The pipeline takes a turn

You know, lately every week as I turn to write my column, I say what can I talk about this week? Something new, something I didn't talk about last week, and then....

You know, lately every week as I turn to write my column, I say what can I talk about this week? Something new, something I didn’t talk about last week, and then….

Next in the continuing story of a pipeline posing political problems…

This week, the federal Liberal government announced they would be buying the TransMountain Pipeline — and its expansion project — from Kinder Morgan.

Kinder Morgan was set to announce by May 31 whether they would be going forward with the expansion in the face of opposition from the province of British Columbia.

Given the timing of the federal announcement, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that Kinder Morgan’s likely decision was “we’re outta here”.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau said that the $4.5 billion buy out would not have a fiscal impact. If you believe that then perhaps you’d be interested in purchasing a chateau I have for sale in France.

There will be a financial impact, how can there not be? That doesn’t mean it isn’t the right thing to do, but when’s the last time a government-run billion dollar project came in on budget? I believe never was the last time that happened.

Morneau also laid out a rosy future wherein other investors will take over the pipeline down the road — which, okay. Till then, the pipeline will be a Crown corporation.

Federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer criticized the deal — as he must. He pointed out that none of the barriers or legal issues around the expansion have been solved, therefore there’s still huge problems ahead. He also brought up the N word, nationalism.

“The message that is being sent to the world is that in order to get a big project built in this country, the federal government has to nationalize a huge aspect of it,” Scheer said.

Now, the federal government wouldn’t have stepped in at all if B.C. and Alberta hadn’t been engaged in a slap fight over the pipeline for many months, and you do have to wonder what Scheer would have been saying had the project died completely. No doubt something along the lines that Canada is telling the world they are closed to business.

Premier Horgan remains defiant.

“It does not matter who owns the pipeline. What matters is defending our coast – and our lands, rivers and streams – from the impact of a dilbit spill. (Dilbit, not to be confused with drill bit, is diluted bitumen).

“Our government is determined to defend British Columbia’s interests within the rule of law and in the courts. We will continue our reference case, to determine our rights within our provincial jurisdiction.”

In other words, it ain’t over.

The BC Chamber of Commerce applauds the move — with caution. Keep in mind that the BC Chamber would far rather applaud a Conservative than a Liberal, so any applause at all is notable.

Andrew Weaver (BC Green Party) was blunt — the feds have betrayed Canadians.

“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.

And Trudeau is being accused on many fronts of breaking his promise of environmental protection.

BC Liberal opposition leader Andrew Wilkinson said the feds decision was embarrassing — for Horgan.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says now that the federal government owns the project, they have “federal Crown immunity” — a term I have never heard before.

Among First Nations there is also some opposition, and some support. The Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, with support from First Nations Chiefs across the country, say the pipeline won’t get built no matter who owns it. But others, such as the Cheam (near Chilliwack) First Nations Chief Ernie Crey not only wants it to go ahead, he says they may be interested in buying a stake in it.

And a Research Co. poll found that 76 per cent of British Columbians are uncomfortable with the federal purchase of the pipeline, and may be less inclined to vote Liberal because of it. That’s a big problem for Trudeau.

Overall, there does appear to be some support for the buy, but there is also deep concern over the government wading in like this. Industry, which wanted the pipeline built, is concerned about that. Taxpayers, who polls show had been increasing their support for the pipeline, are concerned about the federal takeover.

When even those who support a project have concerns, that’s concerning. Especially to a government facing an election next year.

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