The Canadian federal government’s decision to buy the Trans Mountain Pipeline does not change the British Columbia government’s approach to the project, Premier John Horgan said today.
“Today’s announcement by the federal government does not reduce the risk of a diluted bitumen spill and the impact that would have on B.C.’s economy and its environment,” Horgan said. “This does not change the course British Columbia’s government has been on since we were sworn in in July of 2017.”
Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced this morning that the government will spend $4.5 billion to buy the existing Trans Mountain Pipeline and take over the expansion project from Texas company Kinder Morgan.
Horgan, who became premier after running on a platform that included a pledge to “use every tool in the toolbox” to stop the expansion, didn’t directly criticize the spending, but said, “They’re making financial decisions that affect taxpayers and they’ll have to be accountable for that.”
He said he learned of the decision to buy the pipeline in a 5:45 a.m. phone call from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“I will continue to do my best to protect B.C’s interest by ensuring our coast, our water and our land is kept pristine so our economy can continue to grow,” Horgan said, noting that his government is working within the courts.
“I know that many British Columbians feel very passionately about this project and I encourage them to continue to express their disappointment within the rule of law,” he said.
“I’m hopeful that peaceful protest will be the order of the day and that all British Columbians will have confidence that we as a government will do everything we can to protect their interests within the scope that we have and our jurisdictional question is critical to that.”
He added: “If we are able to protect our coast and our economy, then we’ll do so. If the courts find otherwise, we’ll see what we can do about that.”
Speaking in question period, BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson said British Columbians will pay for Horgan’s “blunder” on the project. “This is a complete failure by this premier,” he said. “What has been accomplished is the complete destruction of investor confidence in British Columbia.”
The $7.4-billion Trans Mountain project would expand the existing pipeline’s capacity from 300,000 barrels per day to 890,000, according to Kinder Morgan. The pipeline carries oil and petroleum products from Alberta to the coast, and supporters argue expanding it is necessary to get Canadian oil to international markets.
Some 200 people have been arrested while protesting the project, including federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May and Burnaby South NDP MP Kennedy Stewart. Opponents of the project include several environmental groups and the Union of BC Indian Chiefs.
On news becoming public that the Canadian government will buy the pipeline, Kinder Morgan’s stock price rose sharply by 2.36 per cent, suggesting investors believed the deal was good for the company.
Opponents of the project planned a rally against the purchase for 5:30 p.m. at Science World in Vancouver.
In a prepared statement, Wilkinson said B.C. had provoked a constitutional crisis over the project. “This is a critical project that should have been built and owned by the private sector. Now, British Columbians and Canadians are left paying for Horgan’s historic blunder.”
BC Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver, whose three MLAs helped Horgan’s NDP form government, said the federal government’s decision is a betrayal of their vision for a better future.
“A government that promised to end fossil fuel subsidies and to champion the clean economy should not be spending billions of dollars of taxpayer money to buy out a fossil fuel expansion project,” he said in an emailed statement. “We should be investing in growth industries that are clearly where the world is heading. Investing in this pipeline is like investing in the horse and buggy industry at the advent of the car.”
The investment in a pipeline makes little sense while the cost of renewable energy like solar and wind continues to fall, he said.
The Independent Contractors and Businesses Association released a statement saying B.C. has sent a “chilling message” to investors and forced Ottawa to take on the project. “This really is a sad day for Canada, and Premier Horgan is squarely to blame,” ICBA President Chris Gardner said.
Indigenous leaders pledged to continue opposing the project. Will George, a Tsleil-Waututh member who is spokesperson for the Coast Salish Watch House, said, "This is the moment in history where Justin Trudeau has revealed that he never cared about Indigenous rights or reconciliation."
The Watch House will continue to stand in the way of the pipeline, he said. “I will continue to meet the responsibility passed on to me by my ancestors to protect the water and land.”
Wilderness Committee climate campaigner Peter McCartney called it “a dark and shameful day for Canadians.”
The federal government is spending money on a project that will violate Indigenous rights, fuel climate change and put coastal communities at risk of an oil spill, he said. “When an oil company owned by the Government of Canada is dragging protesting Indigenous youth off their own territory to make way for its reckless pipeline and tanker project, I hope Prime Minister Trudeau is ready to answer for the fact that all he had to do was let this thing fail.”