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The Honourable Joe Oliver, Canada's Minister of Natural Resources answered questions from the media following an speech he made the Toronto Region Board of Trade, highlighting measures in the Economic Action Plan 2013 in Toronto on March 22, 2013.

Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

The federal Conservative government is planning to force existing and new pipeline companies to have a minimum of $1-billion on hand to cover spills on Canadian soil.

The government also plans to enshrine the currently implicit polluter-pays principle in law.

Both measures were announced Wednesday by Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver during a visit to Vancouver.

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The $1-billion threshold could consist of cash on hand, bonds or lines of credit and will be applied, following a 12-month transition period, to existing pipeline operators, officials said in a briefing.

It is thought that all current operators of pipelines in Canada can meet the financial test, officials said.

Mr. Oliver was in B.C. for his first visit since the B.C. Liberals were re-elected in May.

Although the B.C. Liberals have rejected the Northern Gateway pipeline project on environmental grounds, they are seen as more willing to negotiate on key energy projects than the B.C. New Democrats, who failed to topple them at the ballot box.

In a series of visits and announcements, Mr. Oliver has sought to assure British Columbians that the Tory government is sensitive to their environmental concerns about energy projects.

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