Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley were both at the Calgary Stampede talking pipeline politics this week, with Notley telling the annual premier’s Stampede pancake breakfast her government is still considering buying a share of the Trans Mountain project.
In May, Notley said Alberta would put up as much as C$2 billion if that’s what it took to keep the project on track. Now, she says she’s considering a more modest contribution.
“I think there’s a good possibility…but I honestly can’t get into much more detail on it until all the final decisions are made,” she said. “What I will say is whatever role Alberta takes is one that will absolutely be fiscally responsible, and there’s a good, solid business case for it. If anything, it will open up opportunities for other Albertans.”
Trudeau, who drew cheers at the pancake breakfast for his reference to the buyout, said it was particularly prudent to build the pipeline in light of Canada’s growing trade war with an increasingly belligerent White House administration.
“I don’t know many people who, particularly given the trade context with the United States right now, would continue to argue that it’s a good thing that we only have one market, the United States, for our oil resources,” Trudeau told the pancake breakfast. “That simply doesn’t make sense, and getting our resources to new markets across the Pacific through the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is just in the Canadian interest, in Alberta’s interest, and in all of our best interests.”
Meanwhile, Kinder Morgan filed a plan with the National Energy Board that sets an August restart date for pipeline construction in Alberta, with work getting under way in British Columbia’s North Thompson region in late September. “We’re excited to be moving forward in Alberta and the North Thompson, bringing and delivering on our commitments to local, regional, and Aboriginal jobs and benefits,” said Kinder Morgan Canada President Ian Anderson.
“But the company also noted that it still needs local construction permits and authorization to proceed,” National Observer notes. “These permits, numbering more than 1,000, must be obtained as part of the company’s efforts to respect conditions imposed by the federal government when it approved the project in November 2016.”
Steve Kretzmann and Hannah McKinnon of Oil Change International, on a visit to the Indigenous watch house on Burnaby Mountain, told Observer that this is the time for a country like Canada to start turning down fossil fuel megaprojects.
“Climate leadership today is going to have to mean saying ‘no’ to the fossil fuel industry and telling the fossil fuel industry that they have to stop expanding,” Kretzmann said. “It’s particularly time in places like Canada, where there are economic alternatives. It’s a relatively rich country, and we know that we can do a lot better.”
Kretzmann and McKinnon “both stressed that no one was talking about shutting down oil and gas development and consumption overnight, but rather to take responsible steps to phase out the industry and create new clean energy jobs as the world moves away from fossil fuels,” Observer adds.
“Let’s assume we’re going to get where we say we’re going [on climate and decarbonization] and work backwards,” McKinnon said. “This isn’t about turning off the taps tomorrow. This is about a just transition. This is about a conversation that looks at the communities, and the workers, and the places that have been dependent on this sector, and saying: ‘How do you see yourselves in a clean energy economy?’ Let’s get on that track.’ The [fossil] decline is happening, it has to happen, we all acknowledge it.”
Last week, the Vancouver Sun reported on a group of Alberta and B.C. First Nations planning a meeting toward the end of the month to look at buying in to the Trans Mountain project. But the Discourse published research showing that, while 43 Indigenous communities along the pipeline route have signed mutual benefits agreements (MBAs) with Kinder Morgan, 14 are participating in legal challenges against the project—and another 85 have not signed agreements.
While that discussion was unfolding, an analysis by West Coast Environmental Law attorney Eugene Kung pointed to seven reasons the federal government or Kinder Morgan could walk away from Trudeau’s controversial, $4.5-billion buyout deal for the project.
“We have entered a new chapter in the Trans Mountain pipeline story that is destined to continue for years,” Kung wrote. “The decision to nationalize the project is significant, and rather than dampening opposition, it has only deepened it on the ground—especially in B.C.”