Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the right things on Thursday in Edmonton when he forcefully came to the defence of Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline project in British Columbia.
"We will stand by our decision," he said of a critical energy infrastructure project that was thoroughly reviewed by the National Energy Board and approved by cabinet in 2016. "We will ensure that the… pipeline gets built."
Now he has to back that up – in court, if necessary.
The project took a serious hit on Tuesday, when B.C. released a proposal to restrict "the increase of diluted bitumen transportation" in the province until the government completes studies on how "dilbit," the tarry crude extracted from Alberta's oil sands and diluted so it can flow through a pipe, behaves in water in the event of a spill.
The studies will take years, according to the B.C. government, because, well, these things do.
The fact that the buoyancy of dilbit has already been subject to years of research is besides the point. What matters is that B.C.'s minority NDP government – propped up as it is by the Green Party – has vowed to undermine Kinder Morgan's plan to triple the capacity of the existing Trans Mountain pipeline running from Edmonton to Burnaby, B.C.
The threat of more delays on this approved project – already a year behind schedule – is an obvious tactic in a guerrilla war designed to subject Trans Mountain to a death by a thousand cuts.
This simply can't happen. The approval of pipelines is without question the jurisdiction of the federal government, as is control over coastal waterways. It would be disastrous if a province were allowed to pretend to recognize that authority while shamelessly undermining it.
Mr. Trudeau burned through a lot of political capital when his government approved Trans Mountain. He no doubt has little desire to see this issue carry over into the next election.
But he has the law, and Parliament, behind him. Even more critically, it is his duty to defend Ottawa's jurisdictions. He cannot let the B.C. government win this underhanded and unconstitutional war of attrition.