The Twinning of the Trans Mountain Pipeline Must Proceed‎ 

The twinning of the Trans Mountain Pipeline must proceed.‎

At stake is Canada’s future as a civilized member of the international community. A place where the rule of law prevails and citizens accept Government decisions arrived at in a transparent and legal manner, even by those who wish the decision was different.

The federal government has followed all the rules in determining that the $7.4 Billion dollar pipeline to carry Alberta Oil Sands bitumen through British Columbia to the Port of Vancouver is in the Canadian interest, and should after years of delay, proceed.

But as is well known, the minority B.C. Government of NDP Premier John Horgan‎ clings to power with the support of three Green Party members of the Legislative Assembly. On thin constitutional grounds, the Premier and his government have asked the British Columbia Court of Appeal to rule on whether the province has the right to control how much bitumen can be shipped through it province.

Going back to the 1920s, successive courts have ruled that inter-provincial transportation of goods, including those carried by pipelines, are under the jurisdiction of the federal government‎.

Courts have been known to change their minds and reverse earlier rulings. Think of the Supreme Court of Canada’s Assisted Suicide decisions in the 1990s and again a few years ago.

But short of such a dramatic reversal, the federal government’s jurisdiction will be confirmed and the pipeline construction should proceed.

But will it? Thousands of protesters claiming to be environmentalist say they will join thousands of indigenous demonstrators whose tribal bands failed to reach agreements on the construction of the pipeline in physically blocking work to build the project.

This will present ‎the Trudeau Government with a big political problem. It will have to physically remove the protesters and provide protection for the workers building the line. It would seem there is no alternative but to use the army for that work.

The video that will come from mass forced removal will be devastating to Canada’s reputation around the world.  Some of it in the way demonstrators hope: images of what they will claim is a police state silencing legitimate decent.

But others will see it as what it truly will be. Unlawful protesters refusing to accept the decision of a democratically elected government exercising it constitutional authority.

And ultimately it will be that perception that will be devastating to Canada’s reputation‎. No longer will the country be seen as a peaceable place where the rule of law prevails, a democracy where citizens on the losing side of a political debate accept the results even when they don’t like them.

Which is why the Liberal Government of Justin Trudeau must do whatever is necessary to get the pipeline built. Despite the short term domestic political pain that might befall it.

Canada must not become a country governed by mass protests by any group large enough to cause disruptions. Whatever the cause, no matter the people who support or oppose it, demonstrations cannot not be allowed to determine legally arrived at political decisions.

The way to stop or reverse unpopular political decisions is through the ballot box.  ‎Elect a new government that will change the policy.

That is the way democratic countries based on the rule of law do it. That is why the twinning of Kinder Morgan must proceed.

Don Newman is Senior Counsel at Ensight and Navigator Limited, a Member of the Order of Canada, Chairman of Canada 2020 and a lifetime member of the Canadian Parliamentary Press Gallery.