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Stakeholders react to feds' Kinder Morgan announcement

FILE - Premier John Horgan (April 24, 2017) (Lasia Kretzel, NEWS 1130 Photo)
Summary

The feds say they're prepared to provide indemnity to any investors to ensure the pipeline expansion proceeds

Premier John Horgan says he's just standing up for BC's interests, and refutes claims he's to blame for pipeline delays

Premier Rachel Notley says the feds' commitment is a sign Ottawa is continuing to back Alberta's push for the pipeline

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Premier John Horgan is responding to word the federal government will compensate Trans Mountain investors for any costs related to construction delays caused by the BC government.

He insists he’s simply standing up for British Columbia’s interests, as his bristles at the suggestion his actions are unconstitutional.

Horgan also insists his government is honouring the rule of law by asking the courts to clarify certain things about the project and provincial rights.

“I’m not causing any of this,” says Horgan. “I’m issuing permits as they’re asked for by the proponents. I joined two legal cases that were already under way, and I asked the federal government to join me in a reference to the constitutionality of a regulation change we want to make. They declined to join us.”

He claims the federal government is trying to use BC as an excuse “as the federal government puts taxpayer money on the line to backstop risks to private investors.”

Meanwhile Tzeporah Berman with environmental group Stand-dot-earth feels the federal promise goes too far.

“People may be split in some parts of Canada about this pipeline,” says Berman. “But opposition to a federal bailout is strong. As taxpayers, who wants our money, billions of taxpayer dollars, to prop up Texas oil companies?”

This comes as anti-pipeline activists hold what call a dramatic die in to highlight what they claim are the pipeline’s public safety risks.

Blank cheque

Meantime, Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, who has made no secret of his party’s opposition to the project, tweeted Wednesday that the government is cutting Kinder Morgan a “blank cheque” while saddling Canadian taxpayers with all the risk.

“Rigged process, First Nations & local communities shut out, oil spill threats, science ignored and now billions on the line,” Singh wrote. “It’s clear this pipeline should not be built.”

Fellow NDP leader and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley made her disdain for Singh’s sentiments crystal clear.

“I think Jagmeet Singh is absolutely, fundamentally, incontrovertibly incorrect in every element of that tweet,” Notley told a news conference.

“On this point I think we disagree quite fundamentally. I don’t think the positions of Mr. Singh necessarily reflect the vast majority of opinions in the NDP across the country.”

She would not comment on how Ottawa is going about getting the project rolling.

“At the end of the day I think that we are making progress in terms of public opinion in BC. But I’m not going to dig in publicly about what tools the federal government is ultimately prepared to use at this point because that is part of the conversations and the negotiations.”

Notley believes Morneau’s comments are a sign Ottawa is continuing to back her government’s push for the pipeline and get a deal done.

“At the very least, what the federal government has indicated, is that they are prepared to follow up their conviction, that they have the jurisdictional authority to remove the legal uncertainty, with a backstop. And a backstop that will actually travel from investor to investor, if necessary.”

Morneau’s talks with Kinder Morgan had their genesis a month ago, when Trudeau promised to deploy both financial and legislative tools to ensure the disputed expansion is able to proceed.

During a remarkable eight-hour stopover in the national capital, an unscheduled break from a busy overseas travel itinerary, Trudeau convened a summit in Ottawa with Horgan, who has staked his government’s survival on opposing the pipeline, and Notley, whose province’s economic health depends on it.

Trudeau instructed Morneau to sit down with Kinder Morgan to find a financial solution that would soothe their investors. He also promised legislation that would reaffirm Ottawa’s authority to press ahead with a development deemed to be in Canada’s national interest.

The Liberal government position is that it approved the project in 2016 after a rejigged environmental assessment and Indigenous consultation process, and in concert with the its climate change and oceans protection plan. Approval came in consultation with the previous B.C. Liberal government, which gave its consent to the project after its own conditions were met.

Horgan’s election last year changed that. His minority government exists at the pleasure of the Green party, and on condition of his continued opposition to the project.

Kinder Morgan acknowledges comments, hasn’t accepted offer

Steve Kean, Kinder Morgan Canada’s chairman and CEO, acknowledged Morneau’s announcement Wednesday as he reiterated the company’s position.

“We remain steadfast in our previously stated principles: clarity on the path forward, particularly with respect to the ability to construct through British Columbia, and ensuring adequate protection of our KML shareholders,” Kean said.

“While discussions are ongoing, we are not yet in alignment and will not negotiate in public.”

Project is doomed: Greenpeace

Greenpeace Canada wasted little time interpreting Wednesday’s development as a sign the project is doomed.

“It seems like not even Kinder Morgan wants to move forward with this destructive project,” the group’s climate and energy campaigner Mike Hudema said in a statement. “The risks facing this project go far beyond the B.C. government, and Kinder Morgan knows it.

“Those risks include legal challenges from First Nations, environmental groups and municipal governments, potential legislation in the U.S., along with growing on-the-ground opposition from land and water protectors willing to face arrest to stop this project — from Vancouver to Seattle to Quebec, and beyond.”