“While governments grant permits for resource development, only communities can grant permission.”
Many people believed this statement by Justin Trudeau and his promise to honour what he called “social licence” when it came to approving pipeline projects.
Perhaps this is why I have heard an unprecedented level of outrage on the announcement that the Trudeau Liberal Government is borrowing $4.5 Billion to buy the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline this week.
The Liberal Government has claimed that purchasing the Kinder Morgan’s Trans-Mountain assets was necessary so that the Government can complete the estimated $7.4 Billion Trans-Mountain pipeline expansion project. The Liberals have also claimed they will, in the immediate future, look for other buyers and investors and ultimately they will look to sell the pipeline expansion project once completed.
Critics have suggested that the Prime Minister is buying his way out of a problem of his own making, while activists have promised this news will only increase protests and further fuel anti-pipeline sentiment.
There is some validity to these sentiments as those who oppose the Trans-Mountain pipeline project, including the BC NDP Provincial Government, have indicated they will continue to oppose the project regardless of the change in ownership.
Likewise, for supporters of the project, many view this change in ownership as bringing the pipeline no closer to actually getting built.
I believe it is true that the Prime Minister did largely create this problem.
The promise to honour “social license” created expectations that clearly the Prime Minister had no serious intention of observing.
Further, with the Prime Minister promising for many months that the project would get built without offering any details, he ultimately created a situation where Kinder Morgan imposed a May 31st deadline for certainty.
This deadline served as an ultimatum to the Liberal Government.
If Kinder Morgan withdrew from the project over a lack of certainty it would be viewed as a massive failure in federal leadership on the part of Prime Minister Trudeau given his promise the pipe line would get built.
The Prime Minister had other options.
For instance, rather than utilizing his political capital to work with Premiers Notley and Horgan to a mediated solution, we saw only a brief meeting recently where all three leaders could press for some political resolution.
The Prime Minister could have introduced or supported Independent Senator Doug Black’s Bill S-245, that would have further clarified the federal jurisdiction as he had previously publicly committed to do.
Buying the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline does not ensure the expansion project is built.
Activists have vowed to use all means necessary to stop the construction and the change of ownership now makes these protests more politically motivated.
What Prime Minister Trudeau did achieve in buying the Trans Mountain pipeline with our money, is control of the projects timeline.
As there is no longer an ultimatum from Kinder Morgan, the Liberals can decide where they begin the construction and where they do not and of course when, if at all.
With an election on the horizon, I submit this purchase was more about controlling the political agenda than about seriously building a pipeline.
Perhaps I am wrong on this speculation but time will tell.
My question to you this week:
Do you believe the Prime Minister will enforce the rule of law and begin actively constructing the Trans Mountain expansion project or are the Liberals simply buying political time at our expense?
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.