The Fort St. John & District Chamber of Commerce joined a B.C. business delegation to Alberta Thursday to talk about Canadian federalism amid escalating tensions over the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
Julie Ziebart, the chamber's first vice-president, joined her 100 of her counterparts from the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, BC Chamber of Commerce, and others from the Edmonton and Calgary as part of a delegation dubbed Federation Flight.
The delegation was a display of interprovincial solidarity to bring forward member concerns and support for Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline expansion from Edmonton to Burnaby.
But the trip to Alberta was to show solidarity and support for more than just the Trans Mountain project, the chamber noted in a news release. It was to reinforce the importance of developing Canada's energy and resource sectors, improving international competitiveness, ensuring timely project approvals, and supporting the rule of law, the chamber noted.
"The Chamber's greatest benefit is the power to advocate for our members at all levels of government, attend high level meetings such as this one where we can have face to face conversations with decision makers, and build bridges that will benefit our community," Lilia Hansen, executive director, said in a statement.
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley assured the delegation that Trans Mountain "will be built," adding she expects construction to resume in the summer.
“We feel pretty confident that we have the authority to control the export of our own resources under the constitution,” Notley said at an event at the Sutton Place Hotel in Edmonton, adding she expects construction to resume this summer on Kinder Morgan’s controversial Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
The catalyst for the trip was escalating tensions around the pipeline, and a fast-approaching deadline from Kinder Morgan regarding the future of the project.
“We’re here in large part to break down misconceptions,” said GVBOT president and CEO Iain Black.
The mission was also to offer a narrative he says hasn’t been heard enough: that British Columbian businesses support the line, and are concerned it may be thwarted.
“This is truly a crisis of confidence in Canada,” said Val Litwin, president of the British Columbia Chamber of Commerce, which has supported the project since day one.
The one-day trip follows legislation from the Alberta government that empowers the province with the ability to halt oil exports to British Columbia.
Notley emphasized Thursday that her government does not wish to punish British Columbian businesses, however Litwin said concern that Alberta will turn the tap off is real.
An ongoing theme during the course of Federation Flight – from YVR to YEG and back again – was First Nations and indigenous participation.
Black said 10 indigenous leaders from B.C. participated in the initiative, and several from Alberta attended the Edmonton chamber event – sponsored by Ledcor and Bennett Jones. This includes remarks from Grand Chief Wilton Littlechild from the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations.
“We have debt,” said Keith Matthew, former chief of B.C.'s Simcw First Nation, which signed an agreement with Kinder Morgan in 2007.
“If this project doesn’t go forward, it’s going to have catastrophic impacts on us as well.”
From the start, Black was clear that he spoke only on behalf of one organization: the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade.
Earlier this year, more than 450 businesses signed an open letter to Premier John Horgan, asking B.C. to oppose the Trans Mountain project, arguing it was bad for business.
Signatories to the list included technology founders, tourism operators and small business owners. On Federation Flight, small businesses and representatives from labour, transportation and manufacturing voiced their support.
Absent from the flight were federal political leaders, including B.C.’s three federal cabinet ministers.
Kinder Morgan has given the federal government until May 31 to provide the company with a clear signal its pipeline can be built.
— with files from Hayley Woodin/Business in Vancouver