The Federal Government has approved the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline.

MLA Norm Macdonald unhappy but not surprised by pipeline announcement

The Columbia River Revelstoke MLA says the pipeline expansion decision is shortsighted for his riding and for the country.

Columbia River Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald is not surprised by the Federal Government’s decision to approve a new pipeline expansion, however he does echo his party’s stance that the decision is short-sighted.

“This is not a project the NDP is supporting,” said Macdonald just days after the Trudeau government announced they approved Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. “These are short-term political decisions that satisfy a short-term political need.”

His comments referred not only to the federal approval, but also to Premier Christy Clark’s statement that the project is “very close” to winning the B.C. government’s support.

Clark says although there is still some work to be done, the five conditions B.C. set out to earn support are close to being satisfied.

“I haven’t seen all of the details regarding what was being asked,” said Macdonald. “She (Clark) has appeared quite coy…but this is not a surprise.”

The five conditions included Indigenous participation and fair economic benefits for the province, but Macdonald says the environmental impacts are the biggest concern. Not only will this increase oil tanker traffic “significantly”, he says, it will also undermine efforts to reach carbon emission targets

The United Nations along with governments around the world have recognized the need to reduce carbon emissions in the air.

“If you’re serious about reaching these targets, you can’t be moving ahead with projects like this,” said Macdonald. “We need to shift to different kinds of energy, cleaner energy, and we need to do it now. The timeline is very important here.”

Although this region far removed from the location of the project, Golden and the rest of the Columbia River Revelstoke riding are still quite connected to the industry, making the pipeline as controversial here as it is in other areas of the province.

“Many people in our community are involved in the oil and gas industry, and these are jobs that pay well. So any transition that moves towards other energy sources needs to be thought out very well,” he said.

Macdonald has heard from many constituents regarding the pipeline, many of whom have serious environmental concerns.

“But I realize that is not the only point of view,” he said. “So I recommend that people call their representatives in government and tell them how they feel about this.”

Before the B.C. Liberals explicitly support the project, Clark is urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to defend his decision to approve the project on the ground in B.C.

“When I spoke to the prime minister yesterday (Nov. 29) I told him I very much look forward to him coming to British Columbia to share his thinking behind the decision he and his cabinet have made,” Clark said. “Come to British Columbia, our province, and talk to the people here about why he believes that this project is indeed in the national interest.”

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley indicated she will visit B.C. as early as next week to make the case for the pipeline expansion.

Trans Mountain pipeline construction is slated to begin for 2017, Kinder Morgan president Ian Anderson said following the federal government’s approval of the project.

However, he noted that the federal government’s approval of the project is just one stage.

“Yesterday was a very important milestone for us but it is just that, a milestone – the journey isn’t over and we’ve still got lots of hard work to do.”

Part of that is waiting for the B.C. government’s environmental approval.

“I’m not sure when we will get that certificate. We’ve provided them with lots of information and met their needs. I hope to get it soon but I don’t have any timeline,” said Anderson.

Kinder Morgan is working with the province on the five conditions they’ve outline for the project, Anderson said, including the fifth one that says B.C. must get a share of benefits in line with the risk it bears.

“I echo the words of Premier Christy Clark in that we’re making progress on all conditions, including condition five.”

Anderson said that despite legal challenges from First Nations and protests that show no sign of shrinking, he’s confident that the project will go ahead as planned.

“I don’t think I’d be sitting here today saying what I was saying if I didn’t believe we could continue on the path of building and executing this project.”

Costs for the Trans Mountain pipeline remain at $6.8 billion for now but the company is reviewing all costs and will be providing their shippers with an updated estimate early next year.

– with files from Katya Slepian and Jeff Nagel