Update: Construction industry stakeholders slam province’s decision to challenge Trans Mountain

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by Russell Hixson last update:Aug 17, 2017

B.C.’s Independent Contractors and Businesses Association (ICBA) and the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada (PCA) are concerned the province’s new leadership could hurt investment and jobs.
Independent Contractors and Businesses Association president Chris Gardner is harshly criticizing the B.C. government on its recent decision to retain counsel in order to challenge the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion project.
Independent Contractors and Businesses Association president Chris Gardner is harshly criticizing the B.C. government on its recent decision to retain counsel in order to challenge the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion project. - Photo: ICBA GET TO YES/TRANS MOUNTAIN

The province recently announced it has retained counsel to challenge the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project.

ICBA president Chris Gardner said he believes the project has already been put through its paces and environmental concerns have been addressed. He said that a review and environmental certificate for the project have yielded nearly 200 conditions. Ottawa also announced a $1.5-billion marine protection plan.

"The review has been robust and vigorous," said Gardner. "They have been planning this for nearly a decade."

He added the government's actions also send a discouraging message to investors.

"The message in B.C. is that the government at a whim can change its mind and then you don't have a project," said Gardner. "If you are someone looking to invest you have to be taking a second look."

PCA president Paul de Jong said the B.C. government's decision to "thwart expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline" doesn't reflect the best interest of British Columbians.

"This government will have to answer to thousands of skilled B.C. tradespeople who are ready and eager to work on the Trans Mountain pipeline," said de Jong in a statement. "Stalling jobs, jeopardizing billions in economic benefits and undermining investor confidence is not the way to go about protecting B.C. or Canada's interests."

He also stated the provincial government is showing "little respect for Canada's democratic, regulatory approvals process and the rule of law. When a project meets the approval of the NEB, three levels of government and still can't move forward, all Canadians pay the price."

Gardner noted that the Site C dam project is also getting the attention of the province. Officials have asked the B.C. Utilities Commission to review its financial impacts.

"You have two projects that are approved with the environmental certificates issued," said Gardner. "The message is that government approvals and certificates aren't worth the paper they are printed on."

Gardner added the government's approach could result in less investment and fewer jobs for British Columbians. He also criticized the new government for opposing the George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project.

At a news conference Aug. 10, B.C. Environment and Climate Change Strategy Minister George Heyman and Attorney General David Eby outlined both legal and consultation steps the government will take immediate action on pertaining to the Trans Mountain project.

"Our government made it clear that a seven-fold increase in heavy oil tankers in the Vancouver harbour is not in B.C.'s best interests," said Heyman in a press release.

"Not for our economy, our environment, or thousands of existing jobs. We will use all available tools to protect our coastal waters and our province's future."

The British Columbia government hired former Supreme Court Justice Thomas Berger as external counsel to government to lead its legal challenges.

"We are committed to fighting for B.C.'s interests and it is government's desire to seek intervenor status in legal challenges to federal approval of the pipeline expansion and increased oil tanker traffic off B.C.'s coast," added Eby. "Mr. Berger will provide legal advice to government on the options for participation in legal challenges, and those hearings are scheduled to begin in federal court later this fall."

In a press release, the province added it will "continue to explore other tools to hold Kinder Morgan's project plans to the high standards of environmental protection and indigenous consultation that British Columbians expect."

The Trans Mountain Expansion is a $7.4-billion construction project. The expansion would parallel the 1,150-kilometre route of the existing Trans Mountain Pipeline, which was built in 1953 and is the only West Coast link for western Canadian oil. Pipeline capacity will increase from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels of oil per day.

The project will also add approximately 980 kilometres of new pipeline and reactivate 193 kilometres of existing pipeline. To support the expanded pipeline, new facilities will include 12 new pump stations, 19 new tanks added to existing storage terminals and three new berths at the Westridge Marine Terminal.

last update:Aug 17, 2017

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