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Trans Mountain: A political crisis but not hopeless

As Canadians, we control our own destiny. We can build this pipeline that’s in the national interest.

Some of the news headlines on Trans Mountain are saying we’ve reached a moment of crisis.

Tim McMillan, president and CEO of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers

Certainly, the recent announcement by Kinder Morgan that it is suspending all non-essential spending on the Trans Mountain Expansion Project (TMEP) is not good news. It highlights the consequence of the rift between the B.C. government in its ongoing attempts, legal and otherwise, to stop the TMEP, and the rest of Canada—and indeed the majority of Canadians—who support the project and the jobs and economic benefits it will create.

It places an exclamation mark on the fact that uncertainty is the surest way to drive away investment for now and the future, diminishing Canadian competitiveness while costing Canadians billions of dollars, thousands of jobs and the economic growth we need to invest in a better future—including a better environment—for our daughters and sons.

If this is a crisis, I think it’s important to recognize the nature of the crisis and how we got here.

It’s not a regulatory breakdown: the system worked to approve Trans Mountain—an approval that has been upheld in repeated legal challenges. And it’s not a market crisis, for Trans Mountain is a viable project that does not need taxpayer subsidies. Its investors just want to get on with the job of building without being harassed and pecked at by governments.

This is a political crisis, plain and simple. It’s a conflict between one government—the top government in Canada—and another, a provincial government that is harassing a legally-reviewed and approved project. And the ramifications go beyond one project. This should be a concern for every industry, every business and every part of the country.

However, the situation is not hopeless.

We still control our own destiny in this matter. We can, if we have the will as a nation, resolve this. While B.C. Premier John Horgan may be trying to hold Canada hostage by openly defying federal jurisdiction, we are not hostages.

"The federal government now must stand behind the project and ensure it gets built by telling the B.C. government to stand down from their repeated obstacles."

I believe that Canada is a nation where rule of law can, and must prevail. And here, the laws are clear. TMEP was approved by the federal government as being in “the national interest.” It was approved by our national regulator after an extensive three-year review, and was even given thumbs up from the previous B.C. government, after meeting five rigorous conditions, including comprehensive environmental safeguards.

It is clear that Ottawa has the legal authority under the Constitution to approve projects in the national interest. The Government of Canada and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have been strong supporters of TMEP and advocates for increased market access for Canadian resources. They now must stand behind the project and ensure it gets built by telling the B.C. government to stand down from their repeated obstacles. They can and must take action.

By exerting its jurisdiction in this manner, the federal government can signal to investors with Kinder, and indeed investors watching around the world, that our word means something: that Canada is still a place open for business—where investments in the billions of dollars can’t be washed away when someone disagrees with the lawful approval of a project.

We can signal to Canadians that the legal principles upon which our country was founded cannot be dismissed by loud voices and a provincial government that is willfully ignoring our laws and Constitution.

In so doing, we can take a step forward on creating certainty for investors and a competitive future for Canada that goes well beyond a single pipeline.

It’s not hopeless. It’s just time to act.

If you're disappointed by B.C. Premier John Horgan's opposition to Tran Mountain, send him a message. Follow this link to a Canada's Energy Citizens petition telling Premier Horgan to stand up for good-paying jobs and economic growth for B.C. and Canada.