Prime Minister Justin Trudeau bears the blame for the inter-provincial spat between British Columbia and Alberta, says federal New Democrat leader Jagmeet Singh.
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley announced Tuesday her province would no longer be importing British Columbian wine through its government liquor agency. The move is reported to be costing B.C. winemakers $70 million in sales.
The wine ban was in response to B.C.’s plan to restrict increases to oil flow into the province while it studies the risks of the proposed expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline, which is owned by Texas-based Kinder Morgan.
Singh said the two most western provinces wouldn’t be at each other’s throats had Trudeau kept a 2015 election campaign promise to conduct another environmental assessment of the expansion project.
“The reason why we’re in this concern around the environment, around the coastline is because the environmental assessment process which the government acknowledged was out of date, which they acknowledged needed to be modernized was not modernized,” Singh said on Parliament Hill Wednesday morning. “That’s why we’re here today.”
He said the NDP premiers of B.C. and Alberta are merely standing up for their own province’s interests, which is where the federal government should come in.
Many have accused the National Energy Board of being a captive regulator staffed with former oil industry workers. During the election campaign Trudeau said federal environmental assessments weren’t credible under the former Harper government and no pipeline would be built until the process was revamped.
The Liberals promised a new review of the pipeline but instead approved it based on the old assessment and a “supplemental review.” Opponents were furious and argued the expansion, which triples the amount of oil coming to Burrard Inlet and increases oil tanker traffic sevenfold, is a danger to B.C.’s economy and environment.
“The prime minister should not have broken his promise with respect to having a renewed environmental assessment that respects the importance of ensuring that environmental concerns are met,” Singh said.
But Wednesday morning on Parliament Hill, as the feud between B.C. and Alberta continued to simmer, Trudeau again threw his support behind the pipeline and said he was talking to both provincial leaders.
“Obviously, we’re going to continue to make sure that we’re standing up for the national interest,” Trudeau said before repeating his pitch to lump in better marine protection and a carbon tax with a condition the pipeline is built.
“Those three things are part of an approach that go together and we need to do all three of them together.”
B.C. Premier John Horgan stood by his government’s actions saying Wednesday he has a duty to British Columbians to look out for the best interests of the province and called it his “right” as premier.
“That’s not a war,” Horgan said referencing media headlines. “In my opinion that’s good government and that’s the difference between my perspective and the perspective of the government of Alberta.”
Talk of British Columbians boycotting Alberta beef began to make its way onto social media Tuesday, but Horgan said he would not retaliate or be “distracted” by the Alberta ban on wine. He began his conference noting on his recent trip to Asia he was served B.C. wine on numerous occasions.
Horgan said Victoria will be talking to officials from Ottawa again Thursday.
Environmentalists in Quebec, who recently fought off an attempt at a pipeline in that province, pledged to support the B.C. wine industry with their wallets.
Read more: BC Politics