Liberals oppose Conservatives' pro-Energy East motion

The Liberal government says it would be premature to vote in favour of a motion supporting the proposed Energy East pipeline given the TransCanada project has not yet made its way through the National Energy Board regulatory process.

Prime Minister's Office says voting in favour would 'undermine' regulatory process for pipeline projects

Natural Resources Minister James Carr and Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna announced new interim environmental regulations for pipeline projects. The Liberal government will vote against an opposition motion to support Energy East, because they say its too premature. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

The Liberal government says it opposes a Conservative opposition motion that calls on the House of Commons to express support for the proposed Energy East pipeline.

The motion, crafted by the Conservatives' natural resources critic Candice Bergen, also calls on members of Parliament to affirm the importance of the energy sector and agree that pipelines are the safest way to transport oil.

MPs debated the motion into Thursday evening and deferred a vote until next week.

The Liberals said earlier in the day that voting for the motion would be premature given the TransCanada project has yet to make its way through the regulatory process.

"The Conservatives' opposition day motion is inconsistent with our electoral platform commitment to review Canada's environmental assessment processes and modernize and rebuild trust in the National Energy Board," Cameron Ahmad, a spokesperson for the Prime Minister's Office, said in a statement.

"A vote in favour of the motion would undermine the process that Energy East is currently undergoing, and therefore, Liberal MPs will be voting against it," Ahmad said.

The Liberal government has said it supports getting Canada's oil to world markets, but they want to bolster environmental regulations on major energy projects. It has also said the National Energy Board needs to be reformed to restore the confidence of Canadians in the regulatory process.

On Wednesday, the ministers of natural resources and the environment announced interim changes to the pipeline assessment process to reflect the government's new prerogative. 

Going forward, the environment ministry will include analysis of greenhouse gas emissions that would result from approving pipeline projects. The results from that study would then be presented to cabinet, which will make the final decision on whether to approve a project.

"At exactly the same time as thousands of Canadians are losing their jobs in the resources sector, the Liberal government is introducing regulations that will impede the Canadian energy sector from getting oil and energy resources to market in the safest way possible," Bergen said after the interim plan was announced.

Bergen accuses Government of adding more Red tape

6 years ago
Conservative MP Candice Bergen gives the Opposition's reaction to new rules for building pipelines 0:46

"Instead of allowing scientific experts to make environmental assessments free from political oversight, Prime Minister Trudeau is centralizing the decision making process in the PMO without proper public oversight," she said.

The Tory push comes after a week of heated debate between pipeline proponents, largely from the West, and some municipal leaders from Quebec who came out against the project  last week. 

The Conservatives have also hammered Trudeau for remarks he made in Davos, when he said, in a thinly-veiled jab at his predecessor, that he wanted world leaders to know Canada more for its "resourcefulness" than its resources.

Environment ministers to meet in Ottawa

Provincial environment ministers arrived in Ottawa on Thursday for talks and a working dinner with federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna.

The federal-provincial talks continue Friday on a national climate change plan, which is to be finalized at a first minister's meeting with Trudeau a month from now.

Most of the greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels result from burning them at the consumption or "downstream" end of a pipeline, rail line or tanker route.

The new environmental assessments for pipeline projects don't assess downstream emissions. McKenna says her talks with provinces on a national climate policy "will include consideration of downstream greenhouse gas emissions."

Trudeau's office announced earlier this week that he will travel to Edmonton to meet with Alberta Premier Rachel Notley next Wednesday.

The findings of the Alberta government's review of its oil and gas royalty system will be released today.

With files from Canadian Press


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