Alberta premier cautious in evaluation of TMX approval

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is happy the federal government approved the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion but said it’s still too early for jubilation.

Not 'a victory to celebrate, it’s just another step in a process,' Jason Kenney says

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and Minister of Energy Sonya Savage respond to the federal approval of the Trans Mountain Pipeline in Edmonton, Alta., Tuesday, June 18, 2019. (Amber Bracken/The Canadian Press)

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is happy the federal government approved the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion but said it's still too early for jubilation.

"This second approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline isn't a victory to celebrate, it's just another step in a process that has frankly taken too long," Kenney said Tuesday in a news conference at the Alberta legislature with Energy Minister Sonya Savage at his side.

"And that's why we'll measure success not by today's decision, but by the beginning of actual construction, and more importantly, by completion of the pipeline."

Earlier Tuesday, the federal Liberal cabinet approved the $7.4-billion expansion with the expectation that shovels will be in the ground this construction season.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said profits from the operations or sale of TMX will be invested in clean energy projects. Kenney said he had no objection to that decision.

Kenney said he was hopeful construction will continue without interruption and called on Ottawa to make sure that happens, "and that the tiny minority committed to breaking the law in order to block our economic progress are not allowed to prevail."

Tuesday marks the second time cabinet has approved the project, which twins an existing pipeline from Edmonton to Burnaby, B.C.

The project was first approved in December 2016. After facing numerous delays, proponent Kinder Morgan wanted out. The federal government paid $4.5 billion in the spring of 2018 to take the project off the company's hands.

However, construction came to a halt several months later after the Federal Court of Appeal ordered additional consultation with Indigenous people and on marine safety issues.

The provincial government sees the project as key for earning world prices for Alberta crude by shipping product by tankers to getting to Asian markets.

Former Alberta premier Rachel Notley, now the leader of Alberta's NDP Official Opposition, said she hopes the new United Conservative government is able to hold onto the support for the project she says her government was able to create.

"My concern is that the UCP's plan to attack all that is environmentalist will actually potentially reverse the support we were able to grow for this project in B.C.," Notley said.

"Instead of focusing on anger and division they need to continue to build the consensus that we have been successful in building over the course of the last four years."

Kenney brushed off Notley's concerns, saying she's from the "anti-pipeline" party that made a "tactical exception" by supporting TMX when they were in government.

"The NDP is the last group I'm going to take advice from on advocating for effective energy policy," he said.

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Notley and B.C. Premier John Horgan were frequently at loggerheads over the TMX issue. In February 2018, Notley even imposed a retaliatory temporary ban on wine imports from British Columbia. 

Kenney encouraged Horgan to drop his opposition to TMX by citing a poll suggesting a minority of B.C. residents strongly disapprove of TMX. 

"I would say to Premier Horgan — you've reached the point of diminishing political returns by appealing to that 15 per cent," Kenney said. "Let's be nation builders together...let's be partners in prosperity."