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Trudeau needs to stand up to Premier Horgan: Senator Neufeld
February 16, 2018
image Richard Neufeld
Richard Neufeld
C - (British Columbia)

Note to readers: The Honourable Richard Neufeld retired from the Senate of Canada in November 2019. Learn more about his work in Parliament.

On Tuesday, February 6, the Senate of Canada held an emergency debate on the recent development in the on-going saga over the $7.4 billion Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project which, essentially, twins an existing pipeline between Alberta and BC. 

In my view, this major Canadian energy infrastructure project is good for business and it’s good for Canada. It will create good-paying, family-supporting jobs, boost our economic activity and increase the value of Canadian oil on the world stage by diversifying our market beyond the United States and expanding into Asia.

Many senators including myself felt this 4-hour emergency debate in the Red Chamber was warranted in light of NDP BC Premier John Horgan’s delay tactic last week of announcing he would seek public feedback on restricting the increased transportation of diluted bitumen until “the behavior of spilled bitumen can be better understood and there is certainty regarding the ability to adequately mitigate spills.”

Is that a joke?  The BC NDP Government makes it seem like oil hasn’t been shipped safely for decades and that no spill response plan even exists in case of an unlikely incident.

First, we know pipelines are the safest and most efficient way of shipping oil and, secondly, we know that Canada has a world-class tanker safety system in place.  Further, and this should go without saying, governments – past and present – and industry are committed to protecting our coasts, our environment and our communities.  Whoever would think otherwise is clearly misguided. 

While I can appreciate that the Premier is against this project, I draw the line when a provincial government holds our Canadian oil and our Canadian interests in limbo for their own political gain.  Some argue that his interventionist approach is unconstitutional considering the fact that interprovincial pipelines fall with the federal government’s jurisdiction who, by the way, has already greenlighted this project after a detailed and lengthy review process. 

And let it be clear: this is not about pitting those who support resource development and pipelines against those who don’t.  Whether you agree with the pipeline or not is beside the point. The point is we have a Premier, within the Canadian federation, that essentially wants to have the final say on how, where and when we can ship, load or export one of our richest natural resources.

Further, what the Premier may be forgetting is that the coast does not belong exclusively to British Columbia — it belongs to all Canadians.  He’s failing miserably at being a good and respectful neighbour and team player. Clearly, Mr. Horgan is committed to keeping one of Canada’s most valuable commodities hostage. 

I think the Premier may even be forgetting what the letter D stands for in NDP.  For the NDP government to attempt to block or delay a federally-approved project that falls within the federal government’s purview is, dare I say, un-democratic.  Or maybe that’s just the “new” way of governing?

I was obviously delighted that senators from across the political spectrum took part in the debate on Tuesday and, in a show of support, sent a clear message that these interventionist tactics should not be tolerated.  Like many of my colleagues, I, too, fear that this ordeal may quickly escalate and have permanent and lasting consequences on our country.  There are already talks out of Alberta of boycotting BC wines and halting talks on the purchase of hundreds of millions of dollars of electricity from BC Hydro.

And for the record, this current political head-butting is not one solely between BC and Alberta.  It is not exclusively a provincial matter nor is it about Western politics.  This is about BC and Canada.  The Federal Government needs to take all necessary measures at its disposal to ensure this project moves forward immediately and that the rule of law is upheld.

I think senators sent a clear message to Prime Minister Trudeau that real leadership is needed on this file and he needs to stand up to Premier Horgan and stand up for Canadians.

Richard Neufeld is a senator representing British Columbia.  He is a member of the Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources, the Senate Committee on National Finance and the Senate Committee on the Arctic.  Prior to his appointment to the Senate in 2009, he served in the British Columbia legislative assembly from 1991 to 2008 as MLA for Peace River North.  He was minister of energy, mines and petroleum resources from 2001 to 2009.

This article appeared in the February 7, 2018 edition of The Vancouver Sun.

The Senate held an emergency debate last week on the Trans Mountain pipeline, recognizing the issue as a matter of urgent public interest. Find out more.