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Construction stakeholders applaud Supreme Court Trans Mountain decision

Warren Frey
Construction stakeholders applaud Supreme Court Trans Mountain decision

B.C.’s construction leaders are elated with news that the Trans Mountain pipeline can once more go through British Columbia.

On Jan. 16, the Supreme Court of Canada decided unanimously to dismiss province’s appeal of a lower court decision which stopped legislation aimed at halting construction of the pipeline.

Federal lawyers argued B.C.’s attempt to require provincial permits for heavy oil to flow through pipelines was a clear imposition on the constitutional authority given to Ottawa over interprovincial pipelines.

“We’re thrilled to death. This has been a long, grinding battle over the pipeline,” Independent Contractors and Businesses Association (ICBA) vice president of communications Jordan Bateman said. “It’s refreshing to see the B.C. Supreme Court dismiss unanimously. Now let’s get to work, let’s build the pipeline, get thousands of B.C. citizens to work and get the most of what we can out of oil and gas.”

Bateman also said opinion has shifted positively towards building a pipeline across B.C.

“Polls in B.C. prove it, the federal election proves it and Canadians are sick and tired of politicians wasting tax dollars on frivolous cases,” he said.

Progressive Contractors Association of Canada (PCA) president Paul de Jong also approved of the court’s decision.

“We’re very pleased with the decision for several reasons. One is that our contractors are in a position to employ thousands of workers next year, and we’re eager to get to work. The court case being resolved is a final piece of clarity before proceeding,” de Jong said.

“More broadly, we see the courts have struck down, once again, an attempt in this case by the provincial NDP to halt the pipeline. The courts have reaffirmed the long-standing principle that pipelines, ports and railways are federally regulated and therefore the province doesn’t have the right to oppose them,” he added.

De Jong added the project has the support of many communities and First Nations along the pipeline’s right-of-way, and “as a result of construction, bring access to tidewater that is unheard of in history of oilsands, which is good news for investors as well.”

British Columbia Construction Association (BCCA) president Chris Atchison said the Supreme Court’s decision was “the right outcome for our industry, for our skilled workforce, and for the people of B.C. and Canada.”

The ongoing project challenges have been unproductive domestically and continue to undermine investor confidence internationally.  Canada’s global brand is strong and BC should be showcasing its competitive advantages to the world,” he said. 

“The fact that the Court’s decision was unanimous underscores the straight forward nature of the issue and indicates that the case was ill advised from the start,” Atchison added.

BC Building Trades Council executive director Andrew Mercier said his organization respects the court’s decision.

“BC Building Trades members have been building pipelines for decades and have the expertise and experience to ensure Trans Mountain is built to the highest standards,” Mercier said.

“The council understands the environmental concerns around the pipeline and believes that the project can move forward in a way that balances the needs of all stakeholders, including workers, industry and the environment,” he added.

Federal minister of natural resources Seamus O’Regan welcomed the court’s ruling.

“It is a core responsibility of the federal government to help get Canada’s resources to market and support good, middle-class jobs. We know this is only possible when we earn public trust and work to address environmental, Indigenous peoples’ and local concerns, which we are doing every step of the way on TMX,” O’Regan said in a statement.

B.C. premier John Horgan expressed the provincial government’s disappointment in a statement.

“Our government takes our responsibility to defend the interests of British Columbians seriously. When it comes to protecting our coast, our environment and our economy, we will continue do all we can within our jurisdiction,” Horgan said.

Horgan’s NDP government ran in the 2017 provincial election in opposition to the pipeline.

Alberta premier Jason Kenney stated his approval of the decision on Twitter.

“We are very pleased with this outcome and look forward to construction continuing on the Trans Mountain Pipeline,” he tweeted.

The Trans Mountain pipeline has faced obstacles from the project’s inception. A proposal to twin an already existing Kinder Morgan pipeline from Edmonton, Alta. to Burnaby, B.C. was approved by the National Energy Board in 2013. The project faced opposition from First Nations and environmental groups. The government of Canada agreed in 2018 to buy the pipeline from Kinder Morgan for $4.5 billion.

With files from The Canadian Press

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