Penticton MLA says potential pipeline could benefit Okanagan

Penticton MLA Dan Ashton spoke with the Western News about the federal government's recent approval of a B.C. pipeline project.

Penticton MLA Dan Ashton

Penticton MLA Dan Ashton

Penticton MLA Dan Ashton called B.C. a resource province and Canada a resource country when discussing the employment opportunities the potential Trans Mountain pipeline expansion could bring to Penticton and the Okanagan.

“I personally think having this pipeline go ahead will provide a lot more employment opportunities for those in British Columbia,” Ashton said.

He added that absolutely includes the Okanagan.

“We have a lot of people in the Okanagan and the Penticton area which I represent who have been working for years in Fort McMurray,” Ashton said.

Ashton acknowledged the divisiveness of the issue but reiterated the resource-focused economy and the impact on employment.

“Those resources have got to get to market. Those resources help pay for health care, education, et cetera, et cetera,” Ashton said. “The world currently utilizes a lot of petrol chemicals. That hasn’t changed yet and will be that way for X amount of time going forward. To me, I think it’s important that we consider it, but it has to be done safely. The transportation of this product has to be done safely. That’s why there are conditions from not only the federal government, but also the provincial government.”

He hopes there is common ground to be found amid protests erupting in Vancouver after the federal announcement.

“We’ve seen what happens by looking just 40 miles to the south of us, so you don’t want a country, or a province or a municipality that’s divided like that,” Ashton said. “What we have to do is sit down, get the common ground and make sure that the pipeline is incredibly safe.”

This doesn’t happen overnight. This is part of a process to get to where approval will be granted unconditionally. It’s my understanding they have a long way to go yet,” Ashton said.

Clark says Trans Mountain “very close” to winning B.C. support

Premier Christy Clark said Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is now “very close” to winning B.C. government support.

But she stopped short of outright endorsing the controversial pipeline a day after it won approval from the federal government.

“Almost all of the conditions have been met and significant progress has been made on all of them,” Clark told reporters Wednesday, referring to B.C.’s five conditions to support a new heavy oil pipeline.

Asked which conditions have been met, she said more detail is needed from Ottawa on how its new Ocean Protection Plan will ensure world-class marine spill prevention and response, not just with regard to oil tankers but all marine vessel traffic.

And more work is needed to determine a “fair share” of the project benefits and jobs for B.C. – the province’s fifth condition.

“Those would be the two areas where there’s still some work to do. In terms of the other areas, that work is done,” Clark said.

Her declaration that B.C.’s other three pipeline conditions have been met drew criticism and appeared to contradict Environment Minister Mary Polak’s statement Tuesday that B.C. still awaits the outcome of the provincial environmental assessment, which is not yet finished. Successful receipt of all regulatory approvals is B.C.’s first condition.

First Nations opposed to the project also took issue with the implication that the project will address legal requirements on aboriginal and treaty rights and give First Nations opportunities to benefit – the fourth condition.

The other condition Clark indicated is met is to ensure world-leading spill prevention, response and recovery systems on land.

Clark said she her position on the project hasn’t changed “one iota” since B.C. spelled out its conditions, insisting they helped push the federal government to commit to much better marine protection.

She is urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to defend his decision to approve the project on the ground in B.C.

“When I spoke to the prime minister yesterday I told him I very much look forward to him coming to British Columbia to share his thinking behind the decision he and his cabinet have made,” Clark said. “Come to British Columbia, our province, and talk to the people here about why he believes that this project is indeed in the national interest.”

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley indicated she will visit B.C. as early as next week to make the case for the pipeline expansion.

Federal green light just one milestone: Kinder Morgan

Trans Mountain pipeline construction is slated to begin for 2017, Kinder Morgan president Ian Anderson said following the federal government’s approval of the project.

However, he noted that the federal government’s approval of the project is just one stage.

“Yesterday was a very important milestone for us but it is just that, a milestone – the journey isn’t over and we’ve still got lots of hard work to do.”

Part of that is waiting for the B.C. government’s environmental approval.

“I’m not sure when we will get that certificate. We’ve provided them with lots of information and met their needs. I hope to get it soon but I don’t have any timeline,” said Anderson.

Kinder Morgan is working with the province on the five conditions they’ve outline for the project, Anderson said.

“I echo the words of Premier Christy Clark in that we’re making progress on all conditions, including condition five.”

Condition five states that B.C. should receive economic and fiscal benefits from the pipeline that are equal to the risk that it bears.

Anderson said that despite legal challenges from First Nations and protests that show no sign of shrinking, he’s confident that the project will go ahead as planned.

“I don’t think I’d be sitting here today saying what I was saying if I didn’t believe we could continue on the path of building and executing this project.”

Costs for the Trans Mountain pipeline remain at $6.8 billion for now but the company is reviewing all costs and will be providing their shippers with an updated estimate early next year.

– with files from Jeff Nagel and Katya Slepian