When Ottawa approved the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project in 2016, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sold it as a tradeoff against his national climate plan, the key part of which was his intention to impose a carbon-pricing scheme on any province or territory that failed to implement one of its own.
So it makes sense, in a rough justice sort of way, that Alberta is pulling out of the federal climate plan in response to the Federal Court of Appeal ruling that quashed Ottawa’s approval of the Trans Mountain expansion. No pipeline, no climate plan.
“And let’s be clear," Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said Friday, “without Alberta, that plan isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.”
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That’s debatable. So too is Ms. Notley’s aggressive strategy. Premiers always need to make an angry show of fealty to their province’s grievances, but it is hard to see the value in promising to harm the environment out of spite.
Ms. Notley should be more optimistic. She rightly pointed out on Friday that the pipeline, which officially became the property of the Canadian taxpayer this week, is critical to the country’s economic interests, and that Ottawa needs to “roll up its sleeves” and sort this out so that construction "can restart early in the new year.”
This, in fact, is eminently possible. The court ruling that quashed the approval of what is now the people’s pipeline said the issues around consultation with Indigenous communities involve “specific and focussed” concerns that can be quickly corrected. “The end result may be a short delay,” the judges noted.
As Ms. Notley also said, outstanding issues around tanker traffic off the British Columbia coast could be resolved quickly if Ottawa demonstrated it has already dealt with the matter through its significant actions to improve coastal navigation and disaster mitigation.
In other words, it is wrong to play the court’s decision as a fatal blow. There is every reason to be confident the people’s pipeline will get built after a few more hurdles are cleared. Ms. Notley should get on board with that.