B.C.’s Horgan holding out to hang on

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The Kinder Morgan company took a first step on Sunday toward abandoning its plan to expand its Trans Mountain pipeline to bring Alberta bitumen through British Columbia for export to Asia. The company will consult stakeholders during the next three weeks and then either start construction or scrap the project.

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Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/04/2018 (1699 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The Kinder Morgan company took a first step on Sunday toward abandoning its plan to expand its Trans Mountain pipeline to bring Alberta bitumen through British Columbia for export to Asia. The company will consult stakeholders during the next three weeks and then either start construction or scrap the project.

Abandonment of the plan, which now seems likely, will be a victory for B.C. environmentalists and Indigenous bands opposed to the pipeline expansion. B.C. Premier John Horgan, who clings to power with the support of three Green Party legislators, has promised to throw every possible roadblock in front of the project. Abandonment will be a defeat for Alberta oil producers who hoped to ship bitumen through the line, for Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Mr. Trudeau tweeted yesterday that the federal government would act in the national interest. “The Trans Mountain expansion will be built,” he declared, but if Kinder Morgan bails out, a prime ministerial tweet will hardly get the job done.

Darryl Dyck / The Canadian Press Files British Columbia Premier John Horgan

Steve Kean, the chief executive officer of Kinder Morgan Canada, said the company needed to see that it could build efficiently without new conditions or requirements being proposed or imposed. Mr. Horgan clearly intends to harass the project with endless litigation so as to keep threatening new requirements and, in this way, bully Kinder Morgan into pulling out. However ardently Mr. Trudeau may want the line, come May 1 he will have no builder for it.

Ms. Notley hopes to use some kind of counter-coercion, such as cutting off B.C. oil supplies, to win Mr. Horgan’s co-operation. Mr. Trudeau hopes to use the federal constitutional authority over interprovincial transport projects to push Mr. Horgan out of the picture. Neither of them, however, has the power to stop him from going to court and asking for new restrictions on the project — and that is what Kinder Morgan can’t accept.

The B.C. Greens think stopping the pipeline is the only thing that matters. The minute Mr. Horgan seems to be allowing the pipeline to proceed, he loses their support and he is out of power. Under these conditions, he is unlikely to listen to Alberta, Canada, the oil industry or anyone else. For him, the main thing is staying in power — even if it is only the power to jump when his Green colleagues snap their fingers.

Without the Trans Mountain expansion, Alberta oil producers will rely on Enbridge’s Line 3 expansion, Trans Canada’s Keystone XL line and rail transport to increase oil exports. This will slow the growth of oil production — a misfortune and a lost opportunity, but well short of a catastrophe. Canada will miss a chance to reduce its reliance on the United States as an oil export route.

Oil consumers around the world will continue to receive Canadian oil and burn it, loading more carbon dioxide into our shared atmosphere. Environmentalists in B.C. will enjoy the warm inner feeling of knowing that the oil did not pass through B.C. on its way to Oklahoma or China.

The question for Canada will be: do we still have a country here? A coastal province with a government beholden to a vocal minority can, by administrative harassment, unreasonably block a neighbouring province from shipping its resources to export customers. Canada still functions, but parochial interests now have more power than ever to obstruct national projects.

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