At the end of May British Columbia NDP leader John Horgan announced a plan for his party to work with the Green Party to form the government.
Though the B.C. Liberal Party finished with the most seats, the coalition of NDP and Greens would be enough to form a narrow majority. This coalition could be bad news for local, provincial and national economies.
Both the B.C. NDP and the Green Party wish to block the expansion of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline, a project that has already been approved federally. There are thousands of jobs on the line and economic spinoffs not just in Alberta and B.C., but also across the country.
The problem is Horgan and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley have opposing viewpoints on the issue.
“It’s important to note that provinces do not have the right to unilaterally stop projects such as Trans Mountain that have earned the federal government’s approval,” said Notley in a statement. “This is a foundational principle that binds our country together. There are no legal tools available to provinces to stand in the way of infrastructure projects that benefit all Canadians.”
Interprovincial pipelines are federal jurisdiction, but B.C. does have tools to slow the progress of the expansion, like refusing permits or insisting on a provincial environmental review. When it comes to major projects like Trans Mountain, delay can often mean death.
Trans Mountain faced an exhaustive review from the National Energy Board before approval, including the addition of 157 conditions that must be met by Kinder Morgan in order to build the pipeline.
Opposition from the NDP/Green alliance in B.C. is strictly political, so it will difficult for Notley to reason with Horgan, even though the two are both New Democrats. There is the chance that some kind of agreement could be worked out, but right now all signs point to an impasse.
In interprovincial disputes, the prime minister can take action to do what is best for the country. The constitution gives Parliament the power to declare infrastructure to be “for the general advantage of Canada” or “for the advantage of two or more of the provinces” and let Ottawa take control. The Trans Mountain project fits that description. If an interprovincial agreement can’t be reached, does Justin Trudeau have the guts to act in the best interests of the country?
There is tremendous pressure on Trudeau on this issue, even from within his own caucus. Some of his B.C. MPs represent constituents who are against pipelines. But it is the job of the prime minister to do what’s best for all Canadians.
Trudeau has stated that he stands by his government’s support for the Trans Mountain expansion, but will they actually stand up for it? In this case, taking a wait-and-see approach could be costly and could lead to long delays or even the cancelation of the project.
Canadians need the federal government to act in the best interests of all Canadians. When push comes to shove, the country needs this pipeline.