Although 180,000 absentee ballots could yet shift the results of British Columbia’s cliffhanger election May 9, Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver is entering negotiations with the two larger parties in the provincial legislature by affirming his opposition to the Site C hydroelectric project and declaring Premier Christy Clark “reckless” for agreeing to Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
Both projects will be at issue as Clark’s Liberals and John Horgan’s Opposition New Democrats make their pitches for the support of Weaver’s three-member Green caucus. The May 9 vote left B.C. with its first minority government since 1952, with Clark holding 43 seats and Horgan claiming 41 in the province’s 87-seat legislature.
Weaver told media his four-member negotiating team will include Norman Spector, who has served as senior advisor to then-prime minister Brian Mulroney and former B.C. premier Bill Bennett.
Weaver said his party will seek intervenor status in support of First Nations’ Federal Court of Appeal action against the Kinder Morgan pipeline, even though the deadline for intervenor applications has passed, adding that his members consider it their duty to stop the project.
“We believe we need to support the First Nations in B.C. who are in court now,” he said. “The fact we’re being told to ship diluted bitumen in our coastal waters is just reckless. The government is reckless for agreeing to it.”
He opined that the five conditions Clark set before approving the pipeline were “pure political spin”, adding detail to his own observation and Horgan’s that the B.C. Greens and New Democrats have more policy in common than either of them shares with the Liberals.
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, whose NDP government already has intervenor status before the Court of Appeal, affirmed that she would “push hard” to get construction of Kinder Morgan started as quickly as possible, the Calgary Herald reports. She also warned against allowing any province to hold up a project deemed to be in the national interest.
If that happened, “Canada would be less a country and more a combination of individual fiefdoms fighting with each other for advantage,” she said. “I fundamentally disagree with the view that one province, or even one region, can hold hostage the economy of another province, or in this case, the economy of our entire country.”
In a Tuesday op ed in the Globe and Mail, Weaver cast that reaction as “yet more evidence that the flawed, winner-take-all Canadian electoral system is more likely to inflame than resolve reasonable policy differences—within and among provinces.” In a situation where not all Albertans support a highly controversial project, not all British Columbians oppose it, and the National Energy Board process to review it was fatally flawed, “it is ridiculous to assert that British Columbia’s opposition amounts to a regional blockade against a project ‘in the national interest,’” he wrote.
“No province should act unreasonably to block neighbour—or national—priorities,” Weaver added. “But federalism doesn’t mean that one province gets to tread on the rights and threaten the environment of another. It means we work together to assess and advance the national interest.”
While that tension plays out, the company behind the Trans Mountain project may already be taking a hit. In a report for Reuters UK, Calgary- and Toronto-based reporters Ethan Lou and John Tilak describe the B.C. election results as a potential “minefield for Kinder Morgan Inc.,” adding that “a provincial government unfriendly to development could mean major obstacles to Trans Mountain, even if it has federal approval on its side.” That reality “is expected to cast a shadow on Kinder Morgan’s proposed $1.3-billion IPO for its Canadian unit, set to be the nation’s fourth-biggest, filed one day after the election.”
“The really close B.C. election vote puts pressure on the Kinder Morgan IPO,” CMC Markets Chief Market Strategist Colin Cieszynski told the news agency. “You run the danger of the whole thing getting stalled for years or going into limbo.”
“While the provincial government cannot undo the federal authorization to construct and operate the Trans Mountain pipeline, they could create some potential issues at a local and provincial level,” agreed Alan Ross, Borden Ladner Gervais LLP’s managing partner in Calgary. “To the extent not done so already, any Kinder Morgan Canada IPO would need to price in political risk related to the B.C. election.”