Natural resources minister offering no pipeline guarantees to Alberta
Canada's natural resources minister isn't offering any guarantees to Alberta's premier that construction on the Trans Mountain pipeline will have resumed by the time that province's election rolls around.
The Federal Court of Appeal ruled last week that consultations done with Indigenous peoples before the $7.4 billion project was approved were insufficient, sending both the provincial and federal governments into a tailspin.
Finance Minister Bill Morneau immediately defended the Liberals' decision to nationalize the pipeline and said the government would be studying the court's ruling to find a timely way to get shovels back in the ground.
But Alberta Premier Rachel Notley wasn't satisfied with that message. Notley had been one of the federal government's few allies on its climate plan, which includes a carbon tax. She pulled her support from that program in retaliation over the Trudeau government's handling of the court decision.
Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi told The House his government is working on a "responsible" timeline to fulfil the court's requirements — but struggled to answer when pressed about the impact this would have on Notley's chances of re-election.
Notley is lagging in the polls behind United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney. Bringing home this pipeline project could salvage her shot at winning a second term in the spring.
She has asked Ottawa to introduce legislation to push the pipeline through the red tape, but all Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would confirm is that he's looking at "various options."
The premier wasn't reassured.
"We, and the industry, are trapped on a regulatory merry-go-round, and only the federal government has the tools and the authority to bring it to a permanent stop," Notley said Thursday.
The federal government doesn't seem to share Notley's sense of urgency.
Sohi acknowledged mistakes were made by the federal government when it came to Trans Mountain, but repeatedly shifted the blame to a Harper-era National Energy Board review process. He said his priority is ensuring there are no more court challenges in the future — or, if there are, that the government will be prepared to defend the pipeline.
"Where we fell short was the implementation of the framework instead of engaging in a two-way, meaningful dialogue," he said.
"We need to do more and we will do more."
He wouldn't offer a precise timeline. But that timeline — and a clear path forward — are exactly what the two opposition parties want to see.
"They need to answer exactly what the concrete next steps are immediately," Shannon Stubbs, the Conservative natural resources critic, told The House.
Opposition MPs forced an emergency meeting of the natural resources committee this week, with the goal of calling on cabinet ministers to testify — but Liberal members who hold the majority on the committee voted down the motion.
"Here's where British Columbians and Albertans are united," NDP MP Nathan Cullen told host Chris Hall.
"We were both promised something from this prime minister. He told Albertans, 'I'm going to get your product to market.' He told British Columbians, 'I'm going to put it under a proper review.' He has done neither."
Though the NDP and the Conservatives stand on opposite ends of this issue, both are pressing for answers from the governing party.