British Columbia

B.C. premier disappointed by approval of Trans Mountain expansion

John Horgan added that Ottawa has the authority to give the greenlight, and he’ll focus on making sure B.C. can protect its territory from the impact of a spill.

Opposition Liberals call it a great day for the province and Canada

Premier John Horgan reacts to the federal approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline in Vancouver, British Columbia on June 18, 2019. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

B.C. Premier John Horgan says he's disappointed by the federal approval of the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, a sentiment echoed by environmentalists across the province.

But Horgan added that Ottawa has the authority to give the green light, and he'll focus on making sure B.C. can protect its territory from the impact of a spill.

"I believe it's my job as the premier of British Columbia to always be vigilant to protect those things that matter to British Columbians, and I'll continue to do that, " he said.

Horgan spoke just minutes after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet announced that they have given the project the go-ahead.

The expansion is designed to carry nearly a million barrels of oil each day from Alberta's oilpatch to the pipeline terminal in Burnaby.

Last month, the B.C. Court of Appeal ruled against the provincial government's proposal for environmental legislation that would effectively stop the expansion project. The proposed law would have allowed the province to limit the flow of "heavy oil" into B.C., but the court said that would be in direct conflict with federal jurisdiction over interprovincial pipelines.

B.C. officials have said they are appealing that court decision.

Environment Minister George Heyman said Tuesday that he continues to oppose the expansion.

"We know that British Columbians continue to be deeply concerned about the consequences of a sevenfold increase in tanker traffic in the Salish Sea," Heyman told reporters.

"We will not abandon our responsibility to protect our land and our water."

A man confronts two anti-pipeline protesters during a pro-pipeline rally supporting the Trans Mountain pipeline in Vancouver Tuesday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Support from Washington state

And the NDP government is getting support from south of the border, where Washington's Gov. Jay Inslee said he was alarmed and deeply disappointed by Ottawa's decision, and ready to stand with Horgan.

But the B.C. Opposition is urging the government to give up the fight.

"Today's decision will bring jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars to local communities along the pipeline route. It will also provide an increased supply of refined and refinable product in the line," B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson said.

"It's a great day for B.C. and a great day for Canada."

A climate emergency

This is the second time the cabinet has approved the project, but the last approval was nullified by the Federal Court of Appeal in 2018. The court said there had been inadequate consultation with Indigenous groups and insufficient environmental review.

Coastal First Nations said Tuesday that they plan to appeal the cabinet decision once again. Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart, who spoke alongside Indigenous leaders opposed to the project, said the city would do "everything in our power" to support local First Nations in their court battles.

The Trans Mountain terminus on Burrard Inlet is located in Burnaby, B.C. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

Tuesday's decision to move forward was immediately slammed by environmentalists, who suggested it was ironic to approve an oil and gas project less than 24 hours after declaring a national climate emergency.

"This is like declaring war on cancer and then announcing a campaign to promote smoking," Patrick McCully, the climate and energy program director at Rainforest Action Network, said in a news release.

Margot Venton, the nature director for environmental law charity Ecojustice, said she saw no justification for the decision.

"The reality is that the government can put Canada on the path to a safe climate future and fulfil its legal responsibility to protect endangered killer whales, or it can push this pipeline through. It cannot do both," Venton said in a news release.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May slammed the decision, describing it in a statement as "breathtaking cynicism and hypocrisy" a day after parliament passed a Liberal motion to declare a climate emergency.

She said the prime minister's promise to invest profits from the pipeline into clean energy would "fool no one."

"If you're serious about fighting climate change, you invest public funds in renewable energy. You don't invest them in a bitumen pipeline," she said. "And there's no guarantee that this pipeline will ever turn a profit anyway — in fact it almost certainly won't."

Some B.C. business leaders, on the other hand, applauded the news.

"It is high time that we move forward, collectively as Canadians, to build this infrastructure and get our natural resources to international markets," said Greater Vancouver Board of Trade president and CEO Iain Black.

With files from Dominika Lirette and The Canadian Press


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