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Politics Trans Mountain, Trudeau and First Nations: A guide to the story so far

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  • Ottawa on Tuesday re-approved the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion as expected. However, construction isn’t likely to start up immediately – especially if the project and the Trudeau government face a pre-election summer of environmental and Indigenous protest.
  • Ottawa has owned the pipeline project for nearly a year now, after buying it last summer from U.S. oil giant Kinder Morgan. It has previously been approved twice by the National Energy Board, once in 2016 and again earlier this year after a court ruling quashed the first approval because judges said Indigenous people weren’t consulted enough.
  • A coalition of First Nations, environmentalists and civic leaders – including several of those who successfully blocked the previous Trans Mountain approval at the Federal Court of Appeal last year – promised legal action against the latest approval. But other Indigenous groups in Alberta and B.C., such as the Project Reconciliation and Iron Coalition consortiums, want to make offers to buy part of the pipeline so their nations can benefit from it.
  • John Horgan’s NDP government in B.C. still opposes the pipeline expansion, and is getting ready for a new energy feud with Jason Kenney’s United Conservative government in Alberta. Mr. Kenney has threatened to use new provincial powers over oil and gas to “turn off the taps” to B.C. if it stands in the way of Trans Mountain. Mr. Kenney thanked Ottawa on Tuesday for re-approving the project, but said that “approval is not construction” and the next challenge is to actually build it.

Feb. 8, 2018: A boat pulls a boom at the Kinder Morgan Westridge Marine Terminal in Burnaby, B.C., at the terminus for the Trans Mountain pipeline from Alberta.

DARRYL DYCK/The Globe and Mail

What is Trans Mountain?

Pipeline basics: The Trans Mountain pipeline system has carried Alberta’s oil to the B.C. coast since 1953, and can currently carry about 300,000 barrels of oil per day. The pipeline was owned by the Texas-based company Kinder Morgan, which has been trying since 2012 to build a new pipeline along the existing one, boosting its capacity to 890,000 barrels a day. The $7.4-billion expansion project would thread about 1,000 kilometres of new pipe from Edmonton to Burnaby, B.C.

Legend

National parks

Existing pipeline

Parks

Expansion pipeline

Terminal

Indigenous lands

Pump station

Edmonton

0

80

KM

Jasper

National

Park

BRITISH

COLUMBIA

ALBERTA

Banff

National

Park

Calgary

Kamloops

Kelowna

Westridge

Van.

Sumas

Burnaby

Ferndale

WASH.

IDAHO

MONT.

Anacortes

MURAT YÜKSELIR AND JOHN SOPINSKI / THE GLOBE

AND MAIL, SOURCE: TILEZEN; OPENSTREETMAP

CONTRIBUTORS; HIU; NATURAL RESOURCES CANADA;

OPEN GOVERNMENT; GRAPHIC NEWS; KINDER MORGAN

Legend

0

80

KM

Existing pipeline

ALBERTA

Expansion pipeline

Edmonton

Indigenous lands

National parks

Parks

Jasper

National

Park

Terminal

Pump station

Banff

National

Park

Calgary

BRITISH COLUMBIA

Kamloops

Kelowna

Westridge

Vancouver

Sumas

Burnaby

WASH.

IDAHO

MONT.

Ferndale

Pacific

Ocean

Anacortes

MURAT YÜKSELIR AND JOHN SOPINSKI / THE GLOBE AND MAIL

SOURCE: TILEZEN; OPENSTREETMAP CONTRIBUTORS; HIU;

NATURAL RESOURCES CANADA; OPEN GOVERNMENT; GRAPHIC

NEWS; KINDER MORGAN

Legend

Edmonton

Existing pipeline

Expansion pipeline

16

ALBERTA

Indigenous lands

Jasper

National

Park

National parks

Parks

2

Terminal

Pump station

97

Banff

National

Park

Calgary

1

BRITISH

COLUMBIA

Kamloops

Vancouver

Island

Kelowna

Westridge

Sumas

Vancouver

Burnaby

Pacific

Ocean

Ferndale

WASH.

IDAHO

MONT.

0

80

Anacortes

KM

MURAT YÜKSELIR AND JOHN SOPINSKI / THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: TILEZEN; OPENSTREETMAP

CONTRIBUTORS; HIU; NATURAL RESOURCES CANADA; OPEN GOVERNMENT; GRAPHIC NEWS; KINDER MORGAN

Wasn’t it approved a while ago? The federal government gave Kinder Morgan the go-ahead for its pipeline expansion in 2016, while at the same time scuttling another planned Alberta-to-B.C. pipeline, Enbridge’s Northern Gateway. Then, amid opposition to the project from First Nations and environmental groups, the Federal Court of Appeal quashed that approval in August of 2018, saying Ottawa would need to do more consultations with Indigenous people. Natural Resource Minister Amarjeet Sohi also ordered a new National Energy Board review of the application. In its final report in February of 2019, it approved the pipeline again, saying there would be “considerable benefits” to Canada, while also acknowledging increased risk to southern resident killer whales and a likely increase in greenhouse-gas emissions. Ottawa then set a deadline of June 18 to decide whether to proceed with the pipeline.

Why isn’t Kinder Morgan building it? Hoping to force the province’s hand, Kinder Morgan announced on April 8, 2018, that it would suspend all “non-essential” spending on the project unless it could reach an agreement with the B.C. government within weeks. On May 29, two days before Kinder Morgan’s deadline, Mr. Morneau announced that Ottawa would buy the project and bring it to completion under a Crown corporation. Mr. Morneau, Mr. Trudeau and others in the government have said they don’t plan on being the project’s long-term owners, and Ottawa will look for new investors to eventually take the reins.

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Interactive: A visual guide to Trans Mountain's impact on tanker traffic

In depth: A behind-the-scenes look at how the Trans Mountain deal was done

Who‘s for it, who’s against it

Stewart Phillip, Grand Chief of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, gives a news conference with Indigenous leaders and politicians opposed to the Trans Mountain expansion on April 18, 2018.

Darryl Dyck/The Associated Press

First Nations: While some Indigenous nations signed agreements supporting Trans Mountain, many more are immovably opposed, arguing that the pipeline endangers their environmental rights and traditional lands. Indigenous protesters have vocally opposed the pipeline and warn that a Standing Rock-style confrontation could erupt if it goes ahead. Stewart Phillip, head of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, co-wrote an opinion piece for The Globe and Mail last year that said forcing the pipeline through would mean “setting Canada up for another catastrophic crisis on the same level as Oka.”

B.C.: In 2017, B.C.’s NDP came to power supported by the provincial Green Party, and promised to kill the Kinder Morgan project, which the previous Liberal government had approved. Premier John Horgan also vowed that, whether the expansion is built or not, B.C. would press for authority to block diluted bitumen from being shipped across the province by rail. The B.C. Court of Appeal ruled that the province doesn’t have that power under the Constitution, but the decision is likely to be appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Alberta: Trans Mountain was one of many issues that led to the defeat of Rachel Notley’s NDP government, whose plans to increase social spending and balance budgets by 2023 hinged on future oil revenue from pipelines. As premier, she gave the province new powers to restrict how fossil fuels were shipped out of the province, but shelved them (more on that below). Jason Kenney, whose United Conservatives unseated Ms. Notley in April 16′s election, activated those powers immediately taking office in May, threatening to “turn off the taps” to B.C. if it continued to resist Trans Mountain.

What Alberta’s been doing

May 22, 2019: Alberta Premier Jason Kenney looks to the gallery after the Throne Speech was delivered in Edmonton.

JASON FRANSON/The Canadian Press

The Trans Mountain battle has dragged on during the tenure of two very different leaders in Alberta: Ms. Notley, who tried a conciliatory tack with B.C. but created powerful legal mechanisms to retaliate against it, and Mr. Kenney, who has threatened to starve B.C. of fuel to make sure it agrees to the project.

Shortly after last summer’s court ruling against the pipeline approval, Ms. Notley pulled the plug on Alberta’s planned carbon-tax increases, saying its support for the federal climate-change plan hinged on Trans Mountain’s eventual completion. Then she introduced Bill 12, the Preserving Canada’s Economic Prosperity Act, which gave the province broad authority over how oil is shipped out of Alberta, and to where. The law allows the province to:

  • Force companies to get a licence before exporting fossil fuels by pipeline, rail or truck
  • Let the Energy Minister set maximum daily amounts of fossil fuels to be exported
  • Let the Energy Minister decide whether export licences are in Alberta's best interests and maintain supply for provincial needs
  • Fine companies up to $10-million a day, and individuals up to $1-million a day, if they break the law

Ms. Notley didn’t use the Bill 12 powers in her last few months as premier, but when Mr. Kenney took office this May, he and his cabinet activated them immediately. In theory, Alberta can tighten oil exports to B.C., driving up prices for fuel and other products, which form a major part of trade between the western provinces.

INTERPROVINCIAL EXPORTS, B.C

AND ALBERTA, 2014

Goods and services, in millions of dollars

ALBERTA

Total exports: $73,610

B.C.

Total exports: $39,957

Alta.

$17,644

Ont.

$27,369

Ont.

$12,007

B.C.

$16,752

Sask.

$12,731

Que.

$4,157

Que.

$6,350

Sask.

$2,158

Man.

$5,356

Man.

$1,493

Atlantic

$1,529

Atlantic

$3,524

Territories

$1,527

Territories

$968

TOP 5 EXPORTS TO ALBERTA

TOP 5 EXPORTS TO B.C.

Natural gas

$2,277

Support services for

oil and gas extraction

(except exploration)

$2,088

Architectural,

engineering

and related services

$651

Diesel and

biodiesel fuels

$1,582

Conventional crude oil

$632

Conventional crude oil

$1,207

Prepared meals

$628

Gasoline

$1,161

Wholesale margins -

machinery, equipment

and supplies

$501

Fresh and frozen

beef and veal

$554

MURAT YÜKSELIR / THE GLOBE AND MAIL

SOURCE: STATISTICS CANADA

INTERPROVINCIAL EXPORTS, B.C

AND ALBERTA, 2014

Goods and services, in millions of dollars

ALBERTA

Total exports: $73,610

B.C.

Total exports: $39,957

Alta.

$17,644

Ont.

$27,369

Ont.

$12,007

B.C.

$16,752

Sask.

$12,731

Que.

$4,157

Que.

$6,350

Sask.

$2,158

Man.

$5,356

Man.

$1,493

Atlantic

$1,529

Atlantic

$3,524

Territories

$1,527

Territories

$968

TOP 5 EXPORTS TO ALBERTA

TOP 5 EXPORTS TO B.C.

Natural gas

$2,277

Support services for oil

and gas extraction

(except exploration)

$2,088

Architectural, engineering

and related services

$651

Diesel and biodiesel fuels

$1,582

Conventional crude oil

$632

Conventional crude oil

$1,207

Prepared meals

$628

Gasoline

$1,161

Wholesale margins -

machinery, equipment

and supplies

$501

Fresh and frozen

beef and veal

$554

MURAT YÜKSELIR / THE GLOBE AND MAIL

SOURCE: STATISTICS CANADA

INTERPROVINCIAL EXPORTS, B.C AND ALBERTA, 2014

Goods and services, in millions of dollars

ALBERTA

Total exports: $73,610

B.C.

Total exports: $39,957

Alta.

$17,644

Ont.

$27,369

Ont.

$12,007

B.C.

$16,752

Que.

$4,157

Sask.

$12,731

Sask.

$2,158

Que.

$6,350

Man.

$1,493

Man.

$5,356

Atlantic

$3,524

Atlantic

$1,529

Territories

$968

Territories

$1,527

TOP 5 EXPORTS TO ALBERTA

TOP 5 EXPORTS TO B.C.

Natural gas

$2,277

Support services for oil and gas

extraction (except exploration)

$2,088

Architectural, engineering

and related services

$651

Diesel and biodiesel fuels

$1,582

Conventional crude oil

$632

Conventional crude oil

$1,207

Prepared meals

$628

Gasoline

$1,161

Wholesale margins - machinery,

equipment and supplies

$501

Fresh and frozen beef and veal

$554

MURAT YÜKSELIR / THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: STATISTICS CANADA

What B.C.'s been doing

When the federal government re-approved the expansion project, Mr. Horgan said he was “disappointed” but that B.C. would not unduly withhold construction permits. “We will continue to defend our environment, our coast, and the tens of thousands of jobs that rely on them,” he said. The province has also filed a constitutional challenge to block Mr. Kenney from using Alberta’s punitive Bill 12 powers. In the meantime, B.C. could also find ways to retaliate with trade measures of its own, similar to how Alberta once temporarily barred imports of B.C. win over the Trans Mountain dispute.

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B.C. Premier John Horgan, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley meet in Mr. Trudeau's office on Parliament Hill on April 15, 2018.

Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

What’s at stake for Ottawa, and what it could do next

The Trudeau government’s decision to buy Trans Mountain has now made it a lightning rod for the criticism and costs of the project. Here’s what that means, and what other issues are at play.

Owning the pipeline: The Kinder Morgan gives the government ownership of the existing pipeline, rights of way along the route and the marine terminal in Burnaby. But once the expansion is built, the government doesn’t plan to be the pipeline’s proprietor for long: It is in negotiation with investors – including Indigenous communities, pension funds and the Alberta government – to eventually take over management of the pipeline.

Indigenous issues: Mr. Trudeau’s government has repeatedly said Indigenous reconciliation is a priority, but the standoff with B.C. First Nations over pipelines is putting that rhetoric to the test.

Legal authority over energy: The Liberals had promised legislation to reassert that the federal government has authority over interprovincial pipelines. But that could have unintended backlashes in other provinces, like Quebec, whose political and regulatory roadblocks helped kill the Energy East pipeline.

Climate change: Supporting Trans Mountain was Ottawa’s tradeoff to win Alberta’s support for a national carbon-pricing plan in 2017. That support faltered under Ms. Notley, who decided after the Federal Court of Appeal ruling that she wouldn’t increase Alberta’s carbon tax as planned. Mr. Kenney campaigned in open opposition to any carbon tax at all, and repealing it was one of his government’s first acts, soon followed by the federal government imposing a carbon price on Albertans. Getting Alberta to support carbon pricing is crucial because, without them, a national policy would be fairly toothless: The province accounted for 38 per cent of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2015. At the same time, building a pipeline that would accelerate global consumption of Canada’s oil is increasingly at odds with environmental policies focused on renewable energy and reduced fossil-fuel use.

March 10, 2018: Indigenous leaders and environmentalists march in Burnaby in protest against Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline.

Nick Didlick/REUTERS

What First Nations and their allies have been doing

Several Indigenous nations launched legal challenges to the Trans Mountain project, vowing to take it to the Supreme Court if necessary. They cite 2014′s Tsilhqot’in decision by the Supreme Court of Canada, which expanded Indigenous people’s rights of approval over projects on their land. Those challenges gained a major victory with the Federal Court of Appeal’s ruling, which is one of many cases where courts have found Ottawa’s commitment to Indigenous consultation falling short of its constitutional obligations.

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What happens if the pipeline isn’t built?

Business: Alberta’s oil and gas sector had high hopes for Trans Mountain after other major pipeline projects — Keystone XL, Northern Gateway and Energy East hit political and regulatory roadblocks in Canada and the United States. Now, what looks like a sure bet is a source of ongoing uncertainty, and oil-industry leaders and major Canadian banks have warned that it will make Canada look like a less attractive investing destination. Here’s a deeper look from The Globe’s Jeff Lewis, Kelly Cryderman and Shawn McCarthy about what might happen in the oil patch if Trans Mountain falls apart.

Politics: For Mr. Trudeau, who is running for re-election in October, the pipeline dispute between Alberta and B.C. is a test of national unity and his government’s varied commitments to the environment, Indigenous people and opening Canada’s natural resources to global markets. Mr. Kenney’s election in Alberta has only escalated the pressure on the federal Liberals.

Opinion and analysis

Jeffrey Jones: Trans Mountain’s reapproval doesn’t solve energy sector’s woes

Ed Whittingham: Balancing climate and energy policy, the Trans Mountain pipeline is the right decision for Canada

John Ibbitson: Questions on Trans Mountain, USMCA and ethics could decide Liberals’ fate in fall election

Robert Jago: It’s time to take consultations with First Nations seriously

Andrew Willis: Ottawa stuck with Trans Mountain pipeline other investors wisely rejected

David Milstead: Pipelines aren’t the cash cows many people think they are

Mary Janigan: B.C. politicians need a history lesson

Compiled by Globe staff

With reports from Kelly Cryderman, Jeff Lewis, Shawn McCarthy, Brent Jang, Ian Bailey, Justine Hunter, Justin Giovannetti, James Keller and The Canadian Press

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