OTTAWA – Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and three local First Nation representatives are urging the federal Liberals to pronounce a “definitive no” to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
Robertson is considered a political ally of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau but the Vancouver mayor used a visit to the capital Tuesday to say he’s very concerned by what he calls a disastrous environmental review process for Kinder Morgan’s proposed project.
Alberta had Ottawa’s ear under the federal Conservatives, said Robertson, and it is time for the new government to appreciate other regional concerns — including the potential economic disruption from a major oil spill.
“Alberta does a great job of communicating their economic interests,” said Robertson. “They’ve had massive influence in Ottawa over the past decade and it’s important that the rest of the country, our concerns and our successes, are communicated.”
The $6.8-billion expansion of the existing pipeline would almost triple the amount of diluted bitumen from Alberta being pumped to an export terminal in Burrard Inlet, and would result in a seven-fold increase in tanker ships.
The National Energy Board has conditionally approved the pipeline, and the Liberal government has promised a final decision by mid-December.
Chief Ian Campbell of Squamish First Nation says the Trudeau government has changed the rhetoric around reconciliation and nation-to-nation negotiations with Aboriginal Peoples, but now it’s time to show some tangible results.
Campbell said there’s “vehement opposition” to the new Trans Mountain pipeline, a message Robertson believes Ottawa needs to hear “loud and clear.”
“For me, it’s crucial that the prime minister and his team listen to what the people on the West Coast are saying and respect the fact there is no consent there,” said the Vancouver mayor.
Liberals won 15 of 16 seats in British Columbia’s lower mainland last October when the Trans Mountain pipeline hearings made it a live issue in the federal election campaign.
“They were very vocal in opposition of the Kinder Morgan pipeline proposal during the last campaign,” Robertson said of the Liberals. “That certainly resonated and helped them get elected.”
Those B.C. seats will “absolutely” be in play in 2019 if the Liberal government ignores local pipeline sentiment, he said.
Robertson’s loud anti-pipeline advocacy has raised the ire of Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi, who responded with a broadside in Tuesday’s Globe and Mail.
But the Vancouver mayor isn’t backing down, calling Nenshi’s response “unhelpful” and asserting that Alberta has been getting preferential treatment from Ottawa for too long.
Conservative energy critic Ed Fast said all Canada’s provinces require global market access.
“Those provinces rightly expect that we will work together as a federation to get our resources to markets where they pay the highest prices,” said Fast. “We work together as a Canadian family and somehow Mr. Robertson doesn’t get that.”
While the National Energy Board approved the Kinder Morgan expansion last month with 157 conditions, the Liberals have implemented two additional review processes for major resource projects on an interim basis until a more complete overhaul of the environmental assessment system is completed.
The federal environment department is currently reviewing upstream greenhouse gas emissions from the Trans Mountain expansion while a three-member federal panel is doing additional community consultations.
Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr said Tuesday the government is hearing a variety of competing points on view on pipelines. The NEB review, the government consultations and the upstream emissions will all be part of the mix when cabinet makes a decision later this year, he said.
“Look, governments make controversial decisions all the time,” Carr said.
“Ultimately, we’re held accountable by the people who elected us and not everyone is going to have the same view …. So yeah, I mean there are people who will be happy, people who will be less happy.”