Prime Minister promises to make Trans Mountain Pipeline happen


OTTAWA-A high-profile meeting between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the premiers of Alberta and B.C. over the future of the contested Trans Mountain pipeline is underway on Parliament Hill.

"We engaged in financial discussions with the pipeline owner, Kinder Morgan", he said.

"Except they've taken off the table use of the Constitutional Declaratory Power to bring legal certainty, they've taken off the power a...federal government court reference to the Supreme Court of Canada to steal the march on John Horgan's legal delay tactics in British Columbia and they've taken off the table the most obvious leverage the feds have, which is the power of the purse", he said. He also promised legislation that would reaffirm Ottawa's authority to press ahead with a development deemed to be in Canada's national interest.

Mr Trudeau's Liberal government in 2016 approved the expansion project, aimed at helping landlocked Alberta ship its oil sands to the Pacific coast and then to overseas markets. But Horgan emerged re-asserting his government's opposition to the pipeline.

The prime minister revealed few details on the planned legislation and upcoming financial discussions, but he did share that the closed door talks between Morneau and Kinder Morgan "are happening" in Calgary, Toronto, Houston and NY.

Prime Minister promises to make Trans Mountain Pipeline happen
Prime Minister promises to make Trans Mountain Pipeline happen

Trudeau adds federal legislation is coming that will "reassert and reinforce" the fact that the federal government is well within its jurisdiction to approve the project and ensure it goes ahead.

Horgan's election previous year changed that.

The prime minister also made it clear that the B.C. government's interests do not upend what the federal government has decided is in the national interest.

Kinder Morgan will, however, consult with various shareholders by May 31 in an effort to reach agreements that allow the project to proceed.

"I don't think it's any surprise to anyone that I don't think we would be in this situation if the British Columbia government hadn't continued to emphasize its opposition to the project", Trudeau said. "That is why we are at this point right now".

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"The approval process for this pipeline ... featured the most extensive consultation of Indigenous communities across this country ever seen", he said, adding the government "continues to engage regularly" with Indigenous people who have concerns about the project. But he also accused Horgan of ramping up his rhetoric about environmental uncertainty and gaps in the federal oceans protection plan, without providing details.

"As soon as we have something to announce we promise you we will let you know", he said. "It's something we very much are open to doing".

Kathryn Harrison, a UBC political scientist and senior associate dean of arts, said no one was really expecting much out of the meeting.

Indeed, knowledge is limited when it comes to how diluted bitumen - known colloquially as dilbit - interacts with water, and how best to contain and clean it up.

But he said, "Canadians and people around the world know that we can not choose between what is good for the environment and good for the economy". "The federal government is there to ensure that the national interest is upheld", Trudeau said.

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Before Sunday's duelling news conferences were even complete, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer was front and centre, accusing Trudeau of sitting on his hands for too long and frittering away investor confidence in Canada as a whole.

"His damaging policies ... have only led to more uncertainty and instability in Canada's resource sector", Scheer said.

At the legislature Sunday, Alberta Party leader Stephen Mandel said Ottawa already has the jurisdiction it needs.

Kenney repeated his calls for the prime minister to penalize withholding federal dollars for infrastructure and jobs training.

Horgan is not the only vocal opponent of the project, however. "I think legally and constitutionally they're on shaky ground".

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