Douglas Black, elected Senator from Alberta, says pipelines like Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain are part of balancing Canada’s resource-based economy and climate agenda.  Trans Mountain photo.

BC government stalling construction of Trans Mountain pipeline

By Sen. Douglas Black

Enough is enough. As the British Columbia government continues to play politics with the livelihood of Canadians, it’s time we let the Supreme Court decide once and for all — will the Trans Mountain pipeline get built or not?

Canada’s economy has always relied heavily on natural resources — in fact, the country would have never been founded without them. Balancing the use of this wealth with Canada’s climate agenda is no easy task. But without a doubt, pipelines are still part of the solution.

At this point we know the facts. The transition away from carbon-based energy will still take decades. Tens of thousands of Canadians still rely on jobs in the oil and gas sector. Pipelines are safer at moving oil than rail. And so long as we lack pipeline infrastructure to bring oil to tidewater — so we can access new markets in Asia — Canadians are stuck getting shortchanged by the United States, which pays less for our oil.

Most importantly, the National Energy Board has already completed a comprehensive review of the Trans Mountain project. They approved it after subjecting it to exhaustive environmental assessments — arguably of the highest standards in the world.

So where’s the problem?

The B.C government is doing everything it can to block the project. Their strategy is to force delay until the proponents walk away.

The clearest example of this is the province’s suggestion to limit the amount of oil allowed to pass through the new pipeline — something provinces do not have the power to do. It says in the near future that it will refer this matter to the B.C. Supreme Court.  Regardless of who wins, an appeal seems inevitable, sending this to the Supreme Court of Canada and more delay.

Canadians can no longer afford this stalling. That’s why I’m proposing two ways forward for dealing with this headache once and for all.

First, why not cut to the chase and just refer this matter, right now, to Canada’s highest court? The federal government has the power to send an expedited question directly to the Supreme Court.

Second, to facilitate the drafting of such a question and invite the federal government to resolve this dispute, I also introduced Bill S-245 in the Senate in late February. The bill would declare the Trans Canada pipeline to be in national interest of Canada. It would also reinforce the fact that this is federal jurisdiction.

Let’s be clear, this is not a dispute with the province of B.C. but with its government. British Columbians not only stand to benefit from Trans Mountain, but they recognize the need to balance provincial and federal interests. It should come as no surprise that seconding my bill is B.C. Senator Richard Neufeld. Support crosses provincial and partisan boundaries.

The Fathers of Confederation understood that — when united — all provinces would be better off. It’s not too late for the current government to learn that lesson.

Doug Black is an elected senator representing Alberta. He is chair of the Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce, and a member of the Senate Committee on National Finance.

Read Senator Black’s speech from the Senate Emergency Debate on the Trans Mountain Pipeline.

This article appeared in the March 19, 2018 edition of The Vancouver Sun.