Critics say feds must do more to ensure Trans Mountain Pipeline success

President of the Treasury Board and Minister of Digital Government, Scott Brison, announced $1.9 million in funding for Catholic Family Services on September 11, 2018. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

The federal government has taken the first steps to move forward with concerns raised by the federal court of appeal into the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion approval, but critics say it’s not nearly enough.

Friday, Minister of Natural Resources Amarjeet Sohi announced that the federal government has instructed the National Energy Board (NEB) to reconsider its recommendations, taking into account the effects of increased marine shipping. The NEB was given a timeline of 22 weeks to conduct the review and deliver its report.

According to the statement, posted to the Government of Canada website, the government will present its actions to the NEB surrounding the protection of the southern resident killer whale and the implementation of the Oceans Protection Plan. It will also appoint a special marine technical advisor to that NEB.

“We are committed to ensuring that the NEB has the expertise and capacity to deliver the best advice to the government,” the statement said.

“No relationship is more important to the Government and to Canada than the one with Indigenous peoples,” Sohi continued.

“We are pleased that the NEB will provide participant funding so that the views of Indigenous groups are well represented in the Board’s consideration of marine issues. Our Government remains committed to finding the best path forward following the decision of the Federal Court of Appeal in consultation with Indigenous groups. Today’s announcement represents one important step towards addressing issues raised by the Federal Court of Appeal while continuing to deliver the highest levels of marine protection that Canadians expect.”

A late August ruling overturned the NEB approval of the pipeline expansion. The court found that the government didn’t properly examine the impacts of tanker traffic or consult properly with First Nations. The three-person judge panel ruled unanimously that Canada didn’t engage in a proper two-way dialogue with First Nations, instead of listening to, recording concerns and passing them on.

The same day the decision was passed, Kinder Morgan Canada shareholders voted 99 per cent in favour of selling the pipeline and expansion project to the federal government for $4.5 billion. That doesn’t include construction costs, that some have estimated as high as $9.3 billion, according to the Canadian Press.

While the opposition Conservatives welcomed the announcement of the first step towards addressing the court’s ruling, they said the Liberals’ actions didn’t go far enough.

“It has been three weeks since the Federal Court of Appeal ruled that the Prime Minister and his government failed to properly consult indigenous peoples. But instead of a concrete plan to get the project back on track, the Liberals have once again proven how little they care about getting energy projects built in Canada,” Shannon Stubbs, natural resources critic said in a written statement.

“While we welcome the preliminary announcement of one small first step, the Liberals have utterly failed to deliver a comprehensive concrete plan to ensure the Trans Mountain Expansion can proceed. Thousands of workers have lost their jobs because of Justin Trudeau’s failure. They deserve federal leadership and a clear plan.”

The Conservatives previously called for an emergency summer session to be called to get the pipeline back on track.

That call was not heeded by the federal Liberals. For their part, the Liberals have insisted they remain committed to the project. During a visit to Prince Albert earlier this month, Minister Scott Brinson reiterated that his party believes the project is in Canada’s best interest.

Scheer lays out pipeline plan

If he were the Prime Minister, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer would cut down on who can be involved in pipeline consultations and use constitutional powers to get the Trans Mountain expansion built, the Conservative Party of Canada said in a press release and video put out Monday.

Scheer laid out what he wants Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to do, and what he would do should he be elected in the 2019 federal election.

“After years of failing to deliver results on the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Expansion, Justin Trudeau and the Liberals still have no plan of action to get the pipeline completed,” Scheer said in a press release.

“What they announced last week gets us no closer to construction or completion of this critical project, and what they have done over the last three years has inflicted terrible damage to our energy sector.”

Last week the Liberals announced a new phase of consultation done by the National Energy Board, which approved the project, designed to study the environmental impacts of increased tanker traffic on the west coast. That decision was made in response to a federal court of appeal order that ruled the original approval didn’t take that factor into account. The court of appeal also ruled that First Nations groups impacted by the pipeline weren’t properly consulted.

Scheer said he would like Trudeau to compete Indigenous consultation immediately, enact emergency legislation to affirm that Transport Canada’s analysis of tanker traffic was sufficient and doesn’t need to be duplicated by the National Energy Board, request a stay of the appeal ruling and appeal it to the Supreme Court and Support Bill S-245, a bill that originated in the Senate that affirms the Trans Mountain pipeline is of benefit to Canada.

If he wins the 2019 election, Scheer is vowing to repeal the carbon tax and Bill X-69, end the ban on shipping traffic on the North Coast of British Columbia, crack down on who can get involved in consultations and use the federal declaratory power under the Constitution Act to declare a major project “for the general advantage of Canada” where necessary for future projects.

Scheer said he would enact legislation that would clarify the roles of proponents and governments involved in consultations, ensure that standing is given only to people with expertise or who are directly impacted by the project “in order to nd foreign-funded interference in regulatory hearings” and provide certainty to investors on approval timelines and schedules.

Bill C-69, which is now working its way through the Senate, has been lambasted by critics who say it gives too much power to the Environment Minister an that its regulatory burdens are so extensive, it essentially means the end of big projects such as pipelines.

The federal government said the Bill streamlines the approvals process for natural resources projects while improving consultation efforts with Indigenous communities affected by extraction, one of the issues raised by the Federal Court in its move to quash the TransMountain pipeline.

The bill would replace a web of competing regulatory bodies with a new, single entity empowered to review all major projects for health, environmental, social and economic factors, as well as effects on Indigenous people over the long term. It sets out defined timelines for the review of those projects and gives the Minister of Environment or Cabinet the final call on whether a project gets greenlit.

Critics say that the last clause gives the minister too much power. The Conservatives have labelled Bill C-69 the “anti-pipeline bill.”

The tanker traffic ban on B.C.’s north coast was met with approval from some First Nations and most environmental groups. Transportation Minister Marc Garneau said the bill accomplishes the government’s environmental priorities and formalized an existing voluntary tanker exclusion zone. The Conservatives said the decision was part of a plan to stop development in the resource sector.