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West Coast Tells Ottawa: Reject Trans Mountain Expansion

Green leader says she'll seek a judicial review of regulator’s project approval.

By Jeremy J. Nuttall 7 Jun 2016 | TheTyee.ca

Jeremy J. Nuttall is The Tyee's Parliament Hill reporter in Ottawa. Find his previous stories here.

This coverage of Canadian national issues is made possible because of generous financial support from our Tyee Builders.

The West Coast brought fighting words to Ottawa today, asking the federal government to deny final approval of the proposed Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion.

A delegation from Vancouver said it came to Ottawa to urge the government to "say a definitive no" to Kinder Morgan's proposal to twin its existing line from Alberta to British Columbia.

Meanwhile, Green Party leader Elizabeth May said she would be seeking a judicial review of the National Energy Board's approval process.

The regulator recently approved the project, and it now waits final approval from Ottawa.

The delegation composed of Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, Chief Maureen Thomas from the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, Chief Ian Campbell from the Squamish Nation, and Councillor Howard Grant from the Musqueam Nation.

All the First Nations are located near Vancouver, and their representatives said the Liberal government's actions on the pipeline would prove to be a test of its sincerity in reconciliation with First Nations.

"We are here representing our citizens on the West Coast; our consent is required on this project," Robertson said. "The vast majority in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland do not support the Kinder Morgan expansion pipeline project."

The company proposes to twin its existing 60-year-old pipeline running from the Alberta tarsands to a terminal in Burnaby, where the product is loaded on tankers for export.

Opponents insist the doubling of the pipeline's capacity would result in too many oil tankers transiting Metro Vancouver's Burrard Inlet and the Salish Sea, increasing the risk of a spill.

The sea lies between Vancouver and Vancouver Island.

Oil spills and their potential impact on Vancouver's economy as well as the overarching issue of climate change provide a case for not expanding the pipeline, Robertson said.

"There is no business case, no social case and no environmental case for this pipeline," Robertson said, promising to push the government to prevent it.

He said the pipeline is an issue that could make or break the federal Liberals in Vancouver, and warned the city will consider legal action and other "tools" to stop it if approved by Ottawa.

Pipeline a test: chiefs

Chief Campbell said the pipeline's fate would be a test of Ottawa's promise to improve the government's relations with First Nations.

"B.C. is unceded territory, so to impose a project like this in this day and age would be detrimental to the relationship when we're entering an era of reconciliation," Campbell said.

To Ottawa, he said, "Make the right decision, engage First Nations properly and let's do this as Canadians together."

Some B.C. First Nations have also demanded the government halt the Site C hydro project in northern B.C., saying it threatens reconciliation efforts.

The Liberals have taken flak for going ahead with that project despite First Nations' objections.

Campbell also promised to use every possible opportunity to ensure the Trans Mountain expansion doesn't go through, including the courts.

But Green Party leader Elizabeth May is already ahead of them, revealing she has been interviewing lawyers in preparation for a bid for a judicial review of the pipeline approval process.

Pipeline opponents say they are unhappy with the consultation process conducted by the NEB on the project, and that additional consultations brought in by the Liberals are not enough to ease their concerns.

May takes issue with the NEB review not allowing for the testing of scientific evidence or the cross examination of witnesses.

"I've put the NEB on notice -- I think it's two years at least -- that if they did not allow basic rules of procedural fairness I would be seeking a judicial review of the entire process," she said.

The decision on the project from Ottawa is due later this year, and May said she believes she must launch her attempt at a judicial review before then.  [Tyee]

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