Premier Rachel Notley says she doesn’t believe British Columbia First Nations will derail the expansion of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline, even as a prominent B.C. chief vowed Friday that the project will never be built.
The Calgary Sun by James Wood / June 2, 2017
The B.C. NDP and Green Party have entered an agreement that looks likely to install a minority NDP government in the west coast province.
A provision in the deal calls for the new government to use every means possible to block the expansion of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline, with opposition to the project from indigenous groups expected to be a key component of the fight against the project.
Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver cited Section 35 of the constitution — which protects indigenous rights — as a way to stop Kinder Morgan as a number of B.C. First Nations have launched legal challenges to Ottawa’s approval of the pipeline.
But Notley noted Friday that other First Nations are backing the project and it appears the legal requirements around the federal government’s duty to consult have been met.
“There’s not ever going to be absolute consensus along the way,” Notley said at a news conference where she announced $20 million in provincial funding for new playgrounds..
“We’ll continue to work with those who are in support of it, as well as to talk, to accommodate and hear the concerns of those who are not around issues of marine safety, which is really the primary issue that is driving a lot of this.”
Kinder Morgan says it has signed agreements with 51 indigenous communities in support of the project, including a majority of First Nations along the pipeline route.
The Trans Mountain expansion, which would significantly increase the amount of Alberta oilsands crude shipped to the Pacific coast, is seen as vital for Alberta to open new markets in Asia and get a better price.
Notley maintains B.C. does not have the power to stop Trans Mountain, which has been approved by the federal cabinet. She has said repeatedly over the last week that the pipeline will be built.
But Stewart Phillip, grand chief of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, said Notley has simply ratcheted up the tensions with her “inflammatory” comments and said the pipeline will never move forward.
“If somebody on the east side of the Rockies is going to say, ‘come hell or high water, we’re going to ram this through,’ you can well imagine that people on the west side of the Rockies are going to say, ‘not on our watch it isn’t,'” he told Postmedia Friday.
Phillip said the primary battle against the pipeline will be legal, with political dimensions. There are also financial factors, he said, suggesting delays could make the project uneconomic for Kinder Morgan.
Civil disobedience is also possible if other measures fail, he said.
Kai Nagata of the Dogwood Initiative environmental group said this week the fight against Kinder Morgan hinges on First Nations opposition to the project.
“The leaders of British Columbia I think are right to talk about this in terms of whether the project has consent,” said the pipeline opponent.
“It’s an ugly thing to push forward a policy that doesn’t have the consent of the people most affected.”
B.C. NDP Leader John Horgan, the likely next premier, told CBC’s The House that he is prepared to go to court over the Trans Mountain expansion but that he was trying to determine which lawsuit to join. The Tleil-Waututh, Musqueam and Squamish First Nations have court cases challenging the pipeline, as do the cities of Vancouver and Burnaby.
Horgan and Notley are long-time friends. He told the public broadcaster he appreciated the Alberta premier’s perspective on the issue but that they had agreed to disagree.
Notley said at an NDP fundraiser this week that she was prepared to put friendship aside in order to fight for the pipeline but noted Friday that Horgan had been “a little bit more measured” than Weaver in their joint news conference earlier this week.
With Horgan standing beside him on Tuesday, Weaver accused Notley of “fear-mongering,” calling on her to “get with the program to embrace the 21st century” and invoking constitutional hurdles to the Trans Mountain expansion.
Notley however dismissed Weaver’s comments.
“I’m fully aware of the constitution, I’m fully aware of what it says, I’m fully aware of our position with respect to all elements of the constitution, including Section 35,” said the premier.
“So I thank Mr. Weaver for his efforts to tell me about that, but frankly I was there already.”