Ford Says New Deal With Michigan Didn't Involve Discussion on Enbridge Line 5

Ford Says New Deal With Michigan Didn't Involve Discussion on Enbridge Line 5
Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario, speaks to media during the closing news conference at the Council of the Federation Canadian premiers meeting at The Fort Garry Hotel in Winnipeg, on July 12, 2023. (The Canadian Press/John Woods)
Isaac Teo

Ontario Premier Doug Ford says a new trade deal signed with Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer didn’t involve any discussions on Enbridge Inc.'s Line 5 pipeline.

“We never talked about it this time,” Mr. Ford told reporters at a press conference in Ottawa on July 25—hours after the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed.

The premier was asked by reporters if he spoke to Ms. Whitmer about Line 5 in the lead-up to signing the MOU, and whether he has any contingency plan should the governor be successful in getting the pipeline shut down.

Enbridge’s Line 5 carries 540,000 barrels of oil and natural gas liquids daily across Wisconsin and Michigan to refineries in Sarnia, Ont. The energy company is headquartered in Calgary, Alta.

Ms. Whitmer has been waging a war on the aforesaid pipeline, citing the risks of a leak in the Straits of Mackinac, the waterway where the line crosses the Great Lakes. While the state keeps losing court challenges against the line, it continues to appeal decisions, taking the case to other courts.

Mr. Ford said he has brought up the issue with Ms. Whitmer before and that she knew his stance on the pipeline.

“We have talked in the past and again she knows how I feel. It’s absolutely critical for Ontario and actually the U.S.,” he said.

Defenders of the pipeline—including the Canadian government—have said a shutdown would cause major economic disruptions across the Prairies and the U.S. Midwest, where it feeds refineries in Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

Line 5 also supplies key refining facilities in Ontario and Quebec, and is vital to the production of jet fuel for major airports on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border, including Detroit Metropolitan and Pearson International in Toronto.

‘A Friend’

In June, Enbridge Inc. was ordered by a Wisconsin district court judge to pay an indigenous band in the state US$5.1 million and to remove the aforesaid pipeline from its property within three years. The judge, William Conley, ruled that a rupture of Line 5 on territory that belongs to the Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Chippewa would constitute a public nuisance under U.S. federal law.
The Bad River Band had argued that any flooding or erosion on a certain stretch of the line could cause a rupture. The band had also denied Enbridge access to the piece of line in question to repair damage due to erosion.

Enbridge has described the band's argument as "alarmist" and "counterfactual speculation."

Mr. Ford said despite the challenges related to Line 5, he still considers Ms. Whitmer “a friend, a great partner on many different areas as well.”

“They’re our number one trading partner and we’re their number one trading partner back and forth,” the premier said. “I always look at working with all governors on things that we can agree on.”

The MOU, signed on July 25, centres on economic cooperation in support of joint initiatives in areas such as electric vehicles and related supply chains. It also includes joint trade promotion, new post-secondary exchange programs, and the facilitation of more efficient border crossings.
The Canadian Press and Cory Morgan contributed to the report.