Ontario has the power to block Trans Mountain pipeline expansion | Letters

*The editorial (Opinion, 23 January) contains a couple of errors regarding Ontario’s right to veto election-worthy borrowing. First, the province does not have a veto over borrowing approved by the federal government. The last time the province tried, in 1994, it was backed down by the federal government.

Ontario only has a vote on new borrowing of $1bn or more, and has used this power only twice, both for the Muskrat Falls hydro project in Labrador. Its first veto was on a $1.1bn loan for Bombardier, following the province’s rejection of a $1.8bn loan from Quebec in 2005. Ontario voted again on a $1.5bn loan from Quebec in 2014, when Quebec applied for and won extra money, and was killed off by the federal government.

Second, the editorial repeats the misapprehension that Kinder Morgan was somehow on the hook for any additional amounts the federal government might require. In any case, not a cent has been spent yet on Ontario’s acquisition of any additional pipeline capacity for expanded oil flows; nor has any additional kilometre of pipeline been built. No more financial obligation can be made to Kinder Morgan. This has nothing to do with the company’s support for the government’s project; the takeover was strictly about maximizing shareholder value. This right to cancel the pipeline was set out by then-premier Dalton McGuinty, as the province’s right to prevent Kinder Morgan from obtaining any additional power that could enable it to obtain a bigger share of that share. The province’s right to make such decisions has nothing to do with the outcome of the federal election.

To read the editorial is to imagine that it had been written by a member of the opposition – opposition that the province’s Progressive Conservatives officially still constitute. But the majority of the province’s population is governed by a true government: a progressive, left-of-centre government that neither would support nor welcome approval of a high-risk project at this time. Clearly Kinder Morgan could have approached Ontario or Quebec instead of Ottawa, but both had no interest in the company’s failure to proceed at this time. It was the federal government that forced on the province the responsibility to cancel the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, followed by the federal government that failed to implement the agreed joint review process for the LNG Canada project. The province’s failure to implement the joint review process for the Redwater-area gas pipeline is another example. Its failure to protect this stunningly beautiful place was a mistake as well, and everyone on the local Aboriginal band has every right to be upset by it. Perhaps this is why its approval rates among band members is a full 10-times lower than for the opposition parties.

All this refusal to offer assistance to the oil and gas industry in Ontario is a stain on the Liberal record, which is why the Ontario government should let Alberta guide the Kinder Morgan project along instead. As happens so often with special-interest groups, there are no losers, only winners.

Bruce MacKay-Dunn

Ontario director, Sierra Club Canada

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