Alberta Premier Rachel Notley’s decision to pull out of a federal-provincial climate deal is the “wrong approach” in responding to Thursday’s court decision quashing Ottawa’s approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, a spokesman for Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc said Friday.
Ms. Notley declared her government would pull the province out of the pan-Canadian framework on climate change and freeze its carbon tax at $30 per tonne, cancelling the plans to increase it to $40 in 2021 and $50 in 2022 as called for under the accord. She urged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to call a special session of the House of Commons as soon as possible to pass legislation that would essentially override the court’s ruling that the National Energy Board should have formally included increased tanker traffic from the project as part of its review. The Commons is scheduled to return Sept. 17.
“We understand that people – especially in Alberta – are frustrated with the decision from the Federal Court of Appeal. We are considering all options, and the Court decision deserves a careful and considered response, and so do the people whose livelihood depends on getting this project built,” Mr. LeBlanc’s press secretary, Vincent Hughes, said in an e-mail statement.
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“Abandoning a plan to tackle pollution is the wrong approach to get this pipeline built, and this decision shows that environmental issues need to be addressed. We are committed to moving this project forward in the right way.”
Mr. Hughes said the government would not comment on Ms. Notley’s specific demand for legislation. The Court of Appeal ruled that the NEB erred by not considering increased marine tanker traffic as part of the project, and ordered Ottawa to resubmit the project to the review panel to reconsider that issue. The NEB panel, according to the court ruling, gave only cursory attention to the risks of tanker spills and the impact of increased supertanker traffic on endangered southern resident killer whales.
Ms. Notley said provincial lawyers have indicated Ottawa could pass legislation declaring that the NEB does not – and did not – have jurisdiction over marine traffic.
In responding to the court decision on Thursday, Finance Minister Bill Moreau told reporters Ottawa would take steps to ensure the project proceeds, while addressing the legal issues regarding environmental protection and First Nations consultations.
“While we want to make sure that the project proceeds, we also want to make sure it moves ahead in the right way,” he said.
Ottawa was due to finalize its $4.5-billion purchase of the Trans Mountain pipeline assets from Kinder Morgan Canada Ltd. on Friday, a deal that was struck in May after the Houston-based parent company, Kinder Morgan Inc., suspended work because of the prospect of lengthy political and legal delays. The $4.5-billion purchase price covered the existing pipeline network, but Ottawa was also committed to finance the expansion, which would roughly triple the amount of crude flowing from Alberta to the export terminal in Burnaby, B.C.
Conservative Party MP Shannon Stubbs said the Liberal government has fumbled the energy and pipeline issue, and is facing the prospect of delays and rising costs on a desperately needed project.
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“We now face serious uncertainty over the prospect of major projects ever getting built in Canada,,” said Ms. Stubbs, who represents the Alberta riding of Lakeland.