The Current

Pipeline purchase 'a positive financial' investment for Canada's economy: finance minister

The Liberal government vows to forge ahead and purchase the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, despite the Federal Court of Appeal's decision to halt construction on the project due to inadequate consultations with Indigenous groups.

Trans Mountain project could open doors to international markets, says Bill Morneau

The Liberal government inherited a 'flawed process' for reviewing the Trans Mountain expansion project, Finance Minister Bill Morneau told reporters at a news conference on Aug. 30. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

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The Liberal government is committed to forge ahead with the purchase of the $7.4-billion Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, despite Federal Court of Appeal's Thursday decision to stall the project indefinitely. 

"The pipeline is a positive financial decision," Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau told The Current's guest host, Connie Walker.

Morneau said he's confident that the pipeline, which has been operating since 1953, is in "a good financial position to expand into international markets." The minister said this move would offer a long-term, sustainable opportunity to strengthen Canada's economy.

"The current situation is that 99 per cent of our resources go to the U.S. market—and if there's a day when we know that we can't rely on just one market, it might well be today, when we're in an intensive phase of negotiating NAFTA."

Morneau pointed to a "flawed" consultation process for reviewing the pipeline project that he said the Liberals inherited from the Harper government. 

"We put in place a new process. The court has said that they believe that we need to to reconsider the engagement of Indigenous Canadians," Morneau told Walker, adding that the government will be analyzing the 275-page court decision so further consultations with Indigenous groups will be meaningful.

Consultations moving ahead will also include a focus on the economy and the environment, Morneau said.

"We have to do that. This is why the federal government is in this project," Morneau told Walker.

Kinder Morgan Canada shareholders voted overwhelmingly to approve the sale of the Trans Mountain pipeline to the federal government. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

When the Federal Court of Appeal nullified licensing for the 1,150-km pipeline project, it cited inadequate consultations with Indigenous peoples as one of the reasons for its decision. Immediately after the court decision, Kinder Morgan shareholders approved the sale of the pipeline to the government.

Some Indigenous groups and environmentalists in B.C. are celebrating the ruling, but Alberta's premier is not. Until construction begins for the expansion, Rachel Notley has pulled the province out of the pan-Canadian climate framework negotiated by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the provinces. She calls the ruling a threat to the economic security of Canada.

Chief Harvey McLeod of Upper Nicola, one of the First Nations that successfully sued the federal government over the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, says consultations were a long, drawn-out process that resulted in a lot of frustration.

"The process was designed for us to have dialogue with a group of very good people, but they came to the table with no authorities or no decision-making powers," he explained.

"As a result of that, a lot of the concerns and issues that Upper Nicola had were not heard before that decision was made to approve the project."

Rueben George (Tsleil-Waututh) leads a press conference with several First Nations who were part of the Federal Court of Appeal case against the Trans Mountain expansion approval. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

For the citizens of Upper Nicola who live alongside the pipelines, McLeod said there is a feeling of "being held hostage." He added other sides in this process feel the same way.

In a statement released Thursday, Kinder Morgan Canada's president Ian Anderson said the company remains committed to building the project in "consideration of communities and the environment, with meaningful consultation with Indigenous Peoples and for the benefit of Canadians."

Chief McLeod said he sees listening as the only way to move forward in pipeline discussions.

"We're looking for a way on how we can get ... along together, because for the last century we've been having this discussion: How do we coexist in this country?" he told Walker.

"We've been, a lot of the times, put aside, and we have to go to the courts to get some space to allow all of us to come together and have serious discussions to ensure that when we make decisions, we're being heard."

Listen to the full discussion near the top of this page.

Written by Lisa Ayuso, with files from CBC News. Produced by The Current's Julie Crysler, John Chipman and Danielle Carr.