VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) – BC’s heated trade dispute with Alberta might be cooling down, now that Premier John Horgan is seeking legal advice on whether he’s allowed to restrict the transportation of oil through this province.
We believe it is our right to take appropriate measures to defend BC’s environment, economy and our coast from the drastic consequence of a diluted bitumen spill.
— John Horgan (@jjhorgan) February 22, 2018
The premier seems to be backing away from the hardline his government took a few weeks ago.
Horgan says the BC NDP government will ask the courts if it has the right to protect its environment by restricting diluted bitumen in the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline.
Earlier this month Horgan was on a trade mission in Asia when plans to restrict diluted bitumen shipments from Alberta were announced which prompted retaliation from Alberta Premier Rachel Notley which included a ban on BC wine sales in her province.
Today, Horgan says he still thinks that’s allowed, but he will seek legal advice on how far BC can go to ensure the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is safe.
“We’re proceeding with four points that are not contentious and the fifth point has been passed to legal counsel and we’ll take advice on how we will proceed in the days ahead.”
A sticking point is about the potential of a spill on BC’s coast.
“People of British Columbia look to their government to make sure that a diluted bitumen spill will not adversely affect our economy, our environment or our future. Recently, we announced our intention to speak to British Columbians about what safeguards should be in place to protect our environment or our economy and our coast. We intended to include in that discussion: spill response times, geographic response plans, the loss of public and cultural land use as well as the application of regulations on marine spills.”
The fifth point Horgan is referring to is about the additional bitumen flows to the coast. “This point has generated disproportionate and unlawful reactions from the government of Alberta. Actions that threaten an entire industry and the livelihoods of the people who depend on it. We will be taking steps to protect our wine industry to the Canadian Free Trade Agreement and I understand the BC Wine Institute is also seeking injunctions to protect our interests in that market.”
Horgan adds he wants BC and Alberta to be good neighbours, but the rest of Canada needs to know how strongly British Columbia feels about protecting its coastline.
Soon after Horgan spoke to reporters, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley did the same.
She’s still not happy with what BC has done, but did announce her province would stop all retaliatory actions for now.
— Lucas Meyer (@meyer_lucas) February 22, 2018
— Lucas Meyer (@meyer_lucas) February 22, 2018
“In asking the courts to give it a right they don’t have, BC is stepping back from the brink and abiding by the law and this is a good thing. I’m confident that the courts will not give BC rights it does not possess under our constitution. In other words, I’m confident the constitution will be upheld and we will have seen the last of these ridiculous threats.”
LISTEN: Rachel Notley announces Alberta will temporarily halt retaliatory actions against BC
The retaliatory actions are on pause, but Notley never ruled out re-introducing them.
“I do want to be very clear, if it becomes clear that this action is in fact a part of a deliberate strategy to harass the pipeline and its investors with frivolous or unconstitutional legal challenges, we will act immediately. And we will expect our federal partners to do the same. Canada can’t operate with a provincial government acting as though as though it is a separate country with the right to pass whatever laws it pleases to serve its short-term political interests.”
Notley adds her government will also re-engage in electricity purchase talks with BC.
This ongoing trade war with our neighbours really got going earlier this year when the BC government said it was taking action to block further bitumen shipments from Alberta to BC — a threat to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
The $7.4-billion project, approved in November 2016 by the federal government, would triple capacity on the 1,150 kilometre line, which runs from Edmonton to Burnaby.
Campaigner with Stand.Earth doesn’t see province’s move as backing down
With the province moving the discussion about whether BC has jurisdiction in oil transportation to the courts, Sven Biggs says at least one government is taking action.
The campaigner with Stand.Earth is confident the courts will side with BC.
“To be blunt, the province wouldn’t refer this to the courts unless it was confident that it is in its constitutional right to to enact this kind of regulation,” says Biggs.
He applauds the province for taking action.
“For the last couple of weeks, the province of Alberta and Justin Trudeau have been making a lot of noise. But it’s the first time someone has actually stepped up and put money where their mouth is.”
He believes Kinder Morgan is going to face more serious legal hurdles thanks to this new court case.
Meantime, Biggs doesn’t think the Kinder Morgan expansion project is going full speed ahead – saying the company has only managed to put up a big fence and cleared trees at its Burnaby terminal.