Politics

'Utterly outrageous': Liberals shoot down opposition bid to force ministers to lay out pipeline plan

Liberal MPs have blocked a bid by the opposition parties to call key ministers to committee to lay out the next steps on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

Liberal MPs reject opposition bid to hold a six-session study of the Liberal pipeline plan

Liberal MPs defeated a Conservative motion to have Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi appear before the natural resources committee to explain what's next for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, at a special meeting Tuesday chaired by Liberal James Maloney, right. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Liberal MPs have blocked a bid by the opposition parties to call key ministers to committee to lay out the next steps on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

The Conservative motion to hold a six-session study came in the wake of last week's Federal Court of Appeal decision to overturn approval for the $7.4 billion project. The judgment found that consultation with Indigenous communities on the project was not robust enough and that its environmental review did not adequately assess the impact of increased tanker traffic.

Conservative MP Shannon Stubbs called it "quite stunning" that the Liberals would shoot down her motion to hold a six-session study of the government's plan to respond to the ruling.

"It is utterly outrageous that the prime minister has clearly sent the Liberals into committee today to deny Canadians the opportunity to hear about their plan for the Trans Mountain expansion," she said. "They have failed on the pipeline and now are shutting down questions (from) Canadians.

"I hope this concerns Canadians in all corners of the country."

Stubbs blamed Liberal failures for the abrupt suspension of the pipeline twinning project and accused the government of having no concrete plan to respond to the court ruling.

"That is absolutely unacceptable and the prime minister and the cabinet owe Canadians answers," she said.

Stubbs said the Liberals have imposed added costs and red tape on the energy sector, making Canada less competitive on the world stage. She said that flight of energy capital has become a "crisis."

Thousands of people have been thrown out of work as a result of Liberal actions, she said. 

"They feel betrayed. They're angry. They feel that they're being kicked while they're down by a Liberal government which is all talk and fails to deliver," she said.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said the court ruling underscored the serious problems with the project, and urged the government to halt it for good.

Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh spoke to reporters on Parliament Hill on Tuesday 1:53

"This is just something we don't need," he said.

Instead, he said, the government should make the "difficult decisions" to transition Canada's economy to renewable energy sources and green jobs.

Last week, Kinder Morgan shareholders voted to approve the sale of the existing pipeline and other assets to the federal government for $4.5 billion.

Canada can't be 'prisoner' to U.S.: Trudeau

Speaking at an event in Vancouver today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government is committed to moving ahead on the project "in the right way" — but did not offer a timeframe.

"All we have to do is look at the headlines to understand that being a prisoner to the United States for our resource exports, knowing that right now we only have one market, the U.S., for our oil exports, is simply not a wise strategy for Canadians moving forward," he said. "We need to get new markets for our oil resources."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and BC Premier John Horgan spoke to reporters Monday in Surrey 1:55

Ninety-nine per cent of Canada's oil exports go to the United States. Canada's reliance on the U.S. for its oil exports decreases the price Canada can get for its oil. Trudeau has said that discount amounts to a $15 billion loss each year.

Liberal MP Marc Serré, a committee member, called buying the pipeline an "investment in Canada's future" and said he's confident that it will get built despite the court ruling. The government is carefully reviewing the ruling and will determine next steps in due course, he said.

"The Conservatives could not get it done. We will," he said.

Economic growth, environmental protection

Serré said the Liberals inherited a flawed review and consultation process and have made improvements to ensure economic growth does not come at the expense of protecting the environment.

But NDP MP Nathan Cullen blasted the government for making a multi-billion-dollar deal to buy the pipeline just weeks before the release of a court decision that could nullify the project.

"That's insane. That's just fiscal imprudence of the largest order," he said. "For Mr. Morneau to put that much money on the line is shocking to me. Now it looks like we're stuck with this thing."

Stubbs had tabled a motion calling on the committee to invite Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi and Finance Minister Bill Morneau to appear before it to explain how the project came off the rails, and what the government intends to do about it.

Appeal is an option

It's not clear yet whether Canada intends to appeal the decision or will instead try to complete the consultations the court said were lacking. NDP MP Nathan Cullen urged the government not to pursue an appeal, saying it would be "throwing good money after bad."

Anti-pipeline demonstrators at Kinder Morgan's Westridge marine terminal in early March. (Gian-Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi said Kinder Morgan would have likely walked away from the project in the wake of the court ruling.

By taking on the pipeline, the government assumed the "risks" of the project to ensure it gets built because it is in the national interest and will create thousands of jobs, he said in an interview with CBC News Network's Power & Politics.

Sohi said the government is committed to having the project completed, and is carefully studying all options to proceed.

Getting project 'back on track'

"Once that analysis is done, we will be coming forward with a path forward in order to bring this project back on track," he said.

The Trans Mountain pipeline carries crude oil and some refined products between Alberta and the B.C. coast. Kinder Morgan applied to build a second pipeline parallel to the first that would triple its capacity; Canada's hope is much of that oil would end up in Asian markets.

Here is the full text of Stubbs' defeated motion:

That, pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), the Standing Committee on Natural Resources study the federal government's actions with regards to the Trans Mountain pipeline purchase and the Trans Mountain expansion project;

That six meetings be allocated for this study;

That the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Natural Resources appear before the committee, for an hour each, at the first meeting of the study;

That the first meeting be held no later than Sept. 6, 2018;

That this study be concluded before November 2018, that the meetings be televised; and that the committee report its findings back to the House.

With files from The Canadian Press

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