Gov­ern­ment will push for pipe­line, says Trudeau

Regina Leader-Post - - FRONT PAGE - Jesse sny­der

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau on Sun­day took his firmest stance yet in sup­port of the Trans Moun­tain pipe­line, say­ing af­ter an emer­gency meet­ing with the B.C. and Al­berta pre­miers that his gov­ern­ment would in­tro­duce fi­nan­cial and leg­isla­tive back­ing to en­sure the project goes ahead.

“We are go­ing to get the pipe­line built. It is a project in the na­tional in­ter­est,” Trudeau said. “We will not have the dis­cus­sions in pub­lic, but this project will go ahead.”

Trudeau did not spec­ify what form those moves would take, but said Ottawa would be “ex­ert­ing its con­sti­tu­tional author­ity” to get the pipe­line built. Fi­nance Min­is­ter Bill Morneau will be­gin pri­vate talks with Kin­der Mor­gan Canada Ltd., the project pro­po­nent, to de­ter­mine what fi­nan­cial sup­ports could be pro­vided, Trudeau said.

His com­ments come as part of a des­per­ate push by Ottawa in re­cent weeks to tamp down po­lit­i­cal

TRUDEAU VOWS FI­NAN­CIAL, LEG­ISLA­TIVE BACK­ING, SETS UP TALKS WITH KIN­DER MOR­GAN

up­heaval over the pipe­line, which has called into ques­tion Canada’s abil­ity to build ma­jor in­fra­struc­ture projects and even led Al­berta Premier Rachel Not­ley to threaten to halt oil ship­ments to its western neigh­bour through the ex­ist­ing Trans Moun­tain pipe­line.

The two pre­miers met the prime min­is­ter, who in­ter­rupted a 10-day trip abroad to be in Ottawa, in a bid to set­tle the dis­pute.

Sun­day marked Ottawa’s stark­est op­po­si­tion yet to B.C. Premier John Hor­gan, whose gov­ern­ment has ve­he­mently op­posed the pipe­line at ev­ery turn, draw­ing ire from Al­berta and the fed­eral gov­ern­ment.

“Ide­ally, we wouldn’t be in this sit­u­a­tion right now,” Trudeau said. “Ide­ally, the rhetoric and ac­tions by the B.C. gov­ern­ment would not have led to the con­cerns of the com­pany, that got ap­proval to move for­ward on a project that is in the na­tional in­ter­est,” he said.

“We are re­spond­ing to this sit­u­a­tion. We are demon­strat­ing not just that we are ex­ert­ing and un­der­stand­ing the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties that come with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, but demon­strat­ing as well what we have long held — and what Cana­di­ans un­der­stand: that the en­vi­ron­ment and the econ­omy must go to­gether.”

Last week­end, Kin­der Mor­gan an­nounced it would halt all nonessen­tial spend­ing on Trans Moun­tain un­til it could be as­sured B.C. would stop ac­tively op­pos­ing the project. The com­pany set a firm dead­line of May 31 to have that re­quest ful­filled.

Hor­gan’s gov­ern­ment has de­layed the project through le­gal ob­jec­tions, and said it would use “ev­ery tool in the tool box” to ob­struct de­vel­op­ment. In Jan­uary, the prov­ince con­sid­ered halt­ing any ship­ments of bi­tu­men from Al­berta un­til it could study the ef­fects of heavy oil spills in vi­tal wa­ter­ways.

The Trudeau gov­ern­ment of­fi­cially ap­proved the project in Novem­ber 2016, sub­ject to 157 con­di­tions.

It is not clear whether Ottawa’s fi­nan­cial and leg­isla­tive back­stops would en­sure the pipe­line gets built. An­a­lysts have sug­gested a fed­eral eq­uity po­si­tion in the com­pany would do lit­tle to pla­cate in­vestor con­cerns, and Kin­der Mor­gan was neu­tral on the no­tion of fi­nan­cial back­ing.

Some ob­servers sug­gest, how­ever, that Ottawa could step in with an in­sur­ance guar­an­tee that would ef­fec­tively re­pay Kin­der Mor­gan any fi­nan­cial losses it in­curs due to de­layed con­struc­tion — or if the project is scrapped out­right. Ottawa could but­tress that sup­port by en­act­ing emer­gency leg­is­la­tion that would force the project to move ahead.

Op­po­si­tion mem­bers of Par­lia­ment said Ottawa’s sup­ports are too lit­tle, too late.

“We’ve been call­ing for this for months,” Con­ser­va­tive leader An­drew Scheer told re­porters Sun­day.

The op­po­si­tion has claimed that new poli­cies in­tro­duced by the Trudeau Lib­er­als, in­clud­ing a car­bon tax and hefty new leg­is­la­tion aimed at al­ter­ing environmental as­sess­ments for ma­jor projects, has al­ready caused for­eign cap­i­tal to flee Canada.

Hor­gan emerged from the meet­ing Sun­day show­ing no in­ten­tion of let­ting off on his op­po­si­tion to the pipe­line.

“My obli­ga­tion is to the peo­ple of B.C. and I’m go­ing to de­fend that un­til I’m no longer premier,” he said.

Not­ley has ex­pressed ex­as­per­a­tion over de­lays, say­ing the pipe­line has al­ready been through a rig­or­ous reg­u­la­tory process to be ap­proved.

“It has gone through the hoops and, quite frankly, if co-op­er­a­tive fed­er­al­ism means we never, ever, ever make a de­ci­sion, well I don’t think that’s a co-op­er­a­tive fed­er­al­ism that Cana­di­ans think is in their best in­ter­ests,” she said.

On Mon­day, Al­berta is ex­pected to move ahead with emer­gency leg­is­la­tion aimed at ex­act­ing eco­nomic pain on B.C., po­ten­tially in­clud­ing re­stric­tions of crude ship­ments into Bri­tish Columbia, the prov­ince has said.

A fail­ure to build pipe­lines over the last decade has had ma­te­rial eco­nomic im­pacts on the broader econ­omy, an­a­lysts sug­gest. Cana­dian oil pro­duc­ers have long suf­fered from a lack of avail­able pipe­line ca­pac­ity to get their prod­uct to mar­ket, caus­ing the value of Cana­dian oil to fall com­pared to pro­duc­ers in the U.S. and else­where.

Trudeau said Sun­day that steep dis­counts for Cana­dian crude is “not some­thing we can ac­cept.” An­a­lysts at Sco­tia­bank es­ti­mated in a re­cent re­port that dis­counts for Cana­dian crude would cost Canada $15.6 bil­lion in 2018 in for­gone rev­enues.

JUSTIN TANG / THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau meets with B.C. Premier John Hor­gan and Al­berta Premier Rachel Not­ley in his of­fice Sun­day in a bid to set­tle the dead­lock over the Kin­der Mor­gan Trans Moun­tain pipe­line ex­pan­sion. Trudeau said his gov­ern­ment will be “ex­ert­ing its con­sti­tu­tional author­ity” to get the pipe­line built.

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