Alberta Premier Rachel Notley (Black Press files)

Trans Mountain court action continues, John Horgan says

Federal takeover doesn’t change oil spill risk to B.C. coast

The B.C. government is carrying on with its reference case against the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, Premier John Horgan told Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in an early-morning phone call Tuesday.

Horgan told reporters in Victoria the federal government’s takeover of the project changes the legal situation, but his contentious legal action isn’t aimed at any specific project. It’s about the province’s jurisdiction to regulate bitumen transport by pipeline, rail or road and B.C. lawyers have advised that it can proceed, he said.

The federal takeover of the existing line makes the Trudeau government “totally accountable” for risks of a tanker spill, and “allows me to have more candid conversations with the owners of the pipeline,” Horgan said.

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson said taxpayers will be the owners of the project.

“John Horgan picked a fight with Alberta and provoked a constitutional crisis with Ottawa over this project and this is now the embarrassing result,” Wilkinson said. “Horgan and the NDP will continue to play politics with British Columbia’s future, and this time it will cost us billions.”

Alberta is putting up to $2 billion towards construction of the project, and work is underway to get construction going, Premier Rachel Notley said Tuesday.

Notley held a jubilant news conference in front of the legislature in Edmonton after the federal government announced it is buying the 65-year-old oil pipeline from Alberta to the B.C. coast.

“It’s very possible we might not have to spend a cent of it,” Notley said of the financial backing, which would be payable only when oil begins to flow from the twinned pipeline. Any money put toward construction would be converted into an equity stake in the federal project, she said.

Notley said the federal takeover gives the project “federal Crown immunity,” which casts doubt on B.C.’s reference case to test the province’s jurisdiction.

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