Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will convene a meeting this weekend between the leaders of Alberta and British Columbia, to try and resolve a growing dispute over an oil pipeline to the west coast.
Trudeau left Canada for the Summit of the Americas in Lima, Peru the morning of April 12, but his office said today he will be returning to Ottawa following that visit to convene the meeting on Sunday, April 15.
The prime minister wants B.C. NDP Premier John Horgan to reverse his stance, supported by a large and determined coalition of stakeholders in B.C., against the Trans Mountain Expansion project, which would triple the capacity of Texas-based Kinder Morgan’s existing pipeline, up to 890,000 barrels of oil per day.
The pipeline dispute reached a new level this week when Kinder Morgan announced it was suspending work on the $7.4-billion expansion because of the Horgan government’s opposition to the project. The B.C. premier has vowed to use all available tools to stop the pipeline expansion.
Trudeau, who approved the project, and Alberta NDP Premier Rachel Notley believe it is essential to Canada’s economic growth and the growth of the oil and gas sector. Alberta is home to the world's third largest reserves of oil after Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.
Notley has accused Horgan of threatening the rule of law in Canada and has vowed to retaliate against B.C., including announcing plans to introduce legislation empowering Alberta to cut oil flows to the westernmost province.
“What I know is that the pipeline has to be built and I know that there is a growing understanding about that, in central Canada, in Toronto, in Ottawa, throughout the country, because, more and more, people are coming to see this as very symbolic of a much larger issue, as far as it relates to Canada’s economic fortunes going forward," Notley told reporters in Alberta after returning from a trip to Toronto.
She said she had productive discussions during her trip, including a meeting with federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau, but added that she wasn't going into Sunday's meeting "with any particular expecations."
Notley said her government would still proceed with legislation that could punish B.C.'s economy next week, regardless of the outcome of the Ottawa meeting.
"At the end of the day, my job is to stand up for Alberta and there is one and only one solution, and that solution is that the pipeline gets built without delay," she added. "There is no grey area on this matter."
Horgan wrote in a message on Twitter that he would be going into the meeting to defend B.C., its coast and its economy.
The Trudeau government, meanwhile, has said it is considering all options to resolve the dispute, including potentially withholding federal transfer payments to the B.C. government.
Trudeau's cabinet held an emergency meeting on Tuesday to discuss the situation. Ministers left the cabinet room in a hurry that day, rushing away from reporters and saying little, National Observer reported.
News of the Ottawa meeting with Notley and Horgan comes as 40 non-government groups released a letter to the prime minister on behalf of their Quebec members, urging Trudeau to kill the pipeline expansion project and ensure it doesn’t become part of his legacy.
The groups, including prominent environmental organizations such as Équiterre, the Association québécoise de lutte contre la pollution atmosphérique, Nature Québec, and the Regroupement vigilance hydrocarbures Québec, were also fierce opponents of TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline project, which was terminated last fall.
"The support that you continue to provide to the pipeline project casts a serious cloud on your credibility as a leader in the fight against climate change," the groups told Trudeau in the letter, dated April 12.
"Know that the population of Quebec attaches great importance to provincial and municipal authority on environmental issues. Allowing Kinder Morgan to move forward while overstepping municipal regulations and the provincial jurisdiction of British Columbia over its territory is unacceptable."
I wouldn’t approve major pipeline projects if I wasn’t confident they could be done safely. And they can be done safely because we’ve made a massive investment in protecting our oceans and coastlines – in BC and across the country. pic.twitter.com/rHXmhACp5n— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) April 12, 2018
The Quebec groups also said that Trudeau's actions were damaging Canada's international reputation, urging his government to respect the rights of Indigenous people affected by the pipeline.
"Knowing that your government has committed to reconciliation with Indigenous people in Canada, there can be no compromise on the free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) of communities enshrined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which your government ratified."
Free, Prior & Informed Consent means #FirstNations have the right to say yes or no & to determine conditions for development in their territories. Together we must arrive at a process that respects rights, title, #FPIC and #UNDRIP. #TransMountain #KinderMorgan— Perry Bellegarde (@perrybellegarde) April 10, 2018
Earlier this week, Perry Bellegarde, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations also weighed into the debate, making a similar point.
"Together we must arrive at a process that respects rights, title, #FPIC and #UNDRIP," Bellegarde wrote on Twitter on April 10.
Trudeau was originally scheduled to visit Paris, France, from April 15 to 17, before moving on to London, United Kingdom. His office said the official visit to France will now proceed on April 16.
Editor's note: This article was updated at 5:10 p.m. on April 12, 2018 with new comments made by Alberta Premier Rachel Notley.