British Columbia

Trudeau plan 'playing Russian roulette with our coastline,' NDP MP says

Victoria Member of Parliament Murray Rankin challenges the prime minister's vow to serve the national interest by pushing a planned bitumen pipeline to the West Coast despite British Columbia's safety concerns.

Prime minister's view of national interest excludes British Columbia, NDP MP Murray Rankin says

NDP MP Murray Rankin says Alberta Premier Rachel Notley is just doing her job in opposing the B.C. government's proposal to restrict Bitumen shipments. (CBC)

Victoria Member of Parliament Murray Rankin says the prime minister is not serving the nation's interest by pushing a planned bitumen pipeline to the West Coast over British Columbia's safety concerns.

The pipeline debate re-ignited last week after the B.C. NDP government announced a proposed to limit bitumen shipments through B.C., pending a scientific review on spill protection. Rachel Notley, Alberta's NDP premier, threatened legal and economic retaliation in response.

In an interview with On the Island host Gregor Craigie, Murray Rankin, the NDP MP for Victoria, directed criticism not at Notley but at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who vowed last week that Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline expansion will go ahead despite British Columbia opposition.

Rankin said Trudeau's commitment to completing the pipeline is "playing Russian roulette with our coastline."

Referring to Trudeau's comment that the federal government's role is to serve the national interest, Rankin said, "British Columbia's part of the nation as well." 

"We have legitimate concerns about the impact of spills on our tourism industry, on Indigenous rights, on any number of fishing interests including endangered species," he said.

Protesters hold up signs as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks at a public town hall in Nanaimo, B.C., on Friday, Feb. 2. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

While Rankin said more research is needed on potential responses to a bitumen-spills, he did not fault the Alberta premier's position. 

"I certainly understand and respect what Premier Notley is doing. She's doing her job," Rankin said. "Why isn't the prime minister doing his job?"

Rankin challenged Trudeau's assurances that the $1.5-billion Oceans Protection Plan, announced last year, would adequately address spill risks. The plan sounds like a lot of money, he said, but it covers three oceans and five years of spending.

"The platitudes, the high-level generalities were just fine, but the reality is that human error happens, oil spills happen," Rankin said.

"Every time we've had a spill whether it's the Vancouver harbour, the busy, busy port of Vancouver, or indeed in coastal waters like Bella Bella, we've seen that they have not got their act together. We have a right to have a better oil cleanup response program."

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau after Trudeau announced federal approval for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion to the B.C. coast on Nov. 29, 2017. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Rankin was joined by Green and NDP MPs in his criticism of the federal position on the planned Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion between Alberta and the B.C. coast.

In an interview with CBC Calgary's Eyeopener program, Kennedy Stewart, the NDP MP for Burnaby South, predicted civil disobedience if the federal government pushes the pipeline through British Columbia. 

Meanwhile in the House of Commons Question Period Monday, Green Leader Elizabeth May challenged the Liberal government's statements that the Kinder Morgan pipeline will create more jobs.

May said the National Energy Board review of the pipeline application refused to hear a submission from Unifor, the largest union representing oilsands workers, which says the pipeline will cost Canadian jobs. 

With files from CBC's On the Island and Chris Rands.