With an indefinite delay looming over the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, the federal government still won’t provide a timeline for getting shovels in the ground -- or reveal the cost of delay.

“We were hoping … that the construction could proceed this year. Obviously in light of the Federal Court of Appeal decision that’s not going to be possible in the coming months,” Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc told CTV Question Period host Evan Solomon in an interview that airs Sunday.

With each day of delay comes an additional cost. Despite the fact that the government now owns the $4.5 billion pipeline, LeBlanc wouldn’t respond to multiple questions about the price tag attached to that shutdown. He also couldn’t provide a firm timeline for when the government will be able to begin construction.

“We recognize the urgency of doing this properly and that’s the analysis that we’re doing right now. We’re developing options in terms of the best way forward,” LeBlanc said.

The government has multiple hurdles to overcome before being allowed to proceed with the project. The Federal Court of Appeal quashed the pipeline’s approval when it found the feds failed to adequately consult with Indigenous communities and didn’t account for the environmental impact of increased tanker traffic.

And while LeBlanc said the government hasn’t ruled out a Supreme Court appeal , the current ruling forces the feds to go back to the drawing board on at least two major issues.

That means more delay.

“They have to go back to square one on a couple of issues, which means the [federal] election is happening while we’re still debating the expansion of Kinder Morgan pipeline,” Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said.

The pipeline debacle has also caught the federal government’s climate change plan in its crosshairs. Alberta Premier Rachel Notley announced Aug. 30 that her province would pull out of the national climate plan until the federal government “gets its act together” on the planned pipeline project.

“The oil and gas in our ground is owned by each and every Albertan. When we’re forced to sell those resources for less than they our worth, the whole country pays a price,” Notley said.

For Notley, the pipeline and the climate plan have always been linked. In 2016 she pledged she would only support the federal climate plan if she was guaranteed to get her pipeline.
"Albertans, as you know, have contributed to Canada's prosperity for many, many years," she said at a 2016 city hall event. "For us to continue doing that, in order for us to come back from the oil-price crash that we're all experiencing, we need Canada to have our backs."

LeBlanc, however, said the pipeline and the climate plan were never linked.

“We’ve never said that having a national plan to deal with the real effects of climate change was contingent on a pipeline,” he said.

Despite all of the chaos the pipeline purchase has wrought, however, the government is standing firmly behind its decision.

“We thought it was in the national interest for the government of Canada to buy the pipeline as the best way to ensure that, ultimately, it’s built,” LeBlanc said.

With a file from The Canadian Press

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