TORONTO: Canada’s federal government said Tuesday it is buying a controversial pipeline from the Alberta oil sands to the Pacific Coast to ensure it gets built.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government plans to spend $3.4 billion to purchase Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline.

The pipeline expansion would triple the capacity of an existing line to ship oil extracted from the oil sands in Alberta across the snow-capped peaks of the Canadian Rockies. It would end at a terminal outside Vancouver, resulting in a seven-fold increase in the number of tankers in the shared waters between Canada and Washington state.

Facing stiff environmental opposition from British Columbia’s provincial government and activists, Houston-based Kinder Morgan earlier halted essential spending on the project and said it would cancel it altogether if the national and provincial governments could not guarantee it.

“It must be built and it will be built,” Finance Minister Bill Morneau said.

The pipeline would allow Canada to diversify and vastly increase exports to Asia, where it could command a higher price. Canada has the world’s third largest oil reserves but 99 percent of its exports now go to refiners in the U.S., where limits on pipeline and refinery capacity mean Canadian oil sells at a discount.

“For too long we have relied on one trading partner for our oil and gas exports,” Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr said.

The project has pitted oil-rich Alberta against coastal British Columbia, where concerns about fisheries, real estate values, tourism and ocean ecology are high.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson calls the pipeline an unacceptable risk that threatens 10,000 jobs in the harbor.

Indigenous leaders and environmentalists have pledged to do whatever is necessary to thwart the pipeline, including chaining themselves to construction equipment. “If it means standing up for the land against bulldozers or the military, we have to do that,” Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs spokeswoman Chief Judy Wilson said. The Trans Mountain expansion is projected to lead to a tanker traffic balloon from about 60 to more than 400 vessels annually as the pipeline flow increases from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels per day.

Morneau called the purchase an “exceptional situation” and said the government doesn’t intend to be a long-term owner of the pipeline. The government is buying the existing pipeline and the scheduled twinned pipeline expansion.

The federal cabinet approved the purchase on Tuesday.