The federal government will not allow British Columbia to "stall or stop" the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr told the House of Commons on Monday.
Mr. Carr criticized a Conservative Party motion that called on the government to use "all tools available" to ensure the pipeline gets completed, arguing the opposition was attempting "to manufacture a crisis where one does not exist."
Conservative MP Shannon Stubbs put forward the motion that called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to lay out a plan as to how Ottawa intends to establish certainty for the project that has become the focus of an interprovincial battle between B.C. and Alberta.
Ms. Stubbs accused the Prime Minister of sitting on his hands rather than taking concrete steps to prevent B.C. from blocking the expansion that would provide capacity for an additional 590,000 barrels of Alberta crude for export to Asia Pacific markets.
In responding, Mr. Carr insisted the federal government will defend its jurisdiction to approve the $7.4-billion pipeline project, which it has determined to be in the national interest. He said B.C. has not taken any delaying action but has merely signalled an intention to consult its citizens over the project's risks. The minister noted Ottawa intervened with the National Energy Board, supporting its plan to require B.C. to speed up the issuance of construction-related permits to Kinder Morgan Canada Ltd., which owns the pipeline.
"What we have clearly said is that the federal government holds authority over the [Trans Mountain] pipeline and we will clearly not entertain non-jurisdictional delays intended to stall or stop the project. That is simply not an option," he told the Commons.
"If that is the goal of any province, we will take the necessary action to ensure that federally approved resource projects proceed."
B.C. Environment Minister George Heyman announced two weeks ago that the provincial government is considering restricting any additional flow through the province of diluted bitumen from the oil sands until there is certainty that spills can be adequately cleaned up.
Neither the Prime Minister nor Mr. Carr has offered specifics on the promised federal response to a B.C. stalling tactic should one materialize, with the minister saying on Monday that he does not want to inflame tensions between the two provinces.
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley reacted swiftly and angrily to Mr. Heyman's announcement, imposing a ban on the sale of wine from B.C. and promising further action unless B.C. ends its threats of delaying tactics. Ms. Notley and oil industry supporters have urged Mr. Trudeau to spell out clearly how he intends to respond to B.C.'s proposed regulations.
In a letter to B.C. Premier John Horgan last week, Kinder Morgan Canada Ltd. chief executive Ian Anderson said the province's proposed restrictions around oil exports are unnecessary and must not be used as a tool "to frustrate or delay our project."
The company has already slowed spending on the pipeline and said oil shipments won't start before December, 2020, at the earliest, one year later than planned.
Premier Rachel Notley says a task force will advise Alberta on possible next steps in a trade spat with B.C. over the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
The Canadian Press