On Sunday April 15th, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with Alberta Premier Rachel Notely, and British Columbia Premier John Horgan in Ottawa, the country’s capital, to discuss new developments on the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline.
The expansion of the pipeline, a project spearheaded by Texas-based infrastructure giant, Kinder Morgan, would see three times more crude oil transferred from tar sands in Alberta to the coast of British Columbia, and an increase in oil tankers in the Pacific Ocean. The pipeline passes through the territory of multiple indigenous bands, and an expansion would thereby violate indigenous sovereignty and security for the 59 out of 114 Indigenous groups who have asked for more time for adequate consultations. Further, scientists have warned that an increased amount of transported crude oil could devastate ocean ecosystems and pollute indigenous lands to unknown extents. Additionally, increased oil tankers threatens populations of killer whales off the coast of B.C.
The meeting between Prime Minister Trudeau and the two Premiers comes at a crucial moment in the development of the expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline from Edmonton, Alberta to Burnaby, British Columbia. Justin Trudeau approved the project in November 2016, and the development has seen more than two years of resistance by Indigenous groups, environmentalists, the B.C. government and John Horgan, and various allies. Resistance has manifested in protests and legal action.
According to the CBC, Kinder Morgan announced last week, due to uncertainty caused by the resistance and “extraordinary political risks that are completely outside of our control and that could prevent completion of the project,” a potential cancellation of the expansion of Trans Mountain Pipeline and a suspension on non-essential spending on the project.
The company has given the Canadian government until May 31st to provide them with security and “concrete assurances” that the line will be built without impediments. Kinder Morgan’s decision caused fear in the Canadian federal government and Alberta provincial government who see the expansion of the pipeline as economically vital and within national interests, as it will serve to foster growth in Canadian industries beyond the United States’ markets. Premier Rachel Notley has voiced her frustration multiple times, and has briefly cut off wine imports, threatening to cut off fuel supplies to B.C. as well, in order to force the country’s most Western province to allow the pipeline to be built.
The hour-long meeting was arranged last minute, with Prime Minister Trudeau cancelling his trip to Lima, Peru to attend the Summit of the Americas, in order to speak to the two premiers and make some headway on the polarizing topic. After the meeting, Trudeau revealed that the federal government is undergoing financial arrangements to ensure the expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline. These arrangements may see an addition to the hundreds of millions of dollars the government has already committed to the project, on behalf of Canadian taxpayers.
Greenpeace Canada’s climate and energy campaigner Mike Hudema has stated, “The federal government can’t buy off the opposition to this failing pipeline, as it is grounded in a commitment to action on climate change, reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples and protecting the B.C. coast.” He then added, “Bailing out failing projects, strong-arming Indigenous communities by ignoring their right to consent, and bypassing calls for science-based decision making are ways to create a crisis, not solve one. The reality remains Indigenous communities have said ‘no,’ the resistance continues to grow, and this pipeline isn’t going anywhere.”
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