The House

'Very minor changes' to pipeline process not enough, says Grand Chief Stewart Phillip

The environmental assessment measures for natural resources projects announced this week by the government are a far cry from what the Liberals promised during the election campaign, according to Grand Chief Stewart Phillip. But Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr argues the interim measures are a step in the right direction.
Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr talks with reporters on his way to a morning session at a cabinet retreat at the Algonquin Resort in St. Andrews, N.B. on Monday, Jan. 18, 2016. The federal Liberals are working on their plans for the year including their upcoming budget. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

Indigenous Canadians expect greater federal consultation on pipeline projects and are waiting on the Liberal government to act on its "significant campaign commitments" to aboriginal peoples, says Grand Chief Stewart Phillip.

The promise to review resource development and energy infrastructure with First Nations — and to consult, accommodate and reach consent on projects — is a commitment the president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has yet to fulfil.

"The [government] announced a couple of very minor changes to the National Energy Board review process, when in fact during the campaign there was a very significant commitment made to overhaul the environmental assessment processes, and in full partnership and consultation with us," Phillip said in an interview with Chris Hall on CBC Radio's The House.

Despite the interim measures announced this week, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip continues to have concerns about the way pipeline projects are being reviewed.

"In our view the current pipeline proposals [for Trans Mountain and Energy East] should be suspended until such time as that takes place," he added.

Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr doesn't agree the projects should be suspended. Instead, a set of interim regulations will apply to both Trans Mountain and Energy East.

"What we're doing now with these projects currently under review is establishing a process under current legislative authorities. But we want to use the experience of this interim set of principles to get us to a place where we can, in months or a year or two, get to a permanent reform of the National Energy Board," he said. 

Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr joins us to talk about the government's approach to pipelines.

Carr conceded that even with new measures, it's impossible to get everybody on board when it comes to pipelines.

"Will there be 100 per cent consensus on whatever decisions are finally made? No. Because there are some people who want projects built today without any review at all, and there are some people who don't want any projects under any circumstances... given the green light," he said.

Getting resources to market

The Natural Resources Minister made it clear that the government's goal is to get at least some projects going. "It's a major priority of the government of Canada to get our natural resources to market, sustainably," Carr said.

Ultimately, even with the changes announced this week, the decision to approve Energy East or Trans Mountain will come to cabinet and what ministers consider to be in the "national interest."

Environmental and social considerations will be critical, but so will economical ones.

"Strong economic development for one region almost always will benefit another... We're a federation, we rely on each others' strengths," he said. 

"When one region is strong, the whole country benefits from that strength."