The House

Ottawa open to offering incentives for B.C. to back down from pipeline war

The minister of natural resources is not closing the door on offering incentives to British Columbia in an effort to cool the heated battle raging over the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

Officials meet in B.C., Alberta as provinces feud over pipeline expansion

Pipes are seen at the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain facility in Edmonton, Alta., Thursday, April 6, 2017. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)
Listen12:02

The minister of natural resources is not closing the door on offering incentives to British Columbia in an effort to cool the heated battle raging over the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

Alberta and B.C. are clashing over the pipeline, and the blows have turned towards the provincial economies.

Last week, B.C. Premier John Horgan proposed restrictions to bitumen shipments that would flow through the pipeline from Alberta to the West Coast. In response, Rachel Notley pulled Alberta back from purchasing hydro and wine from their western neighbour.

Relations have gotten so bad, the prime minister and federal cabinet have stepped in.

Justin Trudeau has promised the expansion will be built, even if he has to go over the heads of the provinces.

His natural resources minister agrees.

"We've made it as clear as we can that no provincial government can infringe upon federal jurisdiction," Jim Carr told The House.

Canada's Natural Resources Minister is not closing the door to offering incentives to British Columbia in an effort to cool the heated battle raging over the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. 12:02

Ottawa stands ready to shut down dispute

B.C. has been stalling, saying they want more consultations done on the impact of the expansion, but Carr says he and his colleagues currently working on the issue stand ready to forcefully shut the dispute down.

If B.C. makes good on their threat to restrict the bitumen shipments, Ottawa will act "immediately," Carr said.

In spite of the bad blood, he hasn't closed the door on offering B.C. incentives if they allow the project quickly.

"Conversations are going on," he said. "You always have to assume in this business that people are reasonable."

Time is of the essence, he added, but he has no idea what the timeline might look like.

As the debate continues, Alberta may hold the high ground, legally speaking. 

Carissima Mathen, a law professor from the University of Ottawa, explained that the federal government has always held the constitutional right to the final word on pipelines. 

"No province is able to intervene in that process and they can't use their own law-making authority to try and create other obstacles or barriers to do that," she said. 

Even if the provinces don't have a legal leg to stand on, Carr wants a peaceful resolution.

"It's in Canada's interest to calm the temperature down and look for a very quick way out of the conundrum people have created."

Carissima Mathen, a law professor from the University of Ottawa, explains why she argues the federal government has always held the constitutional right to the final word on pipelines that cross provincial borders. 4:03