Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday April 19, 2018
Flailing about on the TransMountain Pipeline Project
Desperate times require desperate measures. In the standoff between British Columbia and Alberta over the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, the federal government is caught in the middle, trying to salvage its approved project that is about to collapse and avoid a major regional conflict. The federal Liberals are so desperate to save this pipeline from being scuttled by B.C. politics that they’re offering to financially backstop the project. Unfortunately, that might not be the solution they think it is.
Their desperation escalated after Kinder Morgan leveled an ultimatum earlier this month: It would need, by May 31, political certainty that its project can go ahead or it will pull out. Some have called that blackmail, but that’s not fair: endless regulatory red tape has already driven Trans Mountain’s costs up to $7.4 billion from $6.8 billion. Further delays and costs would only further compromise the economic viability of the project, while making it harder to sign up shippers. Kinder Morgan has already spent over $1 billion to prepare its application, negotiate agreements with multiple First Nations and clear land. The next step is buying and installing the pipe, which will cost billions of dollars. The company can’t make that commitment while Canada plays its Mickey Mouse politics.
After neglecting the issues for too long, the federal government now promises to assert its constitutional power over the project. As legal scholar Dwight Newman notes, the federal government could pass legislation that clearly asserts the paramountcy of its constitutional power, rendering any provincial laws inoperable when a conflict arises. Using this strategy will prove even more important now that B.C. is threatening to also limit the transport of Alberta’s bitumen by rail, which also challenges federal powers. (Continued: Financial Post)