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Trans Mountain Pipeline Approval Was Right Decision For Canada

12/14/2016 02:57 EST | Updated 12/14/2016 03:04 EST

This editorial was written in collaboration with Val Litwin, President and CEO of the BC Chamber of Commerce.

Recently the government made a difficult decision that we know to be in the best interest of Canadians. The approval of Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline is a win for everyone who believes that balanced, evidence-based decision making is crucial to our country's success.

You may not think that a debate over an oil pipeline would have implications for the forest, mining or electricity sectors, or even manufacturing and finance for that matter. But it goes to the heart of whether or not Canada will be able to compete in an increasingly volatile and unpredictable global economy.

The divisive nature of the pipeline debates has eroded Canada's reputation as an economy open for investment. As heads of Chambers of Commerce, we're hearing too many of our members questioning whether Canada can get large projects built. If these business leaders conclude that the answer is no, they will simply invest elsewhere.

Most nations competing for these investment dollars would not have hesitated for a second over a project like Trans Mountain. This is a pipeline that already exists and has been running safely for half a century. During the project's construction and operation, it will provide thousands of jobs and millions in economic stimulus to communities in Alberta and British Columbia. Trans Mountain will improve the competitiveness of Canada's oil and gas industry, which buys millions in goods and services from companies across the country.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (C) speaks during a news conference in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, November 29, 2016. (Photo: REUTERS/Chris Wattie)

Of course, Canadians demand more. We want assurance that our economic development observes all environmental protections as laid out by our government and that's where our world-leading regulation and business practices come in to make sure we get the balance right. Furthermore, we absolutely must ensure that our indigenous peoples are fairly and properly consulted and accommodated.

Between the National Energy Board and a second, separate review led by Natural Resources Canada, Trans Mountain would have been examined in great detail for over three years by experts and concerned citizens. It will be subjected to 157 additional conditions to ensure that the highest standards of safety and environmental protection are met. More than 120 indigenous groups were consulted, almost a third of which responded in support of the pipeline, and they will have a role in ensuring these conditions are met. The federal government is moving on issues that are larger than this project, announcing a $1.5 billion oceans production plan and aggressive measures to deal with climate change.

Yet, we know that this will not be enough. To a small group of Canadians, any process -- no matter how rigorous, open and fair -- that leads to a decision they don't like will be called into question. It's a group that calls for science-based decision making when they believe the science is on their side, and then cries foul when the evidence does not conform to their world view.

Canadians cannot afford to let our regulatory process to be overtaken by the politics of mistrust.

Canadians cannot afford to let our regulatory process to be overtaken by the politics of mistrust. We simply cannot afford to delay these decisions forever, allowing opportunity to pass us by while our domestic debate goes in circles.

As business leaders and Canadians, we are convinced of the need to transition to a low-carbon economy. Indeed, the BC and Canadian Chambers of Commerce have championed policies that promote investment in clean technology and putting a price on carbon. But this transition will take time. In the meantime, we are unconvinced that Canada -- a democracy with some of the strongest environmental protections in the world -- should cede global energy markets to countries with fewer environmental safeguards.

Additionally, we believe the politics of mistrust is a threat not just to investment in conventional energy, but to the transition to a low-carbon economy as well. There are many people who oppose their local renewable hydro-energy projects or even public transit expansions with the same kind of passion driving opponents of pipelines -- just ask wind farm developers in Ontario, or BC Hydro about Site C.

The world economy is entering a period of almost unprecedented uncertainty. For Canada's citizens to prosper, our government must be able to make evidence-based decisions on complex issues, even when that decision is unpopular. The approval of Trans Mountain was an important signal to business both in Canada and abroad that this government is up to that challenge.

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Kinder Morgan Pipeline Protest, Fall 2014