British Columbia

Federal fisheries minister addresses Trans Mountain pipeline expansion concerns

Federal Fisheries Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said Friday his government is set to tackle the Federal Court of Appeal's concerns over the Trans Mountain pipeline and vowed the process will need to be "meaningful one for all Canadians."

Canadian government announced review of expansion project after court of appeal's rejection

The twinning of the 1,150-kilometre Trans Mountain pipeline would nearly triple its capacity to an estimated 890,000 barrels a day and increase traffic off B.C.s coast from approximately five tankers to 34 tankers a month. (Dennis Owen/Reuters)

Federal Fisheries Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said Friday his government is set to tackle the Federal Court of Appeal's concerns over the Trans Mountain pipeline and vowed the process will need to be a "meaningful one for all Canadians." 

Wilkinson made the comments in an interview with Stephen Quinn, the host of CBC's The Early Editionshortly after the government announced it was instructing the pipeline regulator to review the expansion and consider the project's impact on the marine environment.

The court cited a failure to adequately consult with Indigenous communities and take into consideration the impact of increased tanker traffic on the West Coast's population of resident killer whales.

Wilkinson talked with Quinn about what the government's three part plan will look like.

The federal government announced Friday plans to address one of the Federal Court of Appeal's major concerns with the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. (Erin Collins/CBC)

Are you saying that the National Energy Board didn't take the Ocean Protection Plan into consideration?

What the court actually said was that in 2012 the NEB improperly scoped marine-shipping-related impacts on the environment and specifically with respect to the southern resident killer whales.

What we are saying today is that we accept what the court told us and we are going to ask the NEB to review exactly what it is that the courts said is missing.

We are asking the NEB to take the time to review those impacts but also to consider the work that has been done by this government over the last three years.

B.C.'s southern resident killer whales are considered at risk because of their small population, low reproductive rate and threats, including marine traffic and lack of food. (Dave Ellifrit/Center for Whale Research)

The courts found that the National Energy Board process was so flawed the government could not rely on it. How does your government plan to assure critics that it will get it right this time?

What the court actually said was that the marine piece was improperly scoped out, and we've said that we need to ensure that it is reviewed in a thorough and substantive way, and we've just provided 22 weeks to do that.

The court also said that the Indigenous consultation in the third phase of the process was done appropriately — that the process itself was appropriate —  but that the government needed to listen and respond more effectively

Those are the two specific issues that the court found. It did not say that the process itself overall was completely flawed.

Fuel spills and underwater noise from tankers are just some of the threats that have endangered the southern resident killer whale population. (Michael Mcarthur/CBC)

When are consultations going to take place with indigenous people and what will those consultations look like?

The 22 weeks relates to the NEB focus on marine shipping.

There will be an announcement with respect to how we would intend to move forward on consultations and what the time frame will be. We anticipate to be in position for that soon.

Jonathan Wilkinson, federal minister of fisheries and oceans, talked to CBC's Stephen Quinn about the government's three-part plan to address the Federal Court of Appeal's concerns. (Jonathan Wilkinson)

We have heard time and time again that this project is going to move forward.

How do you have any kind of consultation with anybody when, hanging over them, is the fact that the federal government has stated as a fact that this pipeline is going ahead?

Any consultation needs to be meaningful. We need to listen to what the concerns are. We need to consider whether we can actually accommodate those concerns.

If we cannot accommodate those concerns, we need to provide an appropriate rationale as to why they cannot be accommodated and that is something that we intend to do as we move forward.

That's exactly why we're taking the time to ensure that the process is an appropriate one going forward, that it's a meaningful one for First Nations and a meaningful one for all Canadians.

With files from The Early Edition.

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