Scott Moe accuses B.C. of putting hundreds of Regina jobs at risk in Trans Mountain dispute

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe is accusing the B.C. government of threatening hundreds of jobs in Regina over its proposal to restrict new shipments of bitumen into the province.

B.C. proposing to restrict bitumen shipments

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe speaks at the Manning Networking Conference in Ottawa on Feb. 9, 2018. He says B.C. is threatening hundreds of jobs in Regina with its dispute with Alberta over a proposal to restrict bitumen shipments. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press )

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe is accusing the B.C. government of potentially threatening hundreds of jobs in Regina over its proposal to restrict new shipments of bitumen into the province.

B.C Premier John Horgan and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley are involved in a standoff over the proposal, which threatens the expansion of Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline.

Christian Messmacher, a spokesperson for Evraz North America, suggested Thursday that there could be layoffs at the company's Regina plant if the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is halted.

The trade dispute escalated this week after Alberta banned imports of B.C. wine into the province. Moe issued a statement supporting Alberta when the dispute began, but declined to join in Alberta's ban of B.C. wine.

"These jobs employ real people with families whose livelihoods depend on them," Moe said in a statement posted to Facebook Thursday. "The B.C. NDP is threatening those jobs with obstructionist attacks on the federally-approved Trans Mountain Pipeline.

"It's time for the prime minister and the federal government to step up and join us in standing for common sense and Canadian jobs by ensuring this pipeline gets built."

Moe followed that up on Friday with a statement to CBC News saying Evraz provides good jobs for Saskatchewan workers and is producing steel with less carbon dioxide emissions and less energy than steel mills in other parts of the world.

Evraz North America won the contract to produce approximately 275,000 tonnes of pipe for the Trans Mountain project in its Regina plant. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Last year, Evraz won the contract to produce 257,000 tonnes of pipe for Trans Mountain at its Regina plant. About 1,400 people work throughout the plant.

In a follow-up email on Friday, Messmacher said it would be "premature" to provide further details on how a delay of Trans Mountain would affect Evraz's Regina workforce.

This dispute casts doubt on the future of the $7.4-billion pipeline expansion that would nearly triple the capacity of the current pipeline system to 890,000 barrels a day.

B.C.'s environment minister says the call for more research into diluted bitumen is "not at all" an attempt to delay the expansion of the pipeline. 

Instead, George Heyman says there's a lack of research into how bitumen reacts to different weather conditions and water temperatures, whether it sinks when mixed with sediment, and whether it can be safely cleaned up after a spill. 

"British Columbians want to know that their government took every step possible to find the knowledge we need to say 'if this product is going to go through British Columbia, we're not going to have a catastrophe,'" Heyman said. 

Conservatives call for emergency debate

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said the Trans Mountain expansion is in the national interest, and a senior Liberal source told CBC News earlier this week that the federal government "will not allow any province to impinge on its jurisdiction over the national interest. Full stop."  

But Andrew Scheer, the federal Conservative leader and the MP for Regina-Qu'Appelle, says that's not enough to guarantee the project continues smoothly.

  

On Friday, he called for an emergency debate in the House of Commons on the dispute.

"This dispute is making it harder to provide regulatory certainty, predictability and clarity that will ensure the viability of major projects like Trans Mountain," Scheer said.

"This situation threatens the jobs of thousands of Canadians across the country."

"There has been, so far, a complete lack of federal leadership to resolve this situation," he said.  

Scheer asked Speaker Geoff Regan to allow for an emergency debate to happen in the House of Commons next week.

With files from the Canadian Press