Kinder Morgan’s proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion would be a likely early casualty of a minority or coalition government in British Columbia, and Rachel Notley’s Alberta New Democrats may be the next, former Independent MP Brent Rathgeber suggests in a recent post on iPolitics [subs req’d].
The B.C. election results at least tentatively shook the Canadian political landscape last week, delivering the province’s first minority government since 1952. While upcoming judicial recounts may shift the balance of power, the seat count so far means the next provincial government will need at least the tacit support of Green Party leader Andrew Weaver to pass legislation and survive a non-confidence vote.
That’s very bad news for Kinder Morgan, even though its intensely controversial pipeline project has received federal and provincial approval.
If Christy Clark’s Liberal government is to survive, she’ll have to work with Weaver, who has already declared his opposition to new pipelines. “Given that Clark’s support for the Trans Mountain pipeline was always conditional and lukewarm at best, I suspect that’s the low-hanging fruit she will reach for,” Rathgeber writes. “I very much doubt that she sees Kinder Morgan as a hill worth dying on.”
And if Clark’s rule came to an end, “it would be a complicated—almost unnatural—political act to impose a pipeline on a province against its will,” he adds. “A recalcitrant province could cause all sorts of mischief with an unpopular pipeline project. It could withhold electricity service and deny permits. It could go for the nuclear option: court challenges and appeals that could tie the project up for years, if not decades.”
Either way, “it’s difficult to see a clear path to construction for Trans Mountain—certainly not before 2019, when Albertans next go to the polls.” Which will pose a serious problem for a government that was counting on a new pipeline to lift the province’s economy.
“Oil prices remain low, the Alberta economy is still sagging, and the provincial government’s carbon tax remains deeply unpopular,” Rathgeber writes. So Notley “desperately needs a big win like a multi-billion-dollar construction project.”
In the days following the B.C. vote, Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr reiterated the federal government’s support for Trans Mountain.