OTTAWA – Ahead of Sunday’s key meeting between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the NDP premiers of Alberta and British Columbia, Natural Resource Minister Jim Carr says the government’s driving motivation is to “de-risk” the Trans Mountain pipeline project, suggesting that may come in the form of financial assurance.
“What we must accomplish between now and May 31 is to help de-risk the project and give it some certainty that it doesn’t have now,” Carr said in an interview with Evan Solomon, host of CTV’s Question Period. “All financial options would be on the table.”
Trudeau, who is in Peru for the Summit of the Americas in Lima, will fly back to Ottawa on Sunday to meet with B.C. Premier John Horgan and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley to “discuss next steps for moving the Trans Mountain Expansion project forward,” according to the PMO.
This major meeting comes as a result of the Texas-based company announcing last week that it was suspending all non-essential spending on the project, citing British Columbia’s opposition as a reason.
“We’re looking at ways that will give confidence that the project can go through, that investors will see that it is worth putting up many, many more hundreds of millions of dollars, and the federal government is prepared to be an active participant in discussing how that can best happen,” Carr said.
The federal government has been vocal in its backing of the Trans Mountain expansion of the pipeline between Alberta and the B.C. coast, arguing it is a pipeline in the national interest.
Kinder Morgan has given a May 31 deadline for assurance the project can go ahead.
Without offering any specifics so far, the Liberals have said they are looking at regulatory, legal, and financial options to see the pipeline built, including investing in it.
Though Carr said cutting B.C.’s transfer payments would be a “not helpful” option.
Notley has even suggested her government is prepared to buy the Trans Mountain pipeline outright, while Horgan is vowing to continue pushing back against the expansion.
Alberta wants to see the project completed to see more of the province’s oil make it to market, while the coalition NDP-Green B.C. government is concerned about the potential environmental impacts of the development.
In a video posted to social media, Trudeau defends his government’s decision to approve the Kinder Morgan pipeline project, calling it “safe,” citing the Liberals’ plan to protect the ocean and coastline.
Carr said the government’s central focus is seeing the pipeline built, and the best way to insure the pipeline goes ahead is to take out “all of the uncertainty that has clouded the capacity of investors to make a responsible decision.”
“Is the Government of Canada going to be a responsible partner in looking at ways that we can add more certainty? The answer to that question is yes,” Carr said. “That’s what’s going to drive our conversations.”
‘About politically de-risking it’: Rempel
Though the opposition isn’t convinced.
“All they want to do is kick this down the road past the election so that their B.C. Liberal MPs can get reelected,” said Alberta Conservative MP Michelle Rempel. “Now they want federal tax dollars to de-risk it for them—this isn’t about de-risking it for Kinder Morgan, or for energy sector workers. This is about politically de-risking it in the hopes that it will die somewhere after the election and that is disgusting,” she said.
B.C. NDP MP Murray Rankin challenged the government on obeying the American company’s timeline for a resolution. “Since when do we allow American companies tell us what to do in Canada?” he said.
Rankin rejected the argument that B.C. is not considerate of the national interest argument. “As if somehow by standing up for our oceans, standing with First Nations, standing in favour of endangered killer whales that somehow less Canadian, I resent that implication,” he said.
On the question of federal jurisdiction Carr said the issue is “moot,” and pursuing further clarity from the courts won’t get them any closer to completing the project. “We think we have it,” he said.
The government has already dismissed a suggestion from federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh that the federal Liberals partner with British Columbia, First Nations, and Alberta to seek greater clarity from the Supreme Court of Canada to answer the question of jurisdiction.
“There are people who want the project to go away, and they think the best way for the project to go away is to delay it beyond an investor’s appetite for the additional cost. I understand that that’s their strategy, and I understand the tactics they’re using to try to implement that strategy,” Carr said.
‘They may be arrested’: Carr
Environmental groups and Indigenous communities have been demonstrating against the pipeline going ahead, with some, including Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, being arrested at a work site in Burnaby, B.C.
Carr acknowledged the federal government isn’t anticipating ever having unanimity on the pipeline debate, and welcomed dissention, but invoked the law when asked about protestors.
“Governments are absolutely vulnerable and should be exposed to peaceful protest, but we are also a country that lives under the rule of law and if people choose to break the law, someone’s probably going to call the police, and they may be arrested, as many have already,” he said.
Watch Question Period Sunday mornings on CTV, CTV News Channel, CTVNews.ca, and CTV News GO at 11 a.m. ET, 10 a.m. CT, 9 a.m. MT and 8 a.m. PT
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