PM pledges help for pipe­line

Trudeau says new leg­is­la­tion com­ing to make Trans Moun­tain hap­pen, with­out de­tails

Kingston Whig-Standard - - NATIONAL -

OT­TAWA — Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau says he has in­structed his fi­nance min­is­ter to en­ter ne­go­ti­a­tions with Kin­der Mor­gan to “re­move the un­cer­tainty” hang­ing over the Trans Moun­tain pipe­line ex­pan­sion.

Trudeau also says fed­eral leg­is­la­tion is com­ing that will “re­assert and re­in­force” the fact that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment is well within its ju­ris­dic­tion to ap­prove the $7.4 bil­lion project and en­sure it goes ahead.

Fi­nally, he says he’s will­ing to ex­pand and im­prove upon his gov­ern­ment’s $1.5 bil­lion oceans pro­tec­tion plan in an ef­fort to en­sure the most strin­gent pro­tec­tions are avail­able to re­as­sure Bri­tish Columbia its coasts are not at risk.

He’s of­fer­ing few de­tails, how­ever, say­ing the ne­go­ti­a­tions will not take place in pub­lic. De­spite that, it is the most con­crete Trudeau has been yet about how his gov­ern­ment in­tends to solve the im­passe that led Kin­der Mor­gan to sus­pend all non-es­sen­tial spend­ing on the ex­pan­sion project pend­ing re­as­sur­ance from Ot­tawa the pipe­line will be able to go for­ward.

“Ide­ally, we wouldn’t be in this sit­u­a­tion right now,” Trudeau told a news con­fer­ence Sun­day af­ter a closely watched, last-minute meet­ing with B.C. Premier John Hor­gan, who is block­ing the project, and Al­berta Premier Rachel Not­ley, who des­per­ately wants to see it go ahead.

Trudeau would not go as far as oth­ers to call the pipe­line im­passe a “con­sti­tu­tional cri­sis” but laid all the blame for the sit­u­a­tion at Hor­gan’s feet. The pipe­line was ap­proved in 2016 with the sup­port of the for­mer B.C. Lib­eral gov­ern­ment of Christy Clark. Hor­gan de­feated Clark in an elec­tion last year.

“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.”

Al­though both Hor­gan and Not­ley came out of the meet­ing say­ing it was col­le­gial and co­op­er­a­tive, nei­ther is com­ing out of their en­trench­ments. Hor­gan said the promised court ref­er­ence ques­tion to ver­ify what ju­ris­dic­tion, if any, B.C. has over the pipe­line and its con­tents, is com­ing “within days.”

He said he’d hoped to have it done ear­lier but these ques­tions are com­pli­cated and take time to put to­gether right.

Not­ley said leg­is­la­tion she promised that will al­low it to al­ter flows of oil through the ex­ist­ing Trans Moun­tain pipe­line into B.C. is go­ing to be in­tro­duced in the Al­berta leg­is­la­ture this week. An­a­lysts sug­gest that could hike gas prices in the Lower Main­land over $2 per litre and would have an im­me­di­ate, econ­omy-wide im­pact on the prov­ince.

Trudeau said while his gov­ern­ment is com­mit­ted to work­ing with both pre­miers to find a so­lu­tion, “we must rec­og­nize that they re­main at an im­passe which only the gov­ern­ment of Canada has the ca­pac­ity and the au­thor­ity to re­solve.”

The leg­is­la­tion is ex­pected to re­assert, in ad­di­tion to the Con­sti­tu­tion, Ot­tawa’s au­thor­ity over pipe­lines. This is a bid to try and take the wind out the sails of Hor­gan’s court chal­lenge.

Fi­nan­cially the gov­ern­ment has op­tions that in­clude as­sum­ing some of the in­vestor’s risk or find­ing a way to guar­an­tee in­vestor re­turns on sched­ule. Trudeau said he is “not ready” to say Canada is buy­ing the pipe­line out­right or even putting in an eq­uity stake. He said what­ever fi­nan­cial ar­range­ment is reached will in­clude pro­tec­tions for tax­pay­ers.

“We en­gaged in fi­nan­cial dis­cus­sions with the pipe­line owner, Kin­der Mor­gan,” he said. “This is a se­ries of dis­cus­sions that are hap­pen­ing in Cal­gary, Toronto, Hous­ton and New York. They won’t hap­pen in pub­lic. As soon as we have some­thing to an­nounce I prom­ise you we will let you know.”

Hor­gan said he’d re­ceived as­sur­ances from Trudeau that he would not “pun­ish” Bri­tish Columbians over their gov­ern­ment’s ob­jec­tions, mean­ing Ot­tawa isn’t go­ing to be with­hold­ing fed­eral funds from B.C. in an ef­fort to get the Hor­gan gov­ern­ment on side.

Trudeau said he is also will­ing to dis­cuss with Hor­gan ad­di­tional en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tions that could give B.C. con­fi­dence over its shore­lines and marine en­vi­ron­ments, but ac­cused Hor­gan of re­fus­ing to tell him for nearly a year what gaps Hor­gan feels ex­ist in the ex­ist­ing or promised pro­tec­tions un­der the Oceans Pro­tec­tions Plan.

Trudeau said re­cently he would not have ap­proved the pipe­line if he wasn’t con­vinced the en­vi­ron­ment was pro­tected and said he has been con­sis­tent for years that he be­lieves the en­vi­ron­ment and the econ­omy go to­gether and can both be man­aged for the ben­e­fit of all Cana­di­ans.

“That is ex­actly what we are do­ing,” he said of the Trans Moun­tain sal­vage plan. “We are sim­ply demon­strat­ing the re­solve to ac­tu­ally de­liver on that prom­ise to Cana­di­ans.”

Trudeau also said all of this is be­ing done with a view to al­low­ing Kin­der Mor­gan to pro­ceed on sched­ule.

Con­struc­tion on the pipe­line ex­pan­sion it­self has yet to be­gin and needs to start by the end of May if the com­pany’s plan to get the oil flow­ing through it by the end of 2020 is to work.

JUSTIN TANG/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau speaks be­fore a meet­ing Sun­day on the dead­lock over Kin­der Mor­gan’s Trans Moun­tain pipe­line ex­pan­sion with B.C. Premier John Hor­gan, left, and Al­berta Premier Rachel Not­ley, in Ot­tawa.

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