Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will meet with the B.C. and Alberta premiers in Ottawa today in an effort to find a resolution to the standoff over the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline.
Alberta’s Rachel Notley and B.C. counterpart John Horgan arrived in Ottawa on Saturday evening to prepare for Trudeau’s overnight arrival from Lima, where he was attending the Summit of the Americas.
Trudeau was not initially scheduled to be in Ottawa this weekend. He had planned to travel from Peru to Paris before moving on to London, where he is scheduled to have an audience with the Queen.
Those plans changed Thursday, less than an hour before Trudeau’s plane was scheduled to take off from Ottawa, when Trudeau arranged a face-to-face meeting with the two premiers.
“It became very clear that the level of polarization around this debate required significant measures,” Trudeau said Saturday evening during his closing news conference in Lima.
“I wanted to be able to sit down with the premier of British Columbia, the premier of Alberta together, and discuss issues of the national interest and demonstrate the federal government’s’ commitment to getting this project built.”
‘We should be reasonable,’ Trudeau says
Finding common ground between all three parties is expected to be difficult, with B.C. maintaining it will pursue through the courts the question of which level of government has jurisdiction in the situation.
The federal government, meanwhile, says there is no need to take the courts route because the law clearly states it has jurisdiction over whether the pipeline can be built.
“The message the premier has always given to the prime minister and the premier of Alberta is that we should be reasonable and we should settle differences where there is disagreement through lawful means, like discussion in the courts, and that’s exactly what we propose to,” B.C. Environment Minister George Heyman told CBC News.
“The premier of Alberta and the prime minister of Canada shouldn’t be walking into a meeting with the attitude that the only solution is that British Columbia give up its rights, put our economy and the interests of our citizens at risk. We’re not willing to do that.”
Upon his arrival in Ottawa on Saturday evening, Horgan told CBC News that while his province continues to pursue the case through the courts, he would be willing to listen to other offers or compromises if they were put on the table.
“Happy to look at that. Happy to look at that, sure,” he told CBC as he landed at Macdonald–Cartier International Airport.
Tensions over the Trans Mountain expansion have been building since Kinder Morgan suspended all non-essential spending on the project last week.
The company has given the federal government until May 31 to deliver concrete assurances that the expanded line will get built.
That prompted Trudeau to call an emergency cabinet meeting in Ottawa on Monday. Ministers emerged from the meeting disclosing no concrete solutions to the standoff.
The meeting in Ottawa today, starting at 10 a.m. ET, is but the latest attempt to find a resolution to the dispute that some have said is causing tensions within the federation.
“The province of Quebec has said that they are very worried about the federal government questioning a province’s right to regulate environmental matters and that it’s not good news for the federation,” Heyman said.
In an open letter, Jean-Marc Fournier, the Quebec minister responsible for Canadian relations, called on the federal government to acknowledge and work with provincial legislation with regards to projects that touch both provincial and federal jurisdiction.
“The recent assertions of federal representatives regarding the Trans Mountain pipeline, which refer to an exclusive application of federal rules, are detrimental to a proper resolution of this issue and raise concerns for the future,” he wrote.
Speaking in Lima late Saturday, Trudeau said he wanted to remind those suggesting his actions threaten the federation that the Trans Mountain pipeline was approved by the previous B.C. provincial government and intends to “move forward in a respectful, responsible cooperative way.”
“I have demonstrated from the beginning of my leadership an approach with premiers, approach with municipalities with indigenous partners, that is deeply respectful and collaborative and that will continue.”