Trade fine small compared to billions lost if Trans Mountain doesn't go ahead, minister says

Alberta economic development minister Deron Bilous says a fine for violating a trade agreement would be small in comparison to the jobs and investment that could be lost if the British Columbia government continues to oppose the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

B.C. government filed trade complaint against Alberta over wine ban

Deron Bilous, Alberta's minister of economic development and trade, says a fine is small compared to the billions of investment that will be lost if the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion doesn't go ahead. (Colin Hall/CBC )

Alberta economic development minister Deron Bilous says a fine for violating a trade agreement would be small compared to the jobs and investment that could be lost if the British Columbia government continues to oppose the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. 

On Monday, B.C. launched a complaint under the Canadian Free Trade Agreement over the ban on B.C. wine imports announced two weeks ago by Alberta Premier Rachel Notley.

Alberta could face a maximum fine of $10 million if the panel rules in B.C.'s favour but Bilous suggested the amount might be worth paying. 

"Let's compare the ... fine versus the billions of dollars of investment, and the thousands of jobs," he said Tuesday.

"So for us, we know what our priority is, and that's getting this pipeline built and we'll do whatever necessary to get B.C. to smarten up."

Kinder Morgan's $7.4-billion Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project was approved by the federal government in 2016. It would nearly triple capacity of the current pipeline system to 890,000 barrels a day.

A report released Tuesday by Scotiabank said delays in pipeline approvals and the discounted price of Western Canada Select oil will cost the Canadian economy $15.6 billion this year. That amounts to about 0.75 per cent of Canada's GDP, the report estimated. 

The Alberta government contends that getting a pipeline built to the Pacific coast would allow Canada to fetch world prices for Alberta crude. Currently, Canada only has one customer for its oil — the United States.

Premier threatens more action

The wine ban was in retaliation for B.C.'s proposal to restrict shipments of diluted bitumen while the province studies the risk of oil spills on the Pacific coast.

Notley has called the move unconstitutional and illegal, and has asked the federal government to intervene.

Officials from the B.C. and federal governments have been talking in an effort to resolve the dispute.

Notley said Alberta would take additional measures if those talks did not result in tangible results by early this week.

Rulings on complaints under the Canadian Free Trade Agreement can take a maximum of 460 days.