Completing the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion is the price Canada will have to pay for a national climate action plan, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told National Observer columnist Sandy Garossino, in an exclusive interview February 13.
In the course of the half-hour, taped discussion, the Prime Minister explicitly linked the two decisions and appeared to suggest the new government had already decided by late 2015 to approve a pipeline—whatever feedback it subsequently received from First Nations and other affected communities.
“It was always a question of, if we could move forward responsibly on the Kinder Morgan pipeline, then Alberta would be able to be ambitious as we needed Alberta to be and get on with the national climate change plan. And that’s exactly what ended up happening,” Trudeau said.
“Yes, they were linked to each other. Alberta right now is led by a premier who has done things that no premier has ever been able to do, and it was always a trade-off…It all holds together, and that’s something that was always part of our approach.”
Looking back on the handful of pipeline projects that were awaiting regulatory decisions when he took office in November 2015, Trudeau drew a sharp contrast between Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway project. “We realized that the Great Bear Rainforest and the Douglas Channel was no place to put pipelines and supertankers,” he told Garossino. But “we’ve been having diluted bitumen go out through the Burrard Inlet for the past 30 years without significant issues. The pipeline has been there since 1953, but dilbit has been going through for the past 30 years. And that’s something that we know that we can continue to protect.”
But part of what makes Kinder Morgan a project in the national interest, Trudeau said, is that it connects to a pan-Canadian climate plan with a national floor price on carbon. If Alberta opposition leader Jason Kenney assumes office after the provincial election next year, the floor price will kick in—just as it will for Saskatchewan, which is already opposed to carbon pricing.
“Whether there’s a made-in-Alberta plan like Rachel Notley put forward, or whether the provincial government wants nothing do with it, like Saskatchewan is proposing, we’re still going to collect the price on carbon in Saskatchewan and return that money to Saskatchewan, to the folks in Saskatchewan.”
But that won’t work if the Kinder Morgan project fails, Trudeau said—and by that logic, the B.C. government’s call for an independent scientific review of diluted bitumen safety is a threat to the national carbon plan.
Which means Premier John Horgan “is putting at risk the entire national climate change plan, because Alberta will not be able to stay on if the Kinder Morgan pipeline doesn’t go through. And you will get politicians who are picking and choosing parts of the national plan they don’t like, and if we don’t continue to stand strongly in the national interest, the things that people don’t like within the agreement—which is always filled with compromises—are going to mean that there is no agreement, and there is no capacity to reach our climate targets.”
Trudeau and Garossino discussed the appropriateness of the National Energy Board process for approving Trans Mountain, the lack of public confidence in past regulatory decisions, the federal duty to consult with Indigenous communities, and the extent to which dissenting voices have been heard in the Kinder Morgan decision. The PM pointed out that “individual Indigenous communities are not monolithic”, with different communities coming out for and against both Trans Mountain and Northern Gateway.