Globe editorial: On pipelines, Ottawa must have the final say (Globe and Mail – June 5, 2017)

There’s a battle brewing between British Columbia and the federal government that could have an indelible impact on the future of Canada. It comes down to one question: Can Ottawa effectively exercise its responsibilities if the provinces refuse to recognize its authority on controversial issues?

The issue at hand is pipelines. Last fall, the Trudeau government approved Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain expansion project, which will twin an existing pipeline along a route from Alberta to Burnaby, in Metro Vancouver. The decision came after a full review of the project by the National Energy Board.

In other words, Ottawa played by the rules and approved a project of the type that the Constitution places squarely in its jurisdiction: railways, canals, hydro lines, pipelines and other infrastrcture that cross provincial boundaries.

Ottawa also has clear jurisdiction over seacoasts, navigation and shipping, which ties into issues that arise from the fact that the pipeline expansion will increase tanker traffic in Vancouver harbour and along the coast of B.C.

And Ottawa has sole jurisdiction over trade and commerce, which is what this is mostly about. Getting the crude from Alberta’s oil sands – or any other Canadian product from any other landlocked part of the country – to coastal waters where it can be loaded onto boats and shipped to foreign markets goes to the heart of Canada’s ability to be a successful trader.

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