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Construction of the Trans Mountain pipeline under way in Kamloops, B.C., on Sept. 1, 2020.

JONATHAN HAYWARD/The Canadian Press

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has doubled down on his government’s commitment to completing the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, saying Canada’s oil sector cannot be held “prisoner” with the United States as its only customer.

Mr. Trudeau’s comments come after Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said his government spent US$1.1-billion of taxpayer funds on the Keystone XL pipeline because he didn’t trust the Ottawa Liberals to get Trans Mountain built.

“We purchased the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and are busy building it so that we get access to markets across Asia, because we cannot simply be prisoners of the American market,” Mr. Trudeau told CBC Radio Calgary Thursday morning.

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“I took a certain amount of challenges for that in some other past of the country – for having bought and built that pipeline – but we have been committed to it from the beginning.”

Indeed, protestors have often targeted the pipeline, including earlier this month when people blocked a rail line on B.C.’s Lower Mainland as they demanded Ottawa cancel the project.

Mr. Kenney has long claimed Mr. Trudeau’s government wants to destroy Canada’s oil and gas sector, even after Ottawa bought the Trans Mountain expansion from then-owner Kinder Morgan in 2018. To support his argument, Mr. Kenney often cites federal bills C-69, which overhauls the review process for major resource projects (and which he has dubbed the “no more pipelines bill),” and C-49, which bans tanker traffic on British Columbia’s northern coast.

He told a conservative podcaster earlier this month that he wasn’t prepared to “put all of our eggs in the basket of the Justin Trudeau-owned pipeline.” Buying into Keystone instead, he said, “was an essential hedge against that political risk.”

Mr. Trudeau countered Thursday that his government “for years” has been trying to solve the economic challenges caused by low oil prices, including when it bought Trans Mountain.

He also said his government continues to support the construction of Keystone, a 1,947-kilometre-long pipeline which will ship 830,000 barrels of crude a day to from Hardisty, Alta., to Steele City, Neb.

That project has an uncertain future. Not only does it continue to face court challenges in the U.S., but president-elect Joe Biden vowed during the recent election he would tear up the pipeline’s presidential permit if elected.

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Despite Mr. Trudeau’s pro-pipeline message Thursday, he also stressed the importance of Alberta as Canada works to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

He said the province “will be at the forefront of developing those next solutions that have less carbon intensity and therefore are part of the solution towards net zero.”

Alberta is already “leading the way on private sector investments in green tech” and transforming Canada’s energy mix, he said.

Mr. Trudeau said the energy sector will grow and provide good jobs in the coming years while the world continues to rely on fossil fuels.

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