Chris Gardner, president of the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association of British Columbia (ICBA), says he is fed up waiting for construction to begin on the controversial Alberta-to-BC Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline.
“It’s time to get to work on this project,” said Gardner. “This pipeline is in the national interest, which is why the federal cabinet approved it in the first place.”
Gardner says all of the issues raised by George Heyman, BC’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change, have been already addressed in the 29-month-long Trans Mountain approval process by the Liberal federal government and endorsed by the provincial government.
“This is simply a stalling tactic meant to flout the federal government’s jurisdiction,” said Gardner. “It’s time for Prime Minister Trudeau to act.”
Gardner’s call to arms was in response to the BC government’s recent announcement that it has formed a committee to look at environmental impacts of pipelines.
The ICBA says that ground was already covered during the Trans Mountain approval process, and after millions of tax dollars have been invested in spill response.
ICBA recently added some rhetorical arrows to its quiver when it launched an email campaign through its Get2Yes web platform to move Trans Mountain along.
“The campaign started in early February and has already generated more than 2,000 emails in support of the pipeline to the BC government,” said Jordan Bateman, ICBA director of communications.
Bateman says the ICBA plans to continue the campaign “until it’s successful.”
“Sometimes politicians change their minds,” he said. “There’s always hope.”
The ICBA also sent an open letter in support of the pipeline to Premier John Horgan.
Signatories to the letter, in addition to the ICBA, were The Canadian Federation of Independent Business, Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, the Business Council of British Columbia and the BC Chamber of Commerce.
Also in support of the Trans Mountain pipeline extension is the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada (PCA).
“Canada’s energy producers already adhere to the highest safety and environmental standards,” said Rieghardt van Enter, PCA regional director for British Columbia. “Pipelines are critical to Canada’s energy development and economy. Thwarting the transportation of Western Canada’s oil to global energy markets is not in the best interests of British Columbians or Canadians.”
van Enter says the PCA has spoken to all of the parties in the dispute.
“We have talked to federal Minister of Natural Resources Jim Carr twice — he was positive about getting the pipeline build — to the Alberta government, and, indirectly, to the BC government.”
It is unclear how or when the stand-off will be resolved.
After BC called for further review of the oil-spill risk from the pipeline expansion, the Alberta government retaliated by boycotting all imports of wines from British Columbia.
The latest move in this political chess game, as of late February, has BC taking the wine boycott to the Canadian Free Trade Agreement.
The trade agreement allows for penalties of up to $10-million, but the BC government says there would first be a 120-day period — four months — for talks between the two provinces before the dispute escalates to a tribunal hearing.
UBC political science professor Kathryn Harrison says neither Alberta, BC nor Ottawa is in a great bargaining position.
“Alberta wants a pipeline, but can’t make it happen on their own,” she said. “BC will have an uphill battle in court, though there’s nothing for Trans Mountain or Alberta or the federal government to challenge yet. The federal government has approved the pipeline and will be in a strong position if and when the constitutional question arises in court, but whatever they do is going to alienate voters in one region or the other, which is not a great position for any federal politician to be in.”
UBC business professor Werner Antweiler says the provincial government is trying to balance competing interests within the party and with the Green Party, its partner in government.
“Opposition to the pipeline is concentrated in Burnaby [pipeline terminal and Vancouver suburb],” said Antweiler. “It’s the young environmentalists in Burnaby versus employment-minded unions. There are a number of provincial constituencies in Burnaby that are in play, so the NDP needs to be careful. After the decision to proceed on the Site C dam, the government feels it owes something to the environmental faction in the NDP.”
Nick Martin, a policy analyst with the Canada West Foundation, says the federal government needs to assert its authority.
“If project opponents successfully impose more prolonged uncertainty and even block this federally approved, in-the-national-interest project, then investors… will look even more unfavourably on Canada, which will only harm us economically,” Martin said.