Canada court halts Pacific pipeline in blow to Prime Minister Trudeau

The verdict, one of the project's most significant legal hurdles to date, means the National Energy Board will have to redo its review of Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline's extension.

No topic has captured the attention of Tyee readers more than the Kinder Morgan pipeline project - so much so that seven of the 10 most read articles this year were on the Trans Mountain expansion.

In effect, the court has halted construction of the 1,150-kilometre project indefinitely.

"It was broken in Ottawa, and now Ottawa needs to fix it".

He said the government remained "absolutely committed" to building the project. That means ensuring the highest level over governance - including environmental protection.

"Meaningful consultation is not intended simply to allow indigenous peoples "to blow off steam", the decision said".

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said the decision is "devastating news for energy workers across Canada and for Canadian taxpayers".

The Trans Mountain pipeline has dominated Alberta politics in the a year ago and it, along with everything it represents - including Alberta's carbon tax - is expected to overshadow all other issues in the spring election. "That is extremely alarming".

The court combined into one case almost two dozen lawsuits filed by First Nations, environmental groups and the cities of Vancouver and Burnaby calling for the energy board's review to be overturned.

In the upside-down-world of government messaging, Finance Minister Bill Morneau said the court justified the government's purchase of the pipeline expansion project in the first place, because only the government has the wherewithal to "de-risk" the project. It added that the court decision was not a condition of the sale between Kinder Morgan and the federal government.

The Squamish Nation called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to abandon the proposed expansion.

November 29, 2016: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sanctions the Trans Mountain expansion, part of a sweeping announcement that also saw approval of Enbridge's Line 3 pipeline replacement but the end of its Northern Gateway project.

Lee Spahan, chief of the Coldwater First Nation in the Nicola Valley - which he said is known as the people of the creek - said the ruling helps save water. And he sharply criticized the court, asserting that the judiciary did not understand the impact of its ruling on jobs, businesses and First Nations' opportunities.

It faces stiff environmental opposition from British Columbia's provincial government and activists.

The decision was a major victory for Canadian First Nations, environmental groups and US tribes that opposed the pipeline expansion.

While environmentalists can claim a victory in delaying the construction of a pipeline that would ship a further 500,000 barrels of oil each day to the Pacific Coast, the court ruling also threatens Canada's plan to deal adequately with its greenhouse gas emissions. It would also increase the number of tankers in Burrard Inlet sevenfold.

"My sense of it would be that the federal government should get on with the proper consultation and view this as a delay", he said. When asked if the pipeline project is dead, he said it will no longer be "top of mind for British Columbians".

Since the NDP came to power last summer, Horgan said B.C. has used the rule of law to argue its position against the pipeline.

The North Shore Business Improvement Association took a slightly different tack, releasing a statement with a more positive take on the court's decision.

Under the Constitution, Canada has a "duty to consult" and accommodate Indigenous people when a project may impact their Aboriginal or treaty rights.

The environmental groups involved in the case also cheered the ruling, with Ecojustice, the Living Oceans Society and the Raincoast Conservation Foundation calling it a "critical win" for the climate and coastal ecosystems.

April 8, 2018: Kinder Morgan Canada suspends non-essential spending on the Trans Mountain expansion project and sets a May 31 deadline to reach agreements with stakeholders.

  • Joey Payne