Trudeau, Notley warn Horgan he has no authority to fight Trans Mountain Expansion pipeline

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BC NDP leader John Horgan, standing, meets his caucus for the first time. Photo: BC NDP.

Opposing Trans Mountain Expansion is a Hail Mary play, which has 2% chance of succeeding

The lines are now drawn. John Horgan will lead a BC NDP minority government committed to opposing construction of the Trans Mountain Expansion pipeline with “every tool available,” while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley have pledged not to give an inch.

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Andrew Weaver, BC Green Party leader, in front of the “I voted” selfie station that graced many BC voting stations.

Horgan and Green Party leader Andrew Weaver held a press conference Tuesday to release details of their historic agreement to co-operate in the BC Legislature. The NDP garnered 42 votes on May 9, the Greens got 3, and the ruling Liberals 43. Judicial recounts in two ridings did not change the election outcome.

Premier Christy Clark must now resign or call a sitting of the Legislature no later than Sept. and try to maintain a majority in the face of a united opposition. Barring a procedural miracle, her government seems destined to fall.

Horgan and Weaver released the agreement that pledges the NDP government will “Immediately employ every tool available to the new government to stop the expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline, the seven-fold increase in tanker traffic on our coast, and the transportation of raw bitumen through our province.”

A peek into their strategy might be found in the obvious exaggerations in their statement.

Bitumen, which has the consistency of peanut butter, is not shipped “raw” in a pipeline, but diluted by 30 per cent a lighter hydrocarbon called diluent.

And while tanker traffic into Kinder Morgan’s Westridge Terminal will increase from one per week to just over one per day, which is indeed a seven-fold increase, the number of tankers will still be a pittance compared to other transit areas like the Bosphorus Strait, which sees 8,000 tankers a year.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaking at the Calgary Petroleum Club, 2015.

The eco-activist and First Nation campaign against 525,000 b/d Trans Mountain Expansion, which will share a right-of-way with the existing Trans Mountain pipeline for most of the 1,150 kilometre route from Alberta, has always been fact-lite, but it doesn’t bode well that the premier-in-waiting has already adopted this tactic.

As I’ve explained in earlier columns, Horgan has no “tools” with which to campaign against Trans Mountain Expansion. Inter-provincial pipeline review, approval, and regulation are exclusively the domain of the Canadian government.

The Prime Minister didn’t take long to make his position clear.

“The decision we took on the Trans Mountain pipeline was based on facts and evidence on what is in the best interests of Canadians and indeed, all of Canada,” Trudeau said Tuesday in Rome, where he held a joint news conference with Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, according to the Canadian Press.

“Regardless of the change in government in British Columbia or anywhere, the facts and evidence do not change,” he said.

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Trudeau said his Liberal government understands that growing a strong economy requires taking leadership on both the environment and the economy.

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Rachel Notley, Alberta premier.

“That is what drives us in the choices we make,” he said. “We stand by those choices.”

An interesting sidebar to this story is Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, who no doubt dreaded a Horgan win because it will pit her government against the West Coast NDP cousins.

But Notley wasn’t backing down either.

“Should an accord between the BC NDP and the BC Green Party result in a John Horgan-led government, I know Mr. Horgan and I will be able to work together on important issues facing our two provinces,” she said in a statement.

“It is no secret that we have one important disagreement.  As I have said from the beginning, the twinning of the Trans Mountain Pipeline is critical not only to Alberta’s economy, but to the national economy. And it comes with significant safety measures that will better protect Canada’s West Coast and Alberta’s commitment to a world-leading climate plan.”

Notley will be four-square in Trudeau’s corner in this fight.

“It’s important to note that provinces do not have the right to unilaterally stop projects such as Trans Mountain that have earned the federal government’s approval,” she said.

“This is a foundational principle that binds our country together. There are no legal tools available to provinces to stand in the way of infrastructure projects that benefit all Canadians.”

Can Horgan break the revenue agreement Clark negotiated with Kinder Morgan Canada that will see $25 million to $50 million a year flow to the BC government?

Can he rescind the Canada-British Columbia Agreement on Environmental Assessment Cooperation, which many BC NDP supporters think could have been used to prevent approval of Trans Mountain Expansion, and use it to tie up Kinder Morgan in court or bureaucratic wrangling?

Perhaps back more First Nation legal challenges?

Horgan has precious few tools at his disposal and most of them amount to little more than a Hail Mary pass. But he seems determined to line up at scrimmage and give it the ole college try.

Why not?

According to Advanced Football Analytics, the chance of completing a successful Hail Mary on a 70- yard pass are about two per cent, yet last season quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw two of them to win key games for the Green Bay Packers.