“Alberta is prepared to do whatever it takes to get this pipeline built” – Rachel Notley
It was a busy Sunday afternoon in Alberta politics.
We appear to have reached another stage in what feels like a never-ending political dispute over the expansion of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Pipeline from Edmonton to Burnaby. Late on Sunday afternoon, Kinder Morgan released a statement declaring that it was “suspending all non-essential activities and related spending on the Trans Mountain Expansion Project.”
The company plans to “consult with various stakeholders in an effort to reach agreements” by May 31, 2018.
It feels like a big win for British Columbia Premier John Horgan and opponents of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion. But this announcement by Kinder Morgan could also be part of a strategy to increase the pressure on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to convince Horgan to back down from his opposition to the pipeline.
Kinder Morgan Inc. is the key player in this dispute but has remained largely silent in the public debate. But when the Texas-based company finally spoke this afternoon, all the political players jumped to attention.
Notley responded to Kinder Morgan’s announcement with a message that is pitch perfect for Alberta-ears. Notley called on Trudeau to stand up for Alberta’s interests as he has for economic interests in Ontario and Quebec. And in a move that will remind Albertans of Peter Lougheed, Notley went as far to say that “Alberta is prepared to be an investor in the pipeline” if opposition to the pipeline caused private investors to flee.
Trudeau responded very clearly with a tweet declaring that “The Trans Mountain expansion will be built.” And federal Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr reinforced support for the pipeline in a written statement.
All that said, it remains unclear what the federal government will do to stop what is mostly verbal threats by the BC government to stop the pipeline.
In a statement released today, Horgan stated that “the federal process failed to consider B.C.’s interests and the risk to our province” – a sentiment that most Albertans might agree with on many other issues. But with the BC NDP government now trying to jump-start the west coast liquid natural gas industry, it seems clear that neither climate change or the transportation of natural resources are the actual reasons for opposing this pipeline.
Creating political obstacles that could convince Kinder Morgan to lose interest in the project is part of Horgan’s strategy, and maybe one of the final tools in the now infamous ‘toolbox’ referred to in the 2017 Confidence and Supply Agreement between the BC Green Caucus and the BC NDP Caucus.
The Notley government is expected to introduce legislation giving the government the authority to limit oil and gas shipments to BC, a move that could have serious political and economic repercussions for Alberta, BC and Canada. I would imagine this drastic move by the Alberta government would provide some incentive for Trudeau to figure out how he might provide an opportunity for Horgan to gracefully save face on this issue.
I expect this might not be the last time this never-ending political dispute makes big news on a Sunday afternoon.