CALGARY – British Columbia’s NDP and Greens are vowing to bring the Trans Mountain expansion to a halt should they form government, one of several promises that could have widespread ramifications on the business community that extend beyond the pipeline project.
From B.C. to Bay Street, the alliance formalized Tuesday between the two parties served as a potential foreshock to the private sector.
Kinder Morgan Canada, the proponent behind the Trans Mountain expansion, made a tepid debut on the Toronto Stock Exchange, with its shares (TSX:KML) falling 4.5 per cent to $16.24 from the $17 they were priced at in the initial public offering.
The commitments outlined in the NDP-Green pact, however, are poised to have a more long-term effect on investment in the province.
The Greens and B.C. have promised to “immediately employ every tool available” to stop the Trans Mountain expansion, refer the Site C dam construction project to the province’s utilities commission, raise the carbon tax by $5 per tonne annually beginning next year and raise minimum wage to at least $15 per hour.
Green party Leader Andrew Weaver was blunt in his rejection of future fossil fuel infrastructure in the province, saying the promised jobs from the sector haven’t happened.
“I think British Columbians, quite frankly, are sick and tired of being told that the 20th century economy is the economy of tomorrow,” Weaver told a news conference alongside B.C. NDP Leader John Horgan.
Weaver called out Alberta Premier Rachel Notley’s advocacy of Trans Mountain, saying she is mistaken when she says there’s nothing B.C. can do to stop the federally-approved project.
“There’s an awful lot that can be done in British Columbia to stop the shipping of diluted bitumen in our coastal waters,” Weaver said, pointing specifically to the rights of First Nations.
Kinder Morgan Canada didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Weaver’s remarks. But Ian Anderson, the president of Kinder Morgan Canada, said in a statement earlier that the $1.75 billion IPO fulfilled the company’s final requirement to proceed with the Trans Mountain expansion.
“This is an exciting day for our customers for communities and for the many individuals who are relying on this project to deliver jobs and economic benefits to their communities,” Anderson said in the statement, which didn’t acknowledge the political challenges that could be ahead.
But others like Stewart Muir, executive director of Resource Works, a B.C. group that advocates for resource development, have raised concerns about the project’s fate.
“If this proves to be a lasting union, then it’s obvious that the Greens would pursue their anti-fossil fuel agenda,” said Muir.
He said the province could delay or deny road access and other permits needed for the project.
“Small potatoes really, but a potential pebble in the shoe of the project,” said Muir.
Hilary Novik, an analyst at political risk consultancy the Eurasia Group, said the province could also join legal challenges, while there’s also the risk that the position held by a B.C. minority NDP government could enable more protests.
“A risk we’re watching is just how an antagonistic government could increase the level of civil disobedience against the project, and that could be a real risk to construction and threaten more delays for Kinder Morgan,” said Novik.
“It’s really going to test Kinder Morgan’s resolve to move forward with the project against the heightened risk of delays.”
Both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Notley came out in defence of the project, with Trudeau emphasizing that the project is in the national interest while Notley reminded B.C. of the jobs it will provide.
B.C. Chamber of Commerce president Val Litwin said part of his job going forward will be reminding the NDP-Green alliance of the Interior’s perspective.
“Our job would be to remind that alliance that there’s a whole lot of province outside of the 604 (area code), there’s this whole other side of the equation that’s the 250, that mostly voted in the other side of the aisle,” said Litwin.
Desjardins Capital Markets analyst Kristopher Zack said in a note that the deal between the Greens and NDP presents another element of uncertainty for Canada’s oil and gas industry.
He said the general tone of the two parties is less business-friendly than with the Liberals, though he sees pipelines as under greater threat than shale gas development.
Construction of the Trans Mountain expansion is expected to begin in September, Kinder Morgan Canada said. The project would triple the capacity of a 1,150-kilometre pipeline than runs from Edmonton to Burnaby, B.C.