Opinion: B.C.'s Trans Mountain toolbox an empty waste of money

Premier John Horgan’s “tool box” for fighting the Trans Mountain pipeline has finally been emptied, not that it was ever filled with much.

The Supreme Court of Canada deliberated less than 30 minutes last week before rejecting the BC NDP government’s attempt to determine what could flow through the pipeline. It was a serious beat down, as the justices came close to ridiculing the government’s arguments.

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The ruling was widely expected, but that does not lessen the amount of egg on the government’s face. The BC Liberals were quick to release documents of legal billings they say show that more than $1 million was spent on this Hail Mary.

I am not so sure the premier is much broken up about this ruling. His background while working in the provincial government was in energy, which included opening up the natural gas fields in the Peace region. I have never detected much passion from him when it comes to opposing this pipeline.

As I have noted here before, the NDP’s attempts to block a pipeline were minimal at best, despite the fiery rhetoric flowing from caucus members when they were in Opposition. Once they were advised the government had no legal authority to halt the pipeline’s construction, they became more muted in their criticism.

Horgan vowed to use “every tool in the toolbox” to fight it, but it became evident early in its term that the toolbox was a very small one, with a rather ineffective, single tool contained in it. The tool became known as the “reference case,” which unsuccessfully tried to make new constitutional law by asserting that B.C. controlled the pipeline’s contents.

There is one legal hurdle left for the pipeline, as several First Nations are in the Federal Court of Appeal - arguing they were not adequately consulted during the last environmental assessment process.

If the court rules against the First Nations, I do not expect much of a reaction from Horgan. The NDP signaled it has switched its priority to ensuring there are heightened safety measures associated the increase in tanker traffic.

As for that toolbox, it’s time to close the lid and throw it away.


It is with sadness I note the passing of a legendary figure of the B.C. political scene. Ted Hughes, B.C.’s first-ever conflict-of-interest commissioner, died in a Victoria hospital at the age of 92. A man of tremendous personal integrity, Ted’s voice was the ultimate authority on so many issues.

His investigation of then-Premier Bill Vander Zalm for conflict-of-interest allegations led to Vander Zalm’s resignation. Hughes was a senior judge from Saskatchewan, who then became the deputy attorney-general of B.C. and then the conflict commissioner. He also headed investigations of child protection systems in both B.C. and Manitoba. He was, quite simply, the finest civil servant I have ever known.

Keith Baldrey is chief political reporter for Global BC.

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