The Trans Mountain expansion project has turned into “a big political circus,” according to a lawyer with the City of Burnaby.
Greg McDade made those comments following a motion filed by the Alberta government to the National Energy Board this week. The neighbouring province plans to intervene in a Kinder Morgan request, which asks that the NEB allow it to continue with construction in Burnaby despite being unable to acquire local permits.
On Wednesday, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley told the Globe and Mail one jurisdiction does not have the right to obstruct a project of national importance, and that her government will fight for the project “until shovels are in the ground.”
McDade called Trans Mountain’s request “extraordinary.”
“Not only are they claiming that their project trumps municipal and provincial rules, but they’re claiming, even though they assured the NEB to get their approval that they would follow municipal rules, that they can now be excused. It’s really a deliberate intent to try and bully a municipality,” he told the NOW.
He said by Alberta joining the dispute, it’s undermining provincial jurisdiction and will create a precedent that will hurt provinces across Canada.
“That shows you the extent to which they’ve sold out to the oil industry. If they were just thinking of the law, they’d be intervening in support of provincial jurisdiction, but clearly the politics here have trumped the law,” McDade said.
The lawyer added there is no constitutional issue.
“We’re not relying on municipal bylaws trumping a federal project. We’re relying on the fact that this is a federal project with a federally imposed rule that they have to comply with the (municipal) bylaws,” he explained. “This is really a question of whether Trans Mountain can be relied upon to keep their word under which they got their approval.”
According to an affidavit from Michael Davies, Kinder Morgan’s vice-president of operations, filed to the NEB on Oct. 26, the company has had issues acquiring permits under Burnaby’s tree and zoning bylaws.
McDade said the $7.4-billion expansion project is “just in the process” at the local level.
“Burnaby’s position has been, ‘You take your place.’ It’s a standard process, which applied without political interference, means that you’re in line with many other applicants that are looking for municipal approval for their projects. …They’re trying to jump the gun. ”
B.C. and Saskatchewan will also appear before the NEB to speak to the constitutional question.
“While this is a direct matter between the company and the City of Burnaby, the constitutional issues raised may result in restricting B.C.’s involvement in defending provincial interests in the future,” said Attorney General David Eby in a press release.
A date for a hearing has not been set.
NEB spokesperson Sarah Kiley said staff are “still determining” how they will address Trans Mountain’s request.