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Globe editorial: Trans Mountain is now an economic and constitutional disaster

Indigenous leaders and environmentalists march in protest against the Trans Mountain pipeline. (File)

Nick Didlick/Reuters

Kinder Morgan’s announcement that it is suspending all non-essential spending on the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline is nothing short of an economic and constitutional disaster for Canada.

It was and still is critically important that this pipeline expansion go forward, and not just because it will finally give Alberta’s landlocked oil producers a safe way to transport their crude and refined petroleum products to tidewater and then on to foreign markets by tanker.

As important as that is, the more pressing issue is one of jurisdiction. It is the federal government’s constitutional right to approve the transport of energy resources across provincial borders, which it did in the case of Trans Mountain after the National Energy Board carried out a proper review of the project.

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Ottawa can’t allow a provincial government to usurp its authority, as the British Columbia government is attempting to do by carrying out a guerrilla war against Trans Mountain. The NDP government has repeatedly thrown invented roadblocks in the path of Kinder Morgan, bringing us to where we are today.

Even more egregious is the B.C. government’s naked hypocrisy. Since taking power last summer, it has used its stated desire to protect the environment as a reason for delaying Trans Mountain. At the same time, however, it is supporting the development of the province’s natural-gas reserves, offering tax breaks to a $40-billion project that includes, wait for it, a new pipeline and a new tanker terminal on the B.C. coast.

The message is clear: British Columbia will develop its lucrative fossil-fuel resources while stonewalling Alberta’s in the name of the environment. And it will do it while ignoring the Constitution.

The federal government cannot let this stand. It must use whatever tools it has, courts included, to re-establish its jurisdiction and get Trans Mountain back on track.

To do otherwise threatens the basic tenets of confederation. A province cannot use underhanded tactics to effectively seize control of the development of this country’s resources. And it especially cannot do it in the name of environmental principles it only adheres to when it is in its political interest, but abandons when it sees a dollar in it.

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