Federal government searches for path forward on pipeline as Alberta pulls plug on climate deal
Construction on Trans Mountain pipeline halted after court ruled consultations were inadequate
As progress on the Trans Mountain pipeline stalls, Ottawa has lost another provincial ally in the climate fight — leaving the Trudeau government scrambling for answers as the crowd of friendly faces thins across the country.
The latest to go is Alberta Premier Rachel Notley who announced she was pulling her province out of the federal climate deal on Thursday and would not return until construction for the Trans Mountain pipeline is back on track.
This week the Federal Court of Appeal quashed construction permits for the pipeline saying consultations with Indigenous peoples were inadequate.
Despite that setback, Finance Minister Bill Morneau said the government is moving forward with plans to purchase the pipeline.
"We certainly understand the frustration of Premier Notley," Dominic LeBlanc, the new minister of intergovernmental affairs, told CBC Radio's The House.
"We also understand that tackling climate change is something that our government has been committed to doing since we took office."
Ottawa has been working toward implementing its pan-Canadian climate plan, which would include a price on carbon pollution — $20 a tonne in 2019 and rising to $50 in 2022.
Provinces were given until September to create their own plans, or the federal government would step in and impose one.
The need for 'very bold action'
In the face of court challenges over the carbon tax from Ontario and Saskatchewan, and wavering support from Atlantic provinces, Alberta was one of the strongest supporters of the federal plan, but that resolve appears to have been shattered.
"We cannot afford to do this without getting fair value for our resources," Notley told The House on Friday.
"We struggle to see a path to getting this pipeline built in the foreseeable future without the federal government taking some very bold action."
Notley said she wants to see concrete legislative change to get the pipeline project moving again before she considers rejoining the federal climate change plan.
But for now, Ottawa has few answers on how long it will take to get shovels back in the ground.
"The court laid out a series of concerns, but also laid out a path that may allow us to remedy or to fix the particular failings that the court identified, so that's the work we're doing," LeBlanc said.
Liberals remain committed to finding a collaborative way forward with the provinces to tackle environmental issues, said LeBlanc, but they are not flexible on one thing: only major energy projects with proper reviews and environmental protections in place will go forward.
If built, the expansion project would triple the bitumen-carrying capacity of the Trans Mountain pipeline between near Edmonton and Metro Vancouver and is estimated to increase tanker traffic in the Burrard Inlet related to Trans Mountain sevenfold.
With files from The Canadian Press