The government of Canada’s multi-billion-dollar pipeline project is in legal limbo after a major court ruling.
The Federal Court of Appeal ruled the federal government failed to adequately consult with Indigenous groups affected by the project, and did not include a proper environmental assessment. Most notably, the court ruled the National Energy Board failed to assess the potential impact of increased tanker traffic on marine life.
The decision puts a major wrench in Ottawa’s plans to eventually carry diluted bitumen from the Alberta oilsands to the Pacific Ocean, where Canadian petroleum could be sold internationally.
Earlier this year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the federal government would be purchasing the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project from Kinder Morgan for $4.5 billion. The Canadian Press reported the pipeline would actually cost taxpayers $7.4 billion to build, and that price tag could reach $9.3 billion once completed.
Trudeau said the government’s purchase was necessary to ensure the project gets done.
However, this court ruling essentially voids federal approval for the pipeline, which would have tripled the capacity of the Trans Mountain pipeline, which runs from Edmonton to Burnaby, B.C. The move forces the National Energy Board to restart its review process if the government still wishes to move forward with the project.
Major Federal Court of Appeal decision on #TransMountain just released: Court rules: "Canada did not fulfil its duty to consult with and, if necessary, accommodate the Indigenous applicants." #bcpoli #abpoli #cdnpoli
— Ainslie Cruickshank (@ainscruickshank) August 30, 2018
This development puts the expansion plan in jeopardy, and taxpayers are now on the hook for an illegal project. Some Canadians were quick to respond to the news on social media.
Greenpeace Canada called the move a “huge victory” for Indigenous groups and Canadians across the country.
Ecojustice, the Living Oceans Society and the Raincoast Conservation Foundation called the ruling a “critical win” for the climate and coastal ecosystems.
Columnist and broadcaster Michael Coren slammed the National Energy Board’s review as “deeply flawed.”
In British Columbia, where the provincial government has vehemently opposed the project, a spokesperson for the Squamish Nation slammed the federal government’s handling of the pipeline.
“The Squamish Nation celebrates the court’s ruling in favour of our Indigenous rights,” Squamish Nation Councillor Khelsilem said in a statement. “The Trudeau government failed in its rhetoric about reconcillation with First Nations’ and this court decision shows that.”
“This is a major victory for my community,” said Coldwater Indian Band Chief Lee Spahan. “Thankfully, the court has stepped in where Canada has failed to protect and respect our rights and our water.”
The B.C.-based Tsleil-Waututh Nation said it is “pleased that the Federal Court of Appeal has recognized our inherent governance rights.”
“I am so happy, I can’t stop crying,” Twitter user Sue Andrews wrote in response to the First Nation.
Meanwhile, others expressed shock in response to the decision, which effectively places the major infrastructure project on hold indefinitely.
“Woah! I’m surprised to see this,” Jessica McIlroy, a candidate for city council in North Vancouver, B.C., said on Twitter.
B.C. native Wally Debling wondered if taxpayers could ask for a refund on the Trans Mountain pipeline purchase. Some Canadians openly asked why anyone would invest in Canada, while others simply called the situation “absurd.”
“Canada: the country that can’t seem to get s*** done,” University of Waterloo Professor Emmett Macfarlane remarked on Twitter.
What do you think of the court’s ruling? Do you believe First Nations groups were properly consulted? Was the National Energy Board’s review process flawed? Let us know what you think by voting in our poll above and sharing your thoughts in the comment section below.
With files from The Canadian Press