Canada, BC and Alberta have compromised to make Trans Mountain possible, now it’s time for Vancouver, Burnaby to compromise, too
Canadian federalism has always been about regions. individual provinces, and the national government compromising to get things done. During the 150th anniversary of the nation, the mayors of Vancouver and Burnaby need to relearn their history and gracefully give way on the Trans Mountain pipeline.
Keith Brownsey is a Mount Royal University political scientist. He argues that the 2006 to 2015 Stephen Harper Conservatives departed from the long-held “cooperative federalism” model.
“They were so constrained by ideology that they couldn’t imagine any direct interference with the market, as we have seen with other national policies in the past,” Brownsey said in an interview.
“They had such a strict view of federal and provincial jurisdiction that they wouldn’t touch natural resources. They left everything up to the provinces and the oil and gas companies.”
The Justin Trudeau Liberals have returned to a more traditional style of cooperative federalism, according to Canadian Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr, a Winnipeg MP.
“It’s not possible to consider major national projects and nation-building policy if you don’t have all levels of government talking to each other,” he said in an interview.
“We are proving with actions that that kind of collaboration among governments will be essential for us to move forward as a nation on those files that require everybody pulling together will common objectives.”
Such asKinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Expansion pipeline project, which is controversial and opposed by a significant percentage of British Columbians. But a significant percentage also supports it.
And there have been considerable attempts to compromise and address British Columbia concerns. In fact, the list of compromises, mitigation strategies and policies, is quite long.
- Prime Minister Trudeau rejected approval of the Northern Gateway project, citing serious concerns from First Nations leaders and opposition to building an oil pipeline through the Great Bear Rainforest.
- Trudeau also implemented a temporary oil tanker ban on the northern BC coast that will soon become a permanent ban.
- Canadian government announced $1.5 billion upgrade to coastal marine safety, much of which will be spent on the West Coast improving oil spill response capabilities.
- Western Canada Marine Response Corp., the federally mandated company responsible for West Coast spill response, is spending $200 million on a new Vancouver facility and equipment to improve clean up and containment.
- A commitment from Kinder Morgan that tankers will be escorted by a tug for the entire transit up to Race Rocks, and $150 million investment that will result in a doubling of spill response capacity and halving response times along the Salish Sea.
- Significantly upgraded provincial requirements for for land oil spill prevention.
- Federal commitment to a First Nations monitoring and advisory committee, with $64 million funding.
- Kinder Morgan has signed 41 Mutual Benefit Agreements with BC First Nations worth more than $350 million.
- An unprecedented agreement between the BC government and Kinder Morgan to pay $25 million to $50 million annually to the Province. Premier Christy Clark says the money will fund a new BC Clean Communities Program to pay for environmental protection projects.
- A national carbon tax designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which are an important concern of eco-activist opponents of Trans Mountain Expansion.
- The Alberta government’s Climate Leadership Plan, which includes a suite of policies (province-wide carbon tax, oil sands emission cap, fugitive methane emissions mitigation regulations) designed to reduce the carbon-intensity of the oil that will be flowing through the Trans Mountain Expansion pipeline.
- Modernization of the pipeline review process (including the National Energy Board, and Canadian environmental review act) in direct response to complaints from BC pipeline opponents.
- More consultation with First Nations, communities, and environmental organizations over pipeline project concerns.
It is not possible to view these policies, programs, regulations, consultations, and funding as anything less than a significant commitment by the Canadian, Alberta, and BC governments to address the concerns of British Columbians.
Yet, they are not enough to stop the bitter opposition to the Kinder Morgan pipeline from Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan or Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson.
“…approving Kinder Morgan’s heavy oil pipeline expansion is a big step backwards for Canada’s environment and economy,” Robertson said in a Nov. 29 statement. “I – along with the tens of thousands of residents, local First Nations, and other Metro Vancouver cities who told the federal government a resounding ‘no’ to this project – will keep speaking out against this pipeline expansion that doesn’t make sense for our economic or environmental future.”
“The City of Burnaby remains adamantly opposed to this proposal and we are now seeking legal advice on how best to continue to fight it,” Corrigan said in a statement. “Prime Minister Trudeau said ‘Governments grant permits; ultimately only communities grant permission.’ We agree. He does not, however, have our permission and we will continue to make that clear.”
But Corrigan, Robertson, other lower mainland cities and First Nations, must acknowledge there are other communities granting permission for Trans Mountain Expansion.
Fort McMurray, home of the Alberta oil sands, which has been devastated by last year’s wildfire and the downturn in global oil markets.
Edmonton, home to oilfield manufacturing and service companies, which for the past two and a half years have laid off workers and cut to the bone to survive.
Calgary, home to Canadian energy companies that need access to Asian markets through the West Coast so they can remain competitive and viable, and begin to rehire the highly skilled technical professionals laid off in droves since 2014.
These communities also belong to Canada. And according to the Canadian Constitution, the federal government has jurisdiction over inter-provincial pipelines and West Coast waters.
These communities have compromised as a part of the Canadian approach to federalism, as have the governments of Canada, Alberta and BC.
Now it’s time for Mayors Corrigan and Robertson to also compromise and drop their opposition to Trans Mountain Expansion. It’s the Canadian thing to do.