Jim Carr states unequivocally Canada’s support for Trans Mountain Expansion project, but Alberta consumed with Notley wine ban

The wailing and gnashing of teeth in Alberta can be heard across the Rockies at Kinder Morgan’s Burnaby offices. “Why doesn’t Justin Trudeau stand up to BC?” is the lament from Carway to Zama. The answer, for those with ears, is that there is no need. Canada has the big stick, a constitutional principle called “paramountcy,” which as economist Andrew Leach tweeted Tuesday, is “not something the PM gets to wield like a hammer to whack provincial officials who say things he thinks might impede federal authority.”

Paramountcy decrees that when federal and provincial jurisdictions overlap or conflict, Canadian authority trumps that of a province.

This case, Canada has exclusive jurisdiction over inter-provincial pipelines like the Trans Mountain Expansion project and NDP government of John Horgan is trying to chip away at federal authority by promoting a principle called “co-operative federalism,” which argues that when there is overlap or conflict, governments should get along and make it work for the benefit of Canadians.

So, why hasn’t the Trudeau Government made a bigger fuss about paramountcy?

The answer is that it doesn’t need to.

Canada has the high ground in this battle, with the sun at its back and all the firepower it needs to defeat Horgan’s encroachment on federal territory.

And that’s exactly how Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr played it in a Facebook post Monday. The Winnipeg MP’s comments are just what Alberta wanted to hear, even if Albertans were too busy congratulating Premier Rachel Notley for her ill-conceived BC win ban to notice.

“This week, the British Columbia government announced it would consult on restricting oil exports from its coast due to a perceived lack of oceans protection,” he wrote, adding that the Trudeau Government agreed in extensive protection of the West Coast from oil spills, which he said would be accomplished with the $1.5 billion Oceans Protection Plan.

“We approved this pipeline because we know our coasts and communities will be well protected. Every consideration was taken. We have invested in our beautiful coasts and are simultaneously growing critical access to global markets for Canadian resources.”

So far, so good.

Then came the warning to BC: “If the BC government wants to explore how, within its jurisdiction, it can support these efforts to protect our waters and coastal communities, we welcome that.”

This is how governments talk to each other during disputes, even nasty public ones.

And the message to BC is clear: Stay in your own sandbox and out of ours.

Nothing more needs to be said at the moment.

As Leach tweeted, “The test would come if KM [Kinder Morgan] appealed to NEB [National Energy Board] as they did with [the City of] Burnaby. But, they can’t appeal regarding a hypothetical future thing. There is no pre-emptive paramountcy of anything related to pipelines and shipping.”

As Leach notes in yet another tweet, Canada “can’t wield [paramountcy] on a freaking press release.”

Exactly.

British Columbia hasn’t actually done anything yet.

Horgan says he will appoint a science council to advise his government on oil spill response preparedness. He says his government will consult with British Columbians on response time after a spill, compensation for communities that lose land or public amenities, and “maximizing application” of regulations, whatever that means.

Oh, and a fifth point, tucked away at the bottom of the list: “Restrictions on the increase of diluted bitumen (“dilbit”) transportation until the behaviour of spilled bitumen can be better understood and there is certainty regarding the ability to adequately mitigate spills.”

That one put Premier Rachel Notley in the swivet that led to Alberta’s rash decision to ban BC wines.

What Notley should have done is hold fire, wait for the federal response (in the form of Carr’s statement), then stood squarely behind the Canadian government, which is doing exactly the right thing.

“Our government approved the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain expansion project because we know we can grow the economy and protect the environment at the same time,” Carr wrote.

“We understand that we must get our resources to global markets, diversifying beyond the United States, the destination for 99 percent of our oil exports. We understand that thousands of jobs for middle class families hang in the balance. And, we know that our international reputation as a good place to invest is on the line.”

Albertans have been demanding unequivocal support for Trans Mountain Expansion and there it is.

Justin Trudeau and Jim Carr cannot express their intent any more clearly than that.

Unfortunately, Canadians aren’t paying attention because they’re distracted by the silly political games Notley unleashed by declaring war on BC wineries.