Kinder Morgan ultimatum reveals fraudulence of Trudeau's climate deal

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support for as little as $5 per month!

Woman holds sign at Vancouver Kinder Morgan protest. Photo: William Chen/Flickr

Last time I checked, Alberta's oilfields had not been seized by marauding bands of eco-warriors. But you might be confused into thinking so by the inflamed rhetoric coming out of Ottawa and Alberta.

We're told that the country faces a national crisis over the resistance to the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline, following an ultimatum by Houston-based Kinder Morgan that it's suspending long-stalled building plans unless it's assured a green light by May 31.

With both Alberta and Ottawa offering full-throttle support for the project, including potential financial backing, a chorus of rage has arisen from the country's business and political ranks over B.C.'s refusal to fall into line.

Some commentators insist this shows Canada is broken, even implying Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is a sissy unless he gears up to send in the army to restore the rule of law.

So what precisely has B.C. done that it is trampling on the rule of law?

After hiring the distinguished former B.C. Supreme Court Justice Thomas Berger as a legal adviser, B.C.'s NDP government sought and won intervener status in a federal court case involving the pipeline, and it has announced plans to consult the B.C. public about developing new regulations to protect its environment from oil spills.

These seem like law-abiding measures.

In a legal showdown, Ottawa would almost certainly win, since it has constitutional power over projects it deems in the national interest. But without a Supreme Court ruling, it doesn't seem outrageous for B.C. to test its right to protect its environment.

Business pundits complain that there's no time to seek such a ruling since we're staring at the May 31 deadline.

No doubt, Kinder Morgan has shareholders to satisfy, but should the timetable here -- given the momentous issues involved -- really be driven by the needs of a foreign company?

The pipeline would dramatically increase oil tanker traffic in the sensitive Burrard Inlet -- to more than 400 supertankers a year -- risking potentially devastating, long-lasting impacts from an oil spill that put the May 31 deadline in perspective.

B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver, who holds the balance of power in B.C.'s government, notes that the diluted bitumen travelling through the pipeline from Alberta's oilsands is more dangerous than regular oil if spilled into water.

"It sinks. We cannot clean up a spill," said Weaver, an internationally recognized climate scientist, in an interview on CBC-TV's Power and Politics.

Weaver, who was part of a team sharing a Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore, dismissed the scientific review of the Kinder Morgan project carried out by the National Energy Board as a "sham."

Then there's the fact the pipeline would go through unceded Indigenous territory, where resistance to it has been fierce.

Martyn Brown, who was chief of staff to former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell, argues that B.C. should go further and bring in legislation giving Indigenous people shared jurisdiction over environmental protection related to oil spill prevention and cleanups.

Then, of course, there's the matter of climate change; building a new pipeline means we'll pump more oil, making it harder to reduce our carbon emissions.

Weirdly, Trudeau fashions himself as a champion of climate solutions. According to his backflip of an argument, the pipeline is key to an implicit bargain that allows Alberta to get its oil to market, in exchange for Alberta's support for a carbon tax.

Only by pumping more carbon into the atmosphere can we hope to stop climate change -- sort of like only by smoking more cigarettes can we hope to stop cancer.

Trudeau's bargain has always seemed full of holes, but perhaps it has taken the Kinder Morgan ultimatum to finally out it as the truly unworkable, fraudulent deal that it is.

It's premised on the notion of compromise, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's just that climate change isn't something you can compromise on.

In a column in the National Post, Claudia Cattaneo expressed outrage over how B.C.'s intransigence is negatively impacting foreign investors, complaining that B.C. "doesn't seem to grasp the implications of messing with a lawfully approved project."

But she and other business commentators apparently don't grasp the even bigger implications of messing with nature.

Linda McQuaig is a journalist and author. Her book Shooting the Hippo: Death by Deficit and Other Canadian Mythswas among the books selected by the Literary Review of Canada as the "25 most influential Canadian books of the past 25 years." A version of this column originally appeared in the Toronto Star.

Photo: William Chen/Flickr

Like this article? rabble is reader-supported journalism. 

Related Items

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable. has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.