At the same time, however, Trudeau — speaking after a rare Sunday meeting with the warring premiers from both provinces — concedes there is more his Liberal government is willing to do to protect the B.C. coastline from a possible oil spill.
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Albertas opposition party leaders blast Trudeau, Notley for lack of progress with Horgan on pipeline issue
Trudeau spoke at the end of a remarkable eight-hour stopover in the national capital, an unscheduled break from his overseas trip to accommodate the last-minute summit with B.C.s John Horgan, who has staked his governments survival on opposing the pipeline, and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, whose provinces economic health depends on it.
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“The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is of vital strategic interest to Canada, Trudeau said following the two-hour meeting. “It will be built.
It has been a week since Kinder Morgan announced it was halting all non-essential spending on the plan to build a second, bigger pipeline parallel to the existing one between Edmonton and Burnaby, B.C. The company gave the Trudeau government until the end of May to reassure its investors the pipeline would be built, despite mounting opposition.
After the meeting, Notley and Trudeau exuded confidence the deadline would be met and the pipeline would proceed. Horgan, however, betrayed no evidence that their confidence had anything to do with him. If anything, the positions of the two NDP premiers appeared all the more entrenched when the meeting was over.
As of Sunday, Canadians know the Trudeau government will enter into secret talks with Kinder Morgan aimed at making its Trans Mountain problems disappear. If one of those problems is financing for a project that may not be viable, Trudeau should drop the pretences and just tell us the size of the bill. It will not do to share how much he loves whales or old growth forests or flash his tattoo. As John Lennon asked of politicians in 1971, Just give me the truth.
Notley said legislation to allow Alberta to cut oil supplies to B.C., sure to send gas prices there soaring, would be introduced in the legislature this week. Horgan said a court challenge testing whether B.C. has the jurisdiction to regulate what can and cant flow through the expansion will proceed before the end of the month.
The chasm between them did not go unacknowledged by the prime minister.
But this complex tactical minuet changed completely when Kinder Morgan moved from the energy to the ultimatum business. First, the company that rose out of the poisoned ashes of Enron, got tough on protesters. Hundreds were arrested and charged with civil contempt of a court order obtained by Kinder Morgan to protect its work places. Federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May and NDP MP Kennedy Stewart were among those charged.
Justin Tang/Canadian Press Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a press conference to discuss his meeting with Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and B.C. Premier John Horgan on the deadlock over Kinder Morgans Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, in Ottawa on April 15, 2018.
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“We must recognize that they remain at an impasse, which only the government of Canada has the capacity and the authority to resolve, he said.
Already on shaky ground with B.C. environmentalists over green-lighting the contentious Site C hydroelectric dam on the Peace River, Trudeau has also lost serious political credibility with the provinces First Nations. One leader who no longer trusts the prime minister is Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Okanagan Nation. He is also president of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs.
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As such, Trudeau said he has instructed Finance Minister Bill Morneau to sit down with Kinder Morgan to find a financial solution that will soothe their investors. He also promised legislation that would reaffirm Ottawas authority to press ahead with a development deemed to be in Canadas national interest.
He said the negotiations with Kinder Morgan wouldnt play out in public, and he would not elaborate on exactly what the legislation will say.
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Kinder Morgan, for its part, would not say Sunday whether it felt mollified by the days events.
“Our objectives are to obtain certainty with respect to the ability to construct through B.C. and for the protection of our shareholders in order to build the Trans Mountain Expansion Project, the company said in a statement.
“We do not intend to issue updates or further disclosures on the status of consultations until weve reached a sufficiently definitive agreement on or before May 31 that satisfies our objectives.
Trudeau said the pipeline was approved by his government in 2016 after a rejigged environmental assessment and Indigenous consultation process, and only in concert with the Liberals climate change and oceans protection plan. Approval came in consultation with the previous B.C. Liberal government, which gave its consent to the project after its own conditions were met.
Horgans election last year changed that. His minority government exists at the pleasure of the Green party, and on condition of his continued opposition to the project. Trudeau made it clear Sunday that Horgan and his government are the ones wholly responsible for the impasse.
Justin Tang/CANADIAN PRESS B.C. Premier John Horgan leaves after a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley on the deadlock over Kinder Morgans Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on April 15, 2018.
“I dont think we would be in this situation if the British Columbia government hadnt continued to emphasize its opposition to the project, Trudeau said. “That is why we are at this point right now.
If the company had been able to do that, why has Kinder Morgan Canadas CEO Steven Kean been talking to Premier Notley for financial support? If, as some economists have argued, the company had solid contracts for its bitumen, why would it need financial help from governments to build Trans Mountain?
The federal government can and will do more on the pipelines potential environmental impact, he added. But he also accused Horgan of ramping up his rhetoric about environmental uncertainty and gaps in the federal oceans protection plan, without providing details.
“Unfortunately, over the course of almost a year, they have not specifically put forward proposals on how they would like to see us improve the oceans protection plan, said Trudeau. “Its something we very much are open to doing.
For now, Horgan is the man on the spot. If he holds to his anti-pipeline position, which he did in Ottawa, he could see the premier of another province drive up gasoline costs in B.C. He could also see the federal government punish his province financially while imposing the pipeline anyway.
“We have been working at the official level for some time laying out concerns, and I was encouraged that todays meeting will allow us to get back on track in that respect, he said.
A lack of scientific clarity on how diluted bitumen behaves in water, and a lack of political clarity over who is responsible to pay in the event of such a spill, are two of his chief concerns, Horgan added.
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. Dilbit spilled into Michigans Kalamazoo River from an Enbridge pipeline in 2010 cost billions to clean up, with parts of the river closed for years afterwards.
Notley, meanwhile, said she felt “a lot better following the meeting — and that once Morneaus talks with Kinder Morgan were complete, the project would proceed.
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“Im quite confident that should these discussions end successfully, that the pipeline will be built — and that is good, because the pipeline is in the national interest, she said.
Justin Tang/CANADIAN PRESS Alberta Premier Rachel Notley speaks speaks during a press conference to discuss her meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and B.C. Premier John Horgan on the deadlock over Kinder Morgans Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on April 15, 2018.
Before Sundays 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 Canadas resource sector, Scheer said, describing an energy sector that is now convinced that “Justin Trudeau does not want their business in Canada.
Albertas Opposition leader, Jason Kenney, also said Sundays meeting didnt bring the pipeline any closer to construction. He said government investment in the project would do nothing to solve B.C.s continuing opposition.
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Kenney repeated his calls for the prime minister to penalize B.C. by withholding federal dollars for infrastructure and jobs training. He noted Trudeaus father would not have stood for what the Horgan government is doing — despite his reputation as an oilsands opponent.
“I believe that (former) prime minister Pierre Trudeau — who was no great friend of Albertas energy industry — would not have tolerated the … lawlessness and violation of the Constitution that we are seeing right now, the United Conservative Party leader told reporters Sunday.