Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Justin Trudeau's Risky Gamble on the Trans Mountain Pipeline

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Justin Trudeau's Risky Gamble on the Trans Mountain Pipeline

Article excerpt

Justin Trudeau's risky gamble on the Trans Mountain pipeline

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This article was originally published on The Conversation, an independent and nonprofit source of news, analysis and commentary from academic experts. Disclosure information is available on the original site.

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Author: David Tindall, Professor of Sociology, University of British Columbia

In the lead-up to the last federal election, Justin Trudeau said: "Governments might grant permits, but only communities can grant permission."

Vancouver and Burnaby did not grant permission to the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion. Neither did a number of smaller Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities.

Nevertheless, Trudeau's Liberal government approved the expansion. Then, this week, Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced that the government was taking over the project from Kinder Morgan.

This was a momentous day in terms of environmental politics. What are the potential consequences of the announcement?

The decision poses real risks to the federal Liberals, including harm to its reconciliation efforts with First Nations, strain on federal-provincial relations, accusations of interference in B.C. politics, the potential collapse of the federal carbon-pricing scheme and consequences for the environmental movement.

There are currently 18 federal Liberal MPs from B.C., many of whom will be in jeopardy in the next election because of the decision.

In the last election, environmental organizations like Dogwood and Leadnow worked to elect candidates who were progressive on environmental issues. In the next election, those groups and others like them will be steering voters away from the Liberals.

Trudeau vowed respect to Indigenous peoples

Another plank in Trudeau's federal election platform was "... for Canada to have a renewed, nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous Peoples, based on recognition, rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership. This is both the right thing to do and a sure path to economic growth."

While it's true that there are differences of opinion among Indigenous communities in terms of opposition or support for the Trans Mountain pipeline, based on my personal communications as a scholar who studies environmental movements, there are more Aboriginals opposed than in favour.

Already, several Aboriginal-led court challenges threaten the pipeline's expansion. It's possible that the federal government's acquisition of the project could make things more complicated, and may lead to further court challenges.

The decision will also put further strain on federal-provincial relations, at least with regard to British Columbia. The province's premier, John Horgan, has made every effort to avoid having tensions with the federal government and his Alberta counterpart become personal, and he has tended to avoid escalating the situation.

However, Horgan's NDP, with the support of the Green Party, will continue with its court challenge, and perhaps take other measures, so it's hard to imagine how tensions will ease. …

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