EDMONTON — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the Kinder Morgan oil pipeline expansion will happen despite British Columbia’s latest attempt to hinder the project.
Speaking on Edmonton talk radio station CHED on Thursday, Trudeau said the pipeline, which would take Alberta crude to the West Coast for shipment to Asian markets, is in the national interest and will go ahead.
“That pipeline is going to get built,” Trudeau said. “We will stand by our decision. We will ensure that the Kinder Morgan pipeline gets built.”
B.C.’s environment minister has said his minority government plans to ban increased shipments of diluted bitumen off the province’s coast until it can determine that shippers are prepared and able to properly clean up a spill. He said he will establish an independent scientific advisory panel to study the issue.
The move has infuriated Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, who has accused B.C. of trying to change the rules after the federal government already gave the project the green light.
Trudeau said Canada needs to get Alberta’s oil safely to markets other than the United States. He said the federal government did the research and has spent billions on spill response.
“The Kinder Morgan pipeline is not a danger to the B.C. coast,” he said.
Trudeau, who’s in Edmonton for a town-hall meeting, said it’s normal for provinces to have differences of opinion and that’s why there is a federal government.
“One of the reasons we have a national government to oversee national interests is to step up for the interests of all Canadians and that’s exactly what I am going to do,” he said, without elaborating on what steps he might take.
Trudeau didn’t take any questions from the media following a tour of a seniors centre and a flood mitigation project in south Edmonton.
Mayor Don Iveson said Trudeau reiterated his support for the pipeline during the visit to a storm-water management facility.
“He understands that for Albertans and Canadians to get full value for our products, we need tidewater access, and also that our investors who have been very, very patient in this project need certainty to be able to move ahead,” said Iveson. “He’s very clearly committed.”
Iveson said Trudeau told him that the federal government will do everything it needs to do to ensure pipeline approvals are not undermined.
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi also weighed in.
“I would strongly encourage the British Columbia government to actually read the (National Energy Board) ruling that talks in great detail about what they claim to be concerned about — about the risk of bitumen spills,” Nenshi told CTV.
“I will also remind them that when you fill up your gas in the Lower Mainland, where do you think that gas came from? It came through the existing Trans Mountain pipeline.”
Speaking in Ottawa, Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr wouldn’t say what Canada might do if British Columbia implements its regulation.
“That’s speculative,” said Carr.
He noted that, at this point, B.C. has just pledged to consult. He said the federal government heard from thousands of people before the pipeline was approved.
“That’s what they have announced — an intention to consult. We have already consulted.”
Notley has threatened trade retaliation with B.C. if the shipping ban goes ahead. She held an emergency cabinet meeting Wednesday to discuss what legal and economic levers Alberta can pull in its spat with its neighbour to the west. She specifically mentioned interprovincial trade in electricity.
B.C.’s proposal creates more uncertainty for Kinder Morgan’s already-delayed Trans Mountain expansion project that would nearly triple the capacity of its pipeline system to 890,000 barrels a day.