NEB pipeline process a 'sham,' new Liberal plan not much better, Vancouver mayor says

Vancouver's mayor says the National Energy Board's Trans Mountain pipeline review process is a "sham," and its move to green-light the major infrastructure project threatens tens of thousands of jobs in his city.

Trans Mountain pipeline could put tens of thousands of jobs in jeopardy, Gregor Robertson says

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, right, says many voices were shut out of the NEB's Trans Mountain review process, and that the new Liberal environmental review process for pipelines is a largely inadequate stopgap measure. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson says the National Energy Board's Trans Mountain pipeline review process is a "sham," and its move to green-light the major infrastructure project threatens tens of thousands of jobs in his city.

The federal energy regulator recommended — after a three-year investigation — that the controversial Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion project should be built, as long as 157 conditions are met, including 49 environmental requirements.

"The NEB process was a sham, basically, it was advanced with gusto by the Harper government, who were obviously strong proponents of this pipeline process," Robertson said in an interview with Chris Hall on CBC Radio's The House.

"We put up a solid fight against it, but many of the interveners, many voices were shut out of that process and First Nations weren't consulted appropriately," he said, noting the board did not review the project's downstream climate change impact.

The NEB said the $6.8-billion project will be a boon for Canada's economy, boosting exports, employing thousands of construction workers and lining government coffers with a great deal more tax revenue.

But Robertson said he will fight tooth and nail to stop the project, and he has a simple message for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr: "The answer is no. This pipeline proposal should not be approved.

"They've got the rest of this year, they've got this ministerial panel, but there is no business case for it when you put the economics on the table and when you put the Paris agreement and our climate commitments on the table and the sensitive environment we're dealing with here on the West Coast — it's an absolute no," he said.

The former NDP member of the legislature turned mayor said a "catastrophic" oil spill would cost the Vancouver area some 400,000 jobs. There are more than 30,000 direct tourism jobs in his city alone — and double that number in the Metro Vancouver area — all of which could be on the line if the area's picturesque ocean environment is put in jeopardy, he said.

The pipeline will run largely alongside an existing pipeline from outside Edmonton to Burnaby, B.C., and will more than double capacity from 300,000 barrels per day to at least 890,000 barrels. Most of the new pipeline capacity will carry unrefined bitumen for export to Asian markets.

This expansion would sabotage the city's "clean and green" brand, he said, an image Robertson has worked hard to cultivate since his election in 2008. "That is all at risk if we're an oil spill city, and the images of seals and whales, swimming through oil in our harbour is unthinkable in terms what impact it would have," he said.

'Easy' to disappoint, Carr says

Carr and Environment Minister Catherine McKenna announced a new interim review process in January that will impose more steps on pipeline projects such as Trans Mountain.

Natural Resources Minister James Carr and Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna announced in January that pipeline projects will face new environmental regulations. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

The process will analyze greenhouse gas emissions in more detail, and include greater public and Indigenous consultation, something that's not currently part of the NEB regulatory regime. The results from the review would then be presented to cabinet, which will make the final decision on whether to approve the project by year's end.

Despite the federal government's move to placate critics like Robertson, he's not exactly buying what they're selling.

"It's an acknowledgement, at least, that that process was flawed. But there needs to be more work done. It's too little too late to actually gather the appropriate evidence and consultation.

"The question is whether the three-person panel will be able to … actually do the due diligence that's necessary to inform the decision that is going to be made later this year [by cabinet]," Robertson said. "I don't think it's a substitute for proper consultation with First Nations."

But Carr is confident that the new panel will be able to adequately study the project and produce recommendations for the cabinet to consider by the panel's Nov. 1, 2016, deadline.

"What we want to know from the panellists is: What are they hearing that the NEB didn't hear, or couldn't hear, because of the nature of the regulatory review? And then we will take all of that — there's not duplication here, there's complementary work — and then ultimately we'll be held accountable for a decision," he said in an interview with The House.

Chris talks with Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr about the new advisory panel for the Trans Mountain pipeline project. Plus, two electoral reform experts discuss how to take political self-interest out of the reform process. 30:31

The natural resources minister acknowledged that not all groups will be happy with the cabinet's final decision. "Will there be a consensus or unanimity? No, absolutely not," he said, noting it will be "easy" for him to disappoint people.

But the process will at least be transparent, and the panellists will more meaningfully engage with Indigenous communities along the pipeline's route, he said, something that he conceded is not adequately done by the NEB in its current form.

Some Indigenous groups along the route have already dismissed Carr's added layer of review.

"It's hard to unscramble an egg," Sundance Chief and Tsleil-Waututh member Rueben George said Tuesday. "What you have is 24 months of the NEB and their processing, and now you have this new group coming in that are going to try to do what they couldn't do in 24 months, and they're going to do it in four months."

MPs Kim Rudd, Candice Bergen and Peter Julian discuss the fate of the Trans Mountain pipeline and the government's approval process 12:18

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.