Andrew Wilkinson: NDP’s trade war will only hurt BC

On Sunday, Kinder Morgan announced it was suspending non-essential work and spending on the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion project.

It’s a decision with potentially serious consequences for hard-working British Columbians, from our tourism to trucking sectors. Our society runs on Alberta fuel — we need it to get to work, get our kids to school or soccer, for planes and ferries, for grocery trucks, for ambulances and emergency response. With this ill-advised trade dispute, the NDP is putting our daily lives at risk on a politically motivated whim.

This wasn’t a decision made lightly. Trans Mountain is a $7.4-billion investment with approval from the federal regulatory agency. What happened?

Premier John Horgan gave the game away when he admitted that Kinder Morgan’s CEO told him the project was being unnecessarily harassed by the government of B.C.

Set aside the number of times his government has said they will “use every tool” to stop this project, cheered on illegal actions, or acted in bad faith. Instead, look back to the confidence and supply agreement that underpins this minority government, which commits the NDP/Green partnership to stopping the project by any means necessary.

In public, the premier is trying to strike a reasonable tone — which would be reassuring, if he were the person in control. But the evidence strongly suggests he has lost control of activist elements of his caucus and cabinet, most notably environment minister George Heyman.

In a global economy, becoming known as an unreliable partner is the kiss of death. If investors see a government changing the rules on the fly, picking winners and losers while ignoring the constitution — they’re going to take their money elsewhere.

Major investments such as Microsoft’s downtown Vancouver campus — and the jobs that come with them — are here because B.C. had earned a reputation as a reliable partner and a good place to invest. Today, the province is being publicly accused of illegally harassing a major project into submission — quite a step down from “reliable.”

It would be one thing if the damage was confined to our reputation. Just over the Rockies in Alberta, Premier Notley is already threatening to pass legislation to damage B.C.’s interests. There are increasing calls to shut off the flow of oil to the Lower Mainland. Even as a temporary, symbolic gesture of defiance, it could cause chaos and real hardship.

If one province has demonstrated it can unilaterally reject projects deemed in the national interest, what chance is there of achieving a national price on carbon?

For example, if Ontario, Alberta and Saskatchewan — together more than half Canada’s population, and substantially more than half of our Greenhouse Gas emissions — suddenly decide to refuse to impose a carbon tax, what recourse does Ottawa have? What chance does our fledgling national climate plan have?

And for what? Stopping this project will not only still mean oil tankers sailing from Alaska to Anacortes every day, within plain sight from the Premier’s riding in greater Victoria, but a sizable increase in oil shipment by rail through British Columbia.

Premier Horgan says he’s standing up for British Columbians. But picking a fight with Ottawa means risking the billion-dollar investment our previous government negotiated to protect our coastline. Furthermore, polls show only 10 per cent of British Columbians are firmly opposed to the project. And you don’t have to enthusiastically support the Kinder Morgan project to be dismayed by a government flirting with illegal protests and activists threatening to turn construction sites into a war zone.

British Columbians support the rule of law and working within confederation. This project has received federal approval, but instead the NDP has used it to start a trade war with another province, start a confrontation with the federal government, and undermine the constitutional order of Canada.

All because a vocal minority — including his own environment minister — thinks the rule of law shouldn’t apply to them.

This is a critical and historic moment for B.C. If the NDP continues to stubbornly refuse to end this dispute, we may find our hard-won prosperity crippled. No company — from resources to tech to finance — is going to invest and create jobs in a province where they might be harassed at the whim of an activist and politically motivated government.

It is clear that Premier Horgan needs to get on a plane to Ottawa and resolve this issue before hard-working British Columbians feel the harms of his reckless trade war.

Andrew Wilkinson is leader of the B.C. Liberal party.