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Updated: 15th April 2018 17:26

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Notley gains more federal backing as Trans Mountain deadlock wears on

In a crucial meeting about the Trans Mountain expansion in Ottawa today, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley received renewed commitment from the federal government and continued pushback from B.C. Premier John Horgan — a sign the deadlock over the project is far from being resolved.

B.C. stands ground as Alta., federal government enter talks with Kinder Morgan to mitigate financial risks

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau interrupted a foreign trip to meet with Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and B.C. Premier John Horgan on Sunday in Ottawa. (Canadian Press photos)

In a crucial meeting about the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion on Sunday, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley received renewed commitment from the federal government and continued pushback from B.C. Premier John Horgan — a sign the deadlock over the project is far from being resolved.

Stepping in as mediator in a last-minute meeting in Ottawa with the premiers, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he has instructed the minister of finance to begin formal discussions with Kinder Morgan to remove uncertainty surrounding the $7.4-billion project.

"I have also informed premiers Notley and Horgan today that we are actively pursuing legislative options that will assert and reinforce the government of Canada's jurisdiction in this matter, which we know we clearly have," he said, stopping short of saying his government would take a financial stake in the pipeline.

Kinder Morgan announced last week it has suspended non-essential activities and related spending on the project, and set a deadline of May 31 for the provincial and federal governments to resolve the myriad legal and political issues barring it from proceeding.

In a statement Sunday, Kinder Morgan said it will not issue any more updates on the status of consultation on the project until it has reached a definitive agreement by May 31. 

"Our objectives are to obtain certainty with respect to the ability to construct through B.C. and for the protection of our shareholders in order to build the Trans Mountain Expansion Project," the company said in the statement. 

I am quite confident that should these discussions end successfully, that the pipeline will be built.- Alberta Premier Rachel Notley

Notley said the "frank" discussion with Trudeau and Horgan included a conversation about how the federal government and the government of Alberta have started talks with Kinder Morgan to establish a financial relationship that would eliminate investor risk.

"I am quite confident that should these discussions end successfully, that the pipeline will be built. And that is good because the project is in the national interest," Notley said.

After the meeting, Horgan said he couldn't find common ground when it came to environmental impacts of the pipeline. He said he would continue to push for "gaps" in the federal government's oceans protections plan, and will continue to do so in court for a ruling about which level of government has jurisdictional authority in the case. 

Jason Kenney calls meeting a 'failure'

United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney called the meeting a "failure" that was the result of a lack of responsibility and leadership by the federal Liberal government and the Alberta NDP government.

Kenney said he was looking for legal clarity in today's meeting, and that's not what came of it. Trudeau "could not be less serious" about resolving this issue, he said.

"We didn't get clarity, we got more obfuscation and another sign this country is broken," he said. 

"We are no further close to getting this critical project built."

Kenney said if the federal government was serious about resolving the deadlock, the simplest thing to do would have been to withhold infrastructure and job funding for B.C. indefinitely.

Tim McMillan, president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said the meeting was an important step in resolving the dispute.

He said it's encouraging to see the government of Alberta staying firm in its resolve to make the project happen.

He said the meeting and the Prime Minister's remarks afterward were an opportunity to spell out what the next actions will be. Now, those actions just need to happen, he added.

McMillan said the Alberta government is taking the stance of reaffirming Canadian laws in pushing the project forward, while B.C. is looking for ways to circumvent those laws. But the Constitution of Canada is clear, he said.

"This project is one of our best and last opportunities to define ourselves as a nation that can build major projects. And if we can't, it's going to have a negative impact on the economic prospects for our children and grandchildren," McMillan said.

This project is one of our best and last opportunities to define ourselves as a nation that can build major projects.- Tim McMillan, president, CAPP

The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion isn't just important for Canada's economy, he said, but as a precedent for future major infrastructure projects.

"When projects like this — which have been through the regulatory process, which meet Canada's high environmental and regulatory standards — are approved, we need to be able to construct them," he said.

"Today, the world is looking at us as a country that doesn't have their act together. We can reverse it on this project and subsequent ones, but if we don't, we are going to see lower standards of living here in Canada."

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