Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks as he meets with Premier of British Columbia John Horgan in his office on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Trudeau, Horgan avoid public disagreement over pipelines in first meeting

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and brand new B.C. Premier John Horgan bent over backwards to appear congenial after their first meeting Tuesday, avoiding any mention of their differing positions on expanding Kinder Morgan’s TransMountain pipeline.

The two leaders even showed up to their first face-to-face meeting in nearly identical blue suits, right down to their striped socks and matching shoes, prompting Trudeau to joke about their clear “compatibility.”

“We’re both progressive politicians who got elected on mandates to grow the economy in ways that help the middle class, to protect the environment, to advance the cause of reconciliation with indigenous peoples, and we have an awful lot we agree on deeply,” Trudeau gushed.

He then announced plans to travel to B.C. next week to assess the fire damage and meet with people displaced by the fires.

For his part Horgan thanked Trudeau for being quick with a response to B.C.’s forest fire emergency and noted Trudeau’s “deep roots” in B.C. He called him an “ally” who will help the feeling of isolation on the “other side of the Rocky Mountains.”

Their meeting came just a few hours before Pacific Northwest LNG announced it was scrapping its $36-billion liquefied natural gas pipeline project in B.C.

The Trudeau government gave conditional approval for the project last fall.

Horgan has come out against the project in the past but didn’t specifically campaign against it this spring. He said in late June if the project was adjusted to take into consideration concerns of local First Nations he might support it.

It is another pipeline project however that could be the straw that breaks the back of their matchy camel-coloured Oxford shoes.

Neither wanted to talk much about Kinder Morgan on Tuesday.

Trudeau’s government last fall granted approval for the company to go ahead with the TransMountain pipeline expansion which will nearly triple the capacity to bring almost 900,000 barrels of oil a day from Edmonton, Alta. into a marine terminal in Burnaby, B.C. The oil will be shipped to Asia, quadrupling the number of oil tankers in the Burrard Inlet each year.

Proving Canada can build additional pipelines to help grow the economy and still protect the environment is a key pledge of the Trudeau Liberals; but getting new pipelines built has proven to be a monumental task for both this and the previous Conservative government.

Horgan campaigned hard on a pledge to block the TransMountain pipeline, a promise which many analysts say helped his party’s fortunes at the polls. In the May election, the B.C. Liberals won the most seats but only with a minority government. With a signed agreement with the B.C. Green Party, Horgan’s NDP and the Greens voted together to defeat the Liberals in late June resulting in Horgan being sworn in as premier last week.

That written agreement includes a clause to do everything a government can to oppose and block the TransMountain expansion, including withholding construction permits and seeking injunctions in the courts.

In a mandate letter issued to his new environment minister George Heyman on Monday, Horgan instructed him to “employ every tool available to defend B.C.’s interests in the face of the expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline, and the threat of a seven-fold increase in tanker traffic on our coast.”

Hours later while standing beside Trudeau, Horgan said he hadn’t yet been briefed on the options for blocking the pipeline, and would have more to say in the days ahead.

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