Kootenay West MLA Katrine Conroy (Submitted photo)

Kootenay West MLA Katrine Conroy (Submitted photo)

Kootenay West MLA weighs in on Kinder Morgan dispute

Lost jobs, environmental issues top concerns heard by New Democrat MLA Katrine Conroy

Kootenay West is much like the rest of the province when it comes to the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion project – some are staunchly pro and others vociferously opposed.

“Our West Kootenay community has people on both sides of this issue, we’ve received a few emails, some are for and some are against,” NDP MLA Katrine Conroy told the Trail Times. “Some people have expressed concerns about the jobs that could be affected if it doesn’t go ahead, there are not long-term jobs but there are some construction jobs,” she added.

“But for the most part, when people talk to me about it, they are concerned about the impacts of an oil tanker going aground on the coast and what would happen.”

She says the BC NDP had a clear message during the election that the party would “stand up for British Columbia” and continue to challenge the $7.4 billion project in court.

“We are standing up for B.C. and we’ve been very clear about that,” she said. “For the coast and the economy, because I think that if we did have a spill it would be a huge disaster … it would destroy the seafood industry, it would destroy the tourism industry, it would destroy people’s livelihoods up and down the coast.”

Another aspect Conroy emphasized is the B.C. NDP’s stance that the province – not the federal government – should have authority over decisions like pipeline expansion.

“We believe that B.C. should have jurisdiction over our province,” Conroy said. “And that’s why when we were elected, we continued the court case that had already been started.”

Premier John Horgan has had those conversations with Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, she continued.

“Because we believe as British Columbians we should have jurisdiction over our province, it’s a bit odd that now there’s suddenly this angst because of a business decision that was made in a Texas board room.”

She says there wasn’t this type of reaction when pipeline projects going east did not proceed.

(TransCanada pulled the plug on two eastern-focused pipeline projects in October 2017)

“They tried to do energy going east and there was a huge outcry in Quebec,” Conroy noted. “And nobody was attacking Quebec the way they are attacking British Columbia, so I don’t quite get that – why is it okay to do one thing but not the other.”

Kinder Morgan announced Sunday it was stopping all non-essential spending on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, saying opposition from the B.C. government puts the project at risk. It has set a deadline of May 31 for talks with various stakeholders to reach an agreement that could allow the project to proceed.

The project, which would triple capacity between Edmonton and Burnaby, B.C., received Ottawa’s approval in 2016, but court challenges and permit delays in B.C. have held up construction.

“There hasn’t been a spill for how long Kinder Morgan has had an existing pipeline, that’s sixty years,” said Conroy. “But think, if you are going to double the container traffic, that’s a concern for people right across the province as well as for people who live on the Lower Mainland.”

Following Kinder Morgan’s move, Alberta’s New Democrat government served notice Tuesday of plans to introduce legislation that Premier Rachel Notley has said will give the province the power to reduce oil flows and likely prompt a spike in gas prices in B.C.

Regardless of what’s going on behind the scenes, Finance Minister Bill Morneau says the federal government isn’t about to divulge how it plans to salvage the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

Morneau says Ottawa is looking at several options to ensure the Alberta-B.C. pipeline gets built, including a potential financial stake in the project.

The finance minister was expected to meet with Alberta Premier Rachel Notley on Wednesday, and said he plans to reinforce the Trudeau government’s “resolute determination” to keep the project on track.

He says that determination was confirmed Tuesday during an emergency federal cabinet meeting in Ottawa, although he won’t say whether penalizing B.C. financially – such as withholding transfer payments -remains an option.

“I’m not going to publicly negotiate with any one of the parties,” Morneau said.

“Public threats, in my estimation, aren’t helpful.”

With files from Canadian Press