Is the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline in the 'national interest?'

As the prime minister insists that the Trans Mountain pipeline will go ahead, competing sides argue the benefit it offers to Canada.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with B.C. Premier John Horgan and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley on Sunday to address the deadlock over the Trans Mountain pipeline. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)
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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has insisted the Trans Mountain pipeline is in the "national interest," but there's no doubt that it has put a strain on national unity.

An emergency meeting on Sunday ended without consensus, and the B.C. and Alberta premiers are still at loggerheads over environmental concerns versus provincial prosperity.

Deron Bilous, Alberta's Minister for Economic Development and Trade, said the money generated by the pipeline would benefit all of Canada.

"There is not a road, a school, a hospital, a bridge, or a bike lane that does not owe something to a strong Alberta energy sector," said Bilous, who is an NDP MLA for Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview.

He argued that the pipeline would open up new markets in Asia, and reduce Canada's reliance on the U.S. as a buyer. That increased competition could drive up prices, increasing revenue for national coffers.

"We ship 99 per cent of our resources to the U.S. and because of this, Canadians have subsidized Trump's America to the tune of $130 billion," he told The Current's guest host Laura Lynch.

The prime minister says the government will engage in financial discussions with Kinder Morgan, blamed B.C. for stalling expansion. 1:08

A trade war at the petrol pumps

After Sunday's meeting, Trudeau insisted the project would go ahead. He said Ottawa would explore financial options to reduce the risk for Kinder Morgan, as well as options to assert the federal government's jurisdiction.

B.C. Premier John Horgan said he will seek a court decision on his province's constitutional right to have a say in the project. For her part, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley intends to introduce legislation for the strategic deployment of gas exports, meaning economic consequences for B.C.

"The people in the lower mainland at the pumps are probably not going to be too appreciative when their prices skyrocket," said Bilous.

Federal Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, centre, at a protest against the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline in Burnaby, B.C. on March 23. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Pipeline could cost jobs

Elizabeth May, the leader of the Green Party of Canada, argued that the pipeline could actually cost jobs.

The trade union UNIFOR presented evidence of the pipeline's adverse effect on job insecurity to the National Energy Board (NEB) in 2015, she told Lynch.

"Shipping out raw bitumen in pipelines is shipping out Canadian jobs," May said in an interview with CBC's Early Edition last month because the work of refining it no longer happens in Canada.

The NEB declined to accept the evidence because "jobs and the economy were outside the mandate of what they were reviewing," said May, the MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands.

A protest against the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion in Burnaby, B.C., on Saturday March 10, 2018. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Environmental concerns

Bilous said that there are Indigenous communities who have mutual-benefit agreements with Kinder Morgan, and are in favour of the pipeline. They are frustrated by the uncertainty, he added.

May responded that there are actually far more Indigenous communities who oppose the project for environmental concerns both at the coastline and along the length of the proposed route.

"They will be building an additional and different pipeline carrying dilbit through remote areas of British Columbia," she said. "Between the Alberta-B.C. border and Vancouver, they'll be crossing 800 watercourses."

"And you can't clean up dilbit in a freshwater environment any more than you can in the marine environment," she said.

Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr said that the government has addressed environmental concerns. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Jim Carr, the Natural Resources Minister, said that the government has taken environmental concerns on board.

"Keep in mind that the increase in tanker traffic is one vessel a day, and we are prepared to accompany that vessel," he told Lynch, adding that the ships will be double-hulled.

There are no ironclad guarantees, but "it all comes down to what's reasonable under the circumstances," he said.

The government will ensure that the project will proceed, he said.

"We're now working out ways with Kinder Morgan to determine the kind of financial risk that they will tolerate because we think that this sends a very important message to investors."

Listen to the full conversation at the top of this page, where you can also share this article across email, Facebook, Twitter and other platforms.


This segment was produced by The Current's Kristin Nelson.

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