'Pass this bill immediately': Senators implore feds to declare pipeline in national interest
OTTAWA – The Senate has passed legislation declaring the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion in the national interest.
On Tuesday, Senators sent the House of Commons Bill S-245, which seeks to have the federal government declare the project "to be for the general advantage of Canada."
The Trans Mountain Pipeline Project Act was introduced by independent Sen. Douglas Black in February, and passed all stages without amendment.Now, Black is calling on the federal government to pass his bill as soon as possible, saying if he was the prime minister he would have done so today.
"I'm calling upon the government and I'm calling upon members of the House of Commons to pass the bill immediately," Black told CTV News in an interview.
"I have no idea what the House of Commons is going to do with this bill, but I urge them and I urge the government to pass this quickly."
Speaking to why he decided to bring the legislation forward, Black said he’s always been of the view that "if you want something done, do it yourself."
The bill's stated purpose "is to ensure that the Trans Mountain Pipeline Project and any works related to it that are carried out." It would set the groundwork for the federal government to act and provides Kinder Morgan the reassurances they’re looking for, he argues.
"Once we have that declaration in law we control all matters of law respecting the pipeline… So if Burnaby decides they’re going to close a road, and the Government of Canada decides they’re not, they’re not, that’s how it works," Black said.
Kinder Morgan put the project on pause in April, demanding reassurance by May 31 that the pipeline to move oil from Edmonton, Alta. to Burnaby, B.C. can go ahead despite opposition from the B.C. government.
British Columbia Conservative Sen. Richard Neufeld, who seconded the bill, told CTV News that senators agreed to move the legislation through because of perceived inaction on the part of the federal government.
"It's just a matter of getting on with the job," said Neufeld, who used to be energy minister in B.C. under former Liberal premier Gordon Campbell.
"Hopefully they actually take the bill and say, 'Yeah, the Senate got it right, thank goodness we have a Senate, we’re going to adopt this bill,'" he said.
Not all senators were on-side with his proposal, however, passing it by a vote of 54 to 15, with six abstentions.
Liberal Sen. Lilian Dyck sought unsuccessfully to amend the legislation to acknowledge ongoing legal action and Indigenous rights.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and several of his cabinet ministers have stated that they consider the project to be in the national interest, and have pledged legislative measures to assert the federal government’s jurisdiction, but nothing has been tabled yet.
"All options are on the table," Carr said when asked about the Senate bill Wednesday morning.
Last week, the government announced it is willing and prepared to financially back the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, whether or not Kinder Morgan is the company that ends up building it, and is continuing talks with the Texas-based company about how to see the $7.4-billion expansion built.
Speaking to reporters Wednesday morning, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said his caucus will be supporting Bill S-245.
Conservative MP and natural resources critic Shannon Stubbs told reporters Wednesday that she will be sponsoring the bill through the House. She said she’s spoken with Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr about getting government support for passing the bill “expeditiously.”
"There are only eight days left until the deadline for the Trans Mountain expansion," Stubbs said.
She said intends to introduce the bill Thursday morning.
With files from CTV News' Ottawa Bureau Chief Joyce Napier