Morneau has no timeline for getting Trans Mountain built
Published Sunday, April 22, 2018 7:00AM EDT
Finance Minister Bill Morneau says the federal government sees advantages in getting the Trans Mountain pipeline extension built “rapidly,” but can’t offer a timeline for getting the job done.
Despite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s attempt to mend fences between Alberta and British Columbia over the contentious project, B.C. Premier John Horgan remains staunchly opposed to the pipeline, which he fears could lead to a catastrophic oil spill along his province’s coast.
Speaking with CTV’s Question Period host Evan Solomon, Morneau said the time for expressing concerns about the $7.4-billion project -- which the Liberal government approved in 2016 -- has passed.
“We’ve gone through a robust assessment of the environmental issues, we’ve talked with Indigenous Canadians, we’ve come up with an oceans protection plan that makes sense to ensure that we deal with the issues on the table,” said Morneau, speaking from Washington, D.C.
The new pipeline would triple the amount of oil currently transferred from Alberta to Burnaby, allowing more Canadian oil to be sold in international markets.
Horgan has vowed to oppose the project in court, and dozens of protesters have been arrested in anti-pipeline protests.
Trudeau has said he’ll work with Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and Kinder Morgan to hammer out a financial strategy to make sure the project gets built.
But Morneau refused to offer any specifics on a budget or timeline, saying that “today is not a time for me to get into details.”
“We don’t have exact timelines. We do need to appropriately come to the best solution. I’m working through that. And when we have a more definitive timeline, of course you’ll be among the first to know,” he said.
“There will be that transparency, we’re just not able to describe something that has not yet been concluded.”
But Kinder Morgan’s CEO has doubts about the project. On Wednesday, Steve Kean said that the “events of the past 10 days” confirmed views that the expansion “may be untenable for a private party to undertake.”
Kinder Morgan has given a deadline of May 31 to declare whether or not the project can be built.
Asked whether the federal government is considering a buyout of the project, Morneau underscored the ongoing difficulties.
“It’s clear to us, as has been stated publicly, that Kinder Morgan is seeing some challenges in this project that they didn’t expect. Certainly, it’s taken them longer than they might have reasonably expected. We’ve been clear that we want to deal with those risks to the project. We believe that we have government solutions.”
Trudeau has repeatedly vowed that the pipeline will get built. Morneau echoed the prime minister’s confidence and insisted the project would have national benefits.
“We want Canadians to see that this project will get built, that we have the backs of those families that are concerned with their current job or see opportunities for future jobs,” Morneau said.
“That’s what we’re actually after.”
In another high-profile rift between Ottawa and the provinces, the federal government threatened to impose a carbon tax on Saskatchewan if it didn’t sign on with a national carbon tax plan. Premier Scott Moe has said Saskatchewan will challenge the case in court.
Morneau said he doesn’t consider the two disputes “analogous,” and he doesn’t see an advantage to threats.
“This idea of threats is not helpful. We’re instead going to be focused on getting the project done, I want Canadians to know that we will do that, and do it in a way that addresses the issues, which we’ve done through things like the oceans protection plan.”
As for the threat of a court challenge from B.C., Morneau said the government is prepared.
“We’ve said we’re going to look at legal, regulatory and financial options on how we can ensure the project moves forward,” he said.
NAFTA negotiators spent the weekend locked in meetings in Washington, D.C. Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland called it a “perpetual negotiating round” filled with “very energetic and productive conversations.”
Speaking from Washington on Friday, Morneau was hopeful.
“Progress is being made,” he said. “What I can tell you is that we continue to be cautiously optimistic.”
At the crux of those negotiations is new rules for autos, Freeland told reporters earlier this week. Sources told the Canadian Press that the new rules would modestly boost the amount of required North American-made parts in new vehicles.
Despite that optimism, Morneau acknowledged that the complicated file isn’t over just yet.
“There is more work to be done, absolutely. But we are driving hard to get to a conclusion that’s advantageous for Canadians but also that enables everyone in NAFTA to see some benefits.”