Trudeau promises financial backing for vital Trans Mountain pipeline

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is putting taxpayer money where his governments mouth is, promising to deploy both financial and legislative tools to ensure the disputed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion between Alberta and British Columbia is able to proceed.

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.

The backstory: In a series of not-for-attribution conversations with journalists covering Trudeaus trials and tribulations in India, Jean — or, to be scrupulously accurate, a (still officially) unnamed senior security advisor — allegedly blamed unspecified factions within the Indian government for orchestrating the addition of Jaspal Atwal to the guest list for a reception in Trudeaus honour at the Canadian High Commission in Delhi. Inviting the Indo-Canadian businessman and convicted attempted assassin was purported to be part of an ongoing effort to embarrass the government over its ostensible ties to the Sikh separatist movement.

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.

“The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is of vital strategic interest to Canada, Trudeau said following the two-hour meeting. “It will be built.

While he may have been able to rearrange his itinerary to make it back to Ottawa for Sundays mini-summit with Notley and Horgan, Trudeau isnt about to let the ongoing the tensions pre-empt his plans to spend the next few days making the rounds on the international circuit. On Monday morning he’s set to visit UNESCO headquarters in Paris, followed by a visit with former Canadian governor general Michaëlle Jean, who now serves as secretary general of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie.

What Were Watching: Pipeline standoff, Daniel Jean and the Facebook leak

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.

It may not hit the heights of unscripted drama that played out during Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerbergs appearance before a U.S. congressional committee last week, but the House privacy committee is about to launch its own investigation into the social media platform. Specifically, it’s looking to find out how terrabytes of personal details harvested from unwitting Facebook users — including over half a million Canadians — wound up in the electronic clutches of UK-based data firm Cambridge Analytica.

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.

Over the next few weeks, the committee is expected to call in senior executives from across the social media universe as members explore the implications of platform monopolies, as well as what national and international regulatory and legislative remedies might be considered to assure the privacy of citizens data and the integrity of democratic and electoral processes across the globe.

Trudeau government to privately discuss money for Kinder Morgan in Houston, New York, Toronto and Calgary

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.

As far as what hell actually say, well no one seems to know exactly how much light hell shed on what may or may not have been said behind closed doors. The very fact that hes testifying — voluntarily, even — on such a potentially sensitive issue falls so far outside the norm for senior security officials that even the pre-appearance speculation seems more highly speculative than usual.

The chasm between them did not go unacknowledged by the prime minister.

Like virtually all such legislative proposals, its an omnibus bill — and yes, the opposition parties wasted no time pointing that out. During the last election campaign, both the prime minister and his party vowed to eschew such parliamentary highhandedness, which they claimed made it effectively impossible for MPs to perform proper due diligence on complex, highly technical legislation.

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.

“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.

First on the witness list is Canadas chief federal privacy watchdog Daniel Therrien, who is slated to share his thoughts and concerns with committee members on Tuesday morning. Later in the session, MPs will hear from self-described data breach hunter Chris Vickery, who will testify via videolink from Santa Clara, California.

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.

(Its worth noting that, while the Liberals consistently rejected that request — including using their majority to squelch motions to extend an invitation to Jean in both the House and at committee — Jean himself eventually wrote to the committee chair with his offer of an unclassified briefing.)

He said the negotiations with Kinder Morgan wouldnt play out in public, and he would not elaborate on exactly what the legislation will say.

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.

Kinder Morgan, for its part, would not say Sunday whether it felt mollified by the days events.

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 government’s survival on opposing the pipeline, and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, whose province’s economic health depends on it.

“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.

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.

“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.

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 can’t flow through the expansion will proceed before the end of the month.

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.

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 Michigan’s Kalamazoo River from an Enbridge pipeline in 2010 cost billions to clean up, with parts of the river closed for years afterwards.

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.

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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.

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.

Horgan’s 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.

“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.

“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.

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.

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