Horgan knows he can't win Trans Mountain court battle, but is still doing it

Nobody should be surprised that Attorney-General David Eby was quick to declare the B.C. government will appeal the decisive court ruling on who controls the flow of oil between provinces.

The lack of emotion attached to his pronouncement, however, was telling - another indication the BC NDP’s desire is for this issue to just go away, even with that pending appeal.

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The NDP is walking a political tightrope on the Trans Mountain project as it works to placate environmentalists within the party, while still supporting the resource industry.

The party has long said it would use “every tool in the toolbox” to fight Trans Mountain, but the toolbox really only had one weak and tepid “tool.”

That tool was this court case, considered a bit of a Hail Mary. The government provided no legal evidence that a province could control what is a federally regulated entity.

Nevertheless, the NDP had to do something to make it look like it was trying to block the pipeline. Environment Minister George Heyman sheepishly admitted early on upon taking office that there was absolutely nothing “legally” the government could do to stop its construction.

Hence, the rather novel court argument about jurisdiction. As expected, the B.C. Court of Appeal made short work of it, giving the argument a 5-0 drubbing.

And given the voluminous case evidence and precedents provided by Justice Mary Newbury in her 50-page ruling, it seems unlikely the B.C. government can sway the Supreme Court of Canada.

It may all be a waste of tax dollars, but it is political capital that the NDP is more concerned with accumulating.

An appeal will allow B.C. Premier John Horgan to be able to say he did what he could to stop the pipeline and that will be the end of things. Some environmental groups will be upset, but they were upset with the decisions to finish the Site C dam and woo the LNG industry into this province and that opposition mattered little at the end of the day.

Some have mistakenly thought that launching the appeal was designed to keep the B.C. Green Party in check to ensure it continues keeping the NDP in power. That is a misread of the reality that has emerged about the relationship between the two parties (for all their criticism and complaining, it has become quite clear the B.C. Greens will never take down this government).

No, this appeal of an apparent hopeless cause simply reflects the fact that the NDP had one more “tool” at its disposal and had to use it.

But once the appeal process is over, the party will no doubt be glad to move on from a fight that will end with a whimper, not a bang.

Keith Baldrey is chief political reporter for Global BC.

 

 

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