The B.C. Liberals are questioning whether the province’s environment minister shared information about the NDP government’s opposition to the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion in a way that swung the stock market.
The province announced on Jan. 30 that it would limit the amount of diluted bitumen that can be transported by pipeline or rail until it can do further research on spill cleanup. That same day, Environment Minister George Heyman ate dinner with a “Kinder Morgan Strategy Group” at a two-day retreat on Bowen Island, which was attended by opponents of the $7.4-billion Trans Mountain project.
Prince George-Valemount MLA Shirley Bond questioned Heyman about the meeting at the B.C. Legislature on Feb. 15. Concerns again surfaced on Monday, when Kamloops-North Thompson MLA Peter Milobar asked Heyman who else was at the dinner and whether any of them were lobbyists.
“I attended a dinner. I attended a question-and-answer period. I did not attend a strategy session,” Heyman responded.
Heyman recalled speaking with environmentalist Tzeporah Berman as well as Karen Mahon and Sven Biggs of environmental group Stand.earth and Squamish councillor Khelsilem Rivers, but said he did not wish to provide an incorrect complete list of attendees and would look at his records. He said it was not “the responsibility of government to ensure that people we meet with are registered as lobbyists.”
Milobar pressed Heyman for transparency on the issue.
“This is quite serious,” Milobar said. “This was a dinner on the same night that the trade war with Alberta was triggered by statements made by the minister of environment.”
Surrey-White Rock Liberal MLA Tracy Redies said Monday that on the day of the minister’s announcement, Kinder Morgan shares dropped by $800 million — which a dinner attendee celebrated in an email, she added.
“For a government minister to work with a third party whose goal is to negatively impact the share price of a publicly-traded company — it’s completely inappropriate,” Redies said.
“These groups had press releases already drafted and ready to send out immediately after the environment minister’s announcement.”
In an emailed statement, the Ministry of Environment said the government had given a “courtesy notification” about its plans to study and review the pipeline project to several non-profits, business groups and other levels of government.
“This is a normal part of government’s interactions with organizations, and regularly took place under the previous government as well,” the statement said.
The ministry did not provide a copy of the notification before deadline.
In an emailed reply to questions, spokesman David Karn said the notification was provided on the afternoon and evening of Jan. 29 to 28 organizations including the B.C. Business Council, Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, as well as environmental groups such as the David Suzuki Foundation, Dogwood and Sierra Club.
The ministry said proposed regulatory changes aren’t considered market-moving information and pointed to an ongoing correction in energy stocks driven by increase U.S. shale production, including Kinder Morgan, Enbridge and TransCanada stocks, which all slumped in the five days leading up to the announcement.
Green party Leader Andrew Weaver tweeted Tuesday about the Liberals’ claim that Heyman’s actions led to losses for investors.
“Do they even know how (to) read (a) stock chart?” he said. Kinder Morgan Canada stock rose 14.4 per cent in the three weeks following the announcement, closing at $19.40 a share on Tuesday, up from $16.80 on Jan. 30.
This is the full list of organizations and groups given the “courtesy notification” on Jan. 29:
B.C. Business Council
B.C. Trucking Association
Canada Coast Guard
Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers
Canadian Energy Pipeline Association
Canadian Fuels Association
Chemical Industry Association of Canada
City of Vancouver
City of Burnaby
David Suzuki Foundation
Environment and Climate Change Canada
First Nations Fisheries Council
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Government of Alberta
Georgia Strait Alliance
Natural Resources Canada
Organizing for Change
Railway Association of Canada
Responsible Distribution Canada
Tseil Waututh Nation
Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs
West Coast Environmental Law
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