that they should get out of the way and support the project.
“The majority of British Columbians support this project, including more than 40 First Nations who signed benefits agreements to support the pipeline expansion,” Wilkinson said.
“While John Horgan and the NDP choose to pick fights with Alberta and Canada and spend taxpayer money on expensive court cases to block the pipeline, we will continue to stand up for B.C. communities and make sure our province shares in the billions of dollars in revenue this project will generate.”