Premier ‘disappointed’ in court decision quashing Trans Mountain approval

Scott Moe gives his victory speech after being voted as the new leader of the Saskatchewan Party and, by extension, Saskatchewan's premier, at the Sask. Party Leadership Convention in Saskatoon on Jan. 27, 2017. -- Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald

The Federal Court of Appeal’s decision to quash approvals for the Trans Mountain Pipeline is a blow to Saskatchewan’s economy, Premier Scott Moe said.

In a unanimous decision released Thursday, the panel of three judges said the National Energy Board’s review of the proposal was so flawed the federal government could not rely on it as a basis for its decision to approve the pipeline expansion.

The court ruled the National Energy Board (NEB) did not adequately consult with Indigenous groups and failed to consider the potential environmental impact of additional tankers along the BC coast.

The court found that the government’s representatives “limited their mandate to listening to and recording the concerns of the Indigenous applicants and then transmitting those concerns to the decision-makers.” There was no “meaningful two-way dialogue.”

According to the Saskatoon StarPhoenix, Moe called the decision an “unexpected course of events.

“We’re disappointed with that announcement this morning,” Moe said in Saskatoon.

He said the pipeline is of national interest for Canadians and would encourage the government to “use all the tools at their disposal” whether that means a Supreme court of Canada appeal or legislative options to ensure the project is started as soon as possible.

“When we’re able to get those products to our export markets … it’s a benefit to the world,” Moe said.

275,000 tonnes of steel to build the pipeline is to come from the Evraz plant in Regina. In February, the company said if the project is halted, employees in the Regina facility could face layoffs. In an attempt to ensure the pipeline goes through, the federal government decided to buy the $7.4-billion pipeline. That sale was approved by Kinder Morgan shareholders Thursday.

Meanwhile, the Saskatchewan NDP used the decision to promote an earlier policy that would have the province pay to replace pipelines on a regular schedule.

“This decision highlights the failures of the federal Liberals to set clear goalposts for major projects. The fact that they went so far as to pay billions for a pipeline without being certain it could be built is the height of incompetence,” said NDP Leader Ryan Meili in a press release.

“For businesses, for communities and for workers, we need clear guidelines for major projects. The uncertainty produced by errors such as this jeopardizes public and investor confidence in our regulatory system and our economic future.”

The NDP proposal to launch a replacement schedule of existing pipelines in Saskatchewan has been met with derision from the ruling Saskatchewan Party. The policy, though, is supported by United Steelworkers Local 5890.

We have the power to create demand for steel made right here in Regina,” said United Steelworkers Local 5890 President Mike Day. “Bringing in best-before dates for pipelines will help to protect good jobs, and it will help create construction jobs out on worksites across the province.”

While politicians bickered on the best way forward, the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN), which represents 74 First Nations groups across the province, applauded the decision as an acknowledgement of First Nations treaty rights.

“It seems clear to me that the quasi-judicial boards, such as the National Energy Board, which determines whether First Nations were adequately consulted, are failing the First Nations peoples in this country,” said Vice Chief Heather Bear in a written statement.

“This is a costly mistake for Government, given that the project may be held up in court for years. Government, whether at the Federal or Provincial level, cannot repeatedly run roughshod over our Treaty Rights”.

— with files from Dave Diebert, Saskatoon StarPhoenix