'Mark my words': Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion will proceed, Alberta premier vows

The Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion will proceed despite new political pressures in B.C., Alberta Premier Rachel Notley vowed on Tuesday.

'The decision has been taken and it was taken by the federal government'

No province can veto the Kinder Morgran pipeline expansion, said Alberta Premier Rachel Notley on Tuesday. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

The Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion will proceed despite new political pressures from B.C., Alberta Premier Rachel Notley insisted on Tuesday. 

"Mark my words, that pipeline will be built, the decisions have been made," Notley said during a news conference in Edmonton. 

"There may be debate, but at the end of the day we're quite confident in our position."
The Alberta premier is confident the pipeline will go ahead even with a change in the political climate in British Columbia. 1:04

Notley faced questions about the proposed pipeline expansion one day after a new political alliance formed in B.C, which is now preparing for a change in government. 

B.C. Premier Christy Clark's Liberal government supported the pipeline. But her party narrowly won a minority government in the recent provincial election, and the B.C. Green Party has agreed to support the NDP in the legislature, a move that would give them a one-seat majority government.

Both parties have voiced opposition to Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, which would nearly triple the capacity of the pipeline that runs from Edmonton to Burnaby, B.C., allowing it to carry 890,000 barrels of oil per day.

University of British Columbia law professor Jocelyn Stacey said the province could revoke the project's environmental assessment certificate, deny routine construction permits or introduce laws to subject the pipeline to more assessments.

"There's lots of room for the province to sort of complicate things, to drag things out," she said. "The more complicated  this gets, then market forces take over, and this becomes a financial calculation (for Kinder Morgan investors) — whether  the project goes ahead."

Notley said the expansion project is vital to the Alberta economy, and to the interests of the entire country.

She seemed unconcerned that a new B.C. political alliance could derail the project. No province can veto the pipeline, she said.

"I don't know that it makes a great deal of difference," said Notley of the new alliance. "Our view of the matter, and one that I think will be supported ultimately in the courts, is that the decision has been taken and it was taken by the federal government.

"It was taken by a federal government that was committed to balancing and driving towards two goals at the same time, environmental sustainability and economic growth." 

Notley reiterated her commitment to the project. Alberta officials, she said, will continue to "use the means at our disposal to ensure that the project is built." The Alberta premier said she remains confident the message will eventually be well-received on the West Coast.

Politicians who choose to block the project would be ignoring the economic benefits. 

"The province of B.C. can't grow solely on the basis of escalating housing prices in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland," said Notley. "They need stronger economic growth. And the reality is, in the interior of B.C. they need the jobs that this pipeline will provide.

"You'd be surprised how quickly the issue of ensuring people have good jobs becomes front and centre to responsible governments that care about working people."

Trudeau restates support for pipeline

Notley's comments echoed those made Tuesday by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Trudeau, speaking in Rome, defended the federal government's decision to approve the $7.4-billion project.

"The decision we took on the Trans Mountain pipeline was based on facts and evidence, on what is in the best interests of Canadians and indeed, all of Canada," Trudeau said.

"Regardless of the change in government in British Columbia, or anywhere, the facts and evidence do not change."

Kinder Morgan has said it will proceed with the pipeline expansion as long as it secures enough financing for the project through its initial public offering, which is set to close Wednesday.

The Calgary-based company expects to begin construction for the project in September, with a completion date set for December 2019. 

Despite growing political uncertainty, industry leaders are confident the company can address any concerns about the safety or environmental impacts of the project a new government may have.

"I think that that project is very well-positioned right now, now that it's weaved its way through its approval," said Tim McMillan, president and CEO of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. "The federal government has given it cabinet approval, there's the prime minister, he's clearly said he's in favour of it. 

"I think our goal will be able to continue to engage with both governments and with the citizens of our country to ensure that big projects like this are successful." 

With files from Canadian Press