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B.C. premier denies crisis, says one investment doesn’t make an economy

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VICTORIA, B.C. — British Columbia Premier John Horgan showed no signs Monday of backing down on the battle over the Kinder Morgan pipeline, rejecting widespread claims his government’s challenge of the $7.4 billion project is hurting the economy and tearing apart the country.

His tone ran from calm to exasperated during a 30-minute question period in the legislature where the Opposition Liberals accused his government of hurting investor confidence, ignoring the rule of law and picking an unwinnable fight with Alberta and the federal government.

“One investment project does not an economy make,” said Horgan, adding B.C. has the lowest jobless rate in Canada and a solid credit rating.

Kinder Morgan announced Sunday it was stopping all non-essential spending on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, saying opposition from the B.C. government puts the project at risk. It has set a deadline of May 31 for talks with various stakeholders to reach an agreement that could allow the project to proceed.

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“All of a sudden when the shareholders in Texas issue a press release there’s a constitutional crisis,” Horgan said.

The government announced in February that it will ask the court to decided if it has the right to protect its environment by restricting diluted bitumen in the Trans Mountain pipeline. The decisions to refer the matter to the courts prompted Alberta to suspend a ban on wine imports from B.C.

“What we’re talking about here is the province of B.C. going to court to assert our jurisdiction and protect the interests of British Columbians,” Horgan told the legislature. “We said in an election campaign a year ago this is what we would do.”

He said B.C. is in court to defend its coast and its interests from a project that will triple bitumen shipments from Alberta to Burnaby and increase tanker traffic seven-fold in B.C. waters.

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Horgan said he spoke with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley on Sunday and told both leaders to build more oil refineries instead of pipelines.

“That would be leadership,” he said.

Notley said Monday she told Horgan in a telephone call that B.C.’s opposition to the pipeline threatens the rule of law in Canada and she made it clear her province will retaliate.

Notley said she will introduce legislation this week to give Alberta the power to reduce oil flows to B.C., which could send gas prices in the province soaring.

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Opposition Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson said Horgan’s reckless pipeline battle ignores the law, creates uncertainty and tears at the fabric of the nation.

“The premier stands alone in his opinions,” he told the legislature. “Is this burgeoning fiasco his definition of success?”

Wilkinson urged Horgan to meet with the prime minister to resolve the dispute and ensure certainty for the federally-approved project.

Greg D’Avignon, president of the B.C. Business Council, said the government’s decision to prolong the process threatens the credibility of the country’s regulatory and project approval systems.

British Columbia’s Chamber of Commerce said the implications of the decision by Kinder Morgan are “seismic,” and if this project can’t be built it will show the world that government approvals count for nothing.

Opposition to the pipeline has ramped up in recent weeks, with several dozen people arrested near the Burnaby marine terminal in the last month.

Trudeau said last week in Victoria the pipeline will be built.

By Dirk Meissner

THE CANADIAN PRESS

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