B.C.’s pristine coast at stake, says Kootenay West MLA

MLA Katrine Conroy is in Victoria for the final week of legislation before Parliament breaks

Kootenay West MLA Katrine Conroy (Canadian Press image)

Kootenay West MLA Katrine Conroy (Canadian Press image)

It’s doesn’t matter who owns the Kinder Morgan pipeline, the B.C. government is not backing down.

“If the federal government buys the pipeline, it doesn’t change the fact that we believe B.C. should have a say over whether we put our economy and entire communities in harm’s way,” says Katrine Conroy, MLA for Kootenay West.

“It won’t be the federal government who decides, it will be the courts.”

The province will continue its reference case to determine B.C.’s right to regulate the transport of diluted bitumen through British Columbia, Conroy said.

“What matters is defending our people, our environment, and the thousands of jobs that depend on our pristine coastal and inland waters,” explained the thrice elected New Democrat. “We also have a duty to make sure the rights of all First Nations, who could be affected by an oil spill, are respected.

“This is a key component of reconciliation, and will never change, even if the ownership of a company does.”

Conroy is Victoria this week for the last days of legislature before Parliament breaks for four months. She does acknowledge hearing from constituents who do not agree with the province’s stance. But the MLA points out this is a platform her party was clear about during the B.C. election, which took place one year ago May 9.

“I respect both views, but during the election we were very clear that we don’t think this project is in B.C.’s interest,” Conroy told the Times. “And Premier Horgan advised the federal government against bailing out a private Texas-based company.”

Regardless of who owns the pipeline, our government is still determined to defend British Columbia’s interests within the rule of law and in the courts, she emphasized.

“What matters is defending our coast, and our lands, rivers and streams, from the impact of a diluted bitumen spill.”

Conroy parallels what Premier John Horgan said Tuesday after the federal Liberal government announced its $4.5-billion decision to buy Trans Mountain and all of Kinder Morgan Canada’s core assets.

Horgan told reporters 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,” said Horgan.

Collectively, the $4.5 billion transaction includes the pipeline, pumping stations and rights of way along the route between Edmonton and Vancouver, and the marine terminal in Burnaby, where oil is loaded onto tankers.

“I don’t think it’s good for Canadian taxpayers to bail out a private company and take on massive financial risks for what was already a troubled project,” Conroy said.

“And it’s not good to try to impose on us a project that is too risky. We will continue to defend B.C.’s interests within the rule of law and in the courts.”