Although the House of Commons is not in session this week, the return of Prime Minister Trudeau and his cabinet for an emergency meeting in Ottawa to discuss what many are describing as a “constitutional crisis” has been a subject of national attention.
What is the crisis?
As many will know, there has been an emerging conflict between the New Democrat led Provincial Governments of Alberta and British Columbia related to the Trans-Mountain Pipeline project.
The BC NDP have threatened to use every tool possible to stop the project. In response, the Alberta NDP introduced provincial legislation this week that will enable cuts of Alberta fuel that is shipped to British Columbia.
Why is this a constitutional crisis?
When a pipeline project crosses a provincial or international boundary, it is regulated federally.
In this case, Prime Minister Trudeau has approved the pipeline, and has stated his strong support that the pipeline will be built.
From a constitutional perspective, many experts question if BC has the legal authority to block the Trans Mountain pipeline. Likewise the constitutional validity of Alberta’s intention to reduce gas shipments into B.C. is also being questioned.
Politics are also at play given that both NDP Premiers political survival relies heavily on advancing their respective positions.
To add further tension to this challenging issue, the proponent of the Trans-Mountain pipeline, citing opposition from the BC NDP Government, has set a deadline of May 31, 2018 for certainty on the project or it will be potentially abandoned.
Ultimately this falls onto the shoulders of Prime Minister Trudeau, who has declared this project to be in Canada’s national interest and has accused BC NDP Premier John Horgan of “trying to scuttle our national plan on fighting climate change,”.
For the Trudeau Liberal Government, who currently hold 18 seats in B.C., they are aware that many who oppose the Trans Mountain pipeline do not see building it as supporting the fight on climate change.
Many view it as the opposite, a point that Mr.Trudeau and his Environment Minister do not seem to reconcile.
The problem the Prime Minister now faces is that by declaring the Trans-Mountain pipeline to be in Canada’s national interest, if the project does not get built under his leadership, both the Prime Minister and Canada as a confederation will have little credibility in establishing national policy if usurped by regional interests.
For this reason many are suggesting a constitutional crisis is at hand.
What will happen next?
Unfortunately, the Prime Minister is set to leave Canada again for yet another round of travel to Lima, Peru, the UK and France.
It could be assumed that his senior adviser and cabinet ministers will continue to explore a course of action ranging from withholding federal transfer funds from BC or potentially turning a blind eye in the event Alberta carries out the threat of reducing gasoline flow to B.C.
It is also conceivable that other courses of action may be identified.
From a financial standpoint the Federal, BC and Alberta Governments will lose close to $47 Billion in royalties and taxes over the next 20 years should the project not move forward.
This amount does not include over $400 million in agreements with in excess of 50 First Nations communities who do support the Trans-Mountain pipeline or $922 Million to local government in BC.
As I have previously stated, I believe the Prime Minister made the right decision to support the Trans-Mountain pipeline and I am hopeful that Mr.Trudeau will demonstrate federal leadership to ensure this project is built.
My question this week:
Do you think the Prime Minister is doing enough to ensure that this important energy infrastructure gets built?
I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll free 1-800-665-8711.
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Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.