Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); }

Pipe for the Trans Mountain pipeline is unloaded in Edson, Alta., on June 18, 2019.

JASON FRANSON/The Canadian Press

The B.C. government will ask Canada’s high court Thursday to give it authority over what can flow through the expanded Trans Mountain pipeline from Alberta.

The case is a make-it-or-break-it affair for the multibillion-dollar project: If British Columbia is allowed to prevent heavy oil from flowing through the pipeline, it would crush the expansion’s entire reason for being. It is also a significant case for the federal government, which bought the pipeline in 2018, when B.C.’s court challenge convinced Kinder Morgan Canada that the political opposition created too much risk that the project would never be completed.

The federal government will argue that letting B.C. regulate what can flow through the pipeline would give the province a veto over interprovincial projects it doesn’t like, counter to the constitutional authority given to Ottawa over any transportation project that crosses provincial boundaries.

Story continues below advertisement

B.C.’s NDP government, which was elected in 2017 in part on a promise to oppose the expansion, acknowledges the Constitution, but says B.C. has authority to protect its environment. There, the province argues it should be able to restrict heavy oil flows in the pipeline because it is B.C. that will bear the environmental brunt of any spill if the pipeline ruptures.

B.C. specifically wants to be able to require companies to get permits before shipping heavy oil through pipelines in B.C. A permit could be withheld if a company can’t show efforts to prevent a spill and policies to clean up and compensate if one does occur.

In a factum filed with the Supreme Court of Canada, the B.C. Attorney-General says “the heart of the Constitutional questions before this court” is whether B.C.’s authority to protect its own environment can include interfering in a federal project.

Last May, the B.C. Court of Appeal said it cannot.

B.C. is appealing that decision to the Supreme Court of Canada and the hearing is set for Thursday morning in Ottawa. Four provinces, the cities of Burnaby and Vancouver, several Indigenous communities, the environmental-law charity Ecojustice, and more than half a dozen oil companies and advocacy groups have been granted intervenor status in the case.

In their written arguments filed with the Supreme Court, Ottawa’s lawyers say the B.C. Court of Appeal was correct when it said B.C.’s proposed permitting process is not a general environment law, but rather one specifically intended to restrict or even bar heavy oil from flowing through the Trans Mountain expansion.

The Trans Mountain expansion involves building a new pipeline roughly parallel to the existing Trans Mountain Pipeline that runs between Edmonton and a marine terminal in Burnaby, B.C. The existing pipeline would continue to carry mostly refined products, such as gasoline, and light crude oil. The expansion, with almost twice the capacity, would ship diluted bitumen, a heavy crude oil produced in Alberta’s oil sands, to be loaded onto tankers for export.

Story continues below advertisement

If B.C. can prevent heavy oil from flowing through the new pipeline, there is no reason to build it.

The expansion has been in the works for almost a decade and has become a political lightning rod for Canadians advocating for the phasing-out of fossil-fuel production to curb climate change and those fighting to support an industry that is a critical part of the economy. First proposed in 2012 during the former Conservative government’s tenure, the pipeline was approved by the federal Liberals in 2016, a year after they came to power.

Almost two years later, the Federal Court of Appeal overturned that approval, saying Ottawa had failed in its duty to consult affected Indigenous communities, and hadn’t fully considered the impact on marine life from having more oil tankers in B.C. waters carrying heavy crude from the pipeline’s terminal.

Ottawa undertook another round of Indigenous consultation and reconsidered the marine effects before approving the project a second time in June.

In 2018, after B.C. announced its proposed plan to restrict heavy oil from flowing in the expanded pipeline, Kinder Morgan Canada halted work on the project and told Ottawa that unless it could provide some certainty the expansion could be built, it was going to walk away. When Ottawa couldn’t convince B.C. to back down, Kinder Morgan sold the pipeline to the federal government for $4.5-billion.

Ottawa intends to sell both the existing pipeline and the expansion to a private sector or Indigenous partner once the expansion is completed.

Story continues below advertisement

Work on the expansion, which was halted after the 2018 Federal Court decision, restarted in August.

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.

Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies