The Province of Saskatchewan is taking aim at Burnaby, B.C. officials, saying they are holding up a crucial pipeline project on purpose.
The City of Burnaby has fired back with a letter from its attorneys calling the comments inappropriate and asking for them to be withdrawn.
Last month, Kinder Morgan, which claimed it was tired of waiting for permits required by City of Burnaby zoning and tree-cutting bylaws, filed a Notice of Motion and Constitutional Question with the National Energy Board (NEB) for its Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project.
Saskatchewan’s Attorney General, Don Morgan, has applied for intervenor status in the proceedings. He believes the City of Burnaby’s delays are putting thousands of jobs in Saskatchewan at risk.
"We are disappointed the City of Burnaby is deliberately slowing down an important project for an industry that is only now recovering from the severe slowdown caused by low oil prices," Morgan said in a press release. "Saskatchewan has consistently taken the position that once an interprovincial pipeline has been approved by the federal government, provinces and municipalities should not be able to interfere."
Kinder Morgan is arguing the city’s failure to act in a timely manner raises issues of jurisdiction so it is also asking the NEB to establish a process for Trans Mountain to bring similar matters to the board for expedited determination in the future.
According to Saskatchewan, Trans Mountain is an interprovincial project that falls under federal jurisdiction by virtue of the Constitution Act. They are asking the NEB for a time extension so it can prepare written submissions.
"Our government will continue to advocate for an expansion of pipeline capacity across Canada," Morgan said. "Our energy companies need to get their product to tidewater to ensure they receive the best price possible. All Canadians benefit from a thriving energy sector, including the citizens of Burnaby."
The city took issue with Saskatchewan’s involvement, sending a letter from its attorneys asking for Morgan to take back his claim the slow process was on purpose.
"We believe you owe the City of Burnaby and its professional staff an apology," reads the letter. "We suggest that it is highly inappropriate for the Attorney General of your Province to make public statements that pre-judge a key issue before a Court or regulatory tribunal. Such statements may have the effect of influencing that court. The role of an Attorney General is to be impartial in the administration of justice. We would ask that you reconsider the propriety of your comment, and withdraw it on the record."
City officials have argued that complex submissions and incomplete information from Kinder Morgan are the true culprit for permit delays.
"Hundreds of citizens and businesses come to us with permit and rezoning applications each year," said city manager Lambert Chu in a statement. "Our building permits alone are approaching $1 billion for 2017. We treat all permit and rezoning applications equally and with respect, understanding that every requester is anxious for permit approval."
Chu added that for several months city staff have worked diligently and have also met regularly with company representatives in the process as directed by the NEB.
Mayor Derek Corrigan said despite his opposition to the project, he and the city council are not involved in permitting and would not interfere with the process.
"The City remains opposed to Kinder Morgan’s pipeline project and Council will continue to pursue every legal option to oppose the project," said Corrigan. "We will not, however, interfere with processes that Kinder Morgan has a right to pursue, including requests for City permits."
The federal government approved the project in November 2016.
Kinder Morgan anticipates that the $7.4-billion expansion project will generate $46.7 billion in government revenues and 802,000 person years of employment, the equivalent of 37,000 jobs each year, over more than 20 years.
The expansion project would parallel the 1,150-kilometre route of the existing Trans Mountain pipeline, which was built in 1953 and is the only West Coast link for Western Canadian oil.