Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole says he would prioritize building the Northern Gateway pipeline if he forms government after the Sept. 20 election, despite the project’s cancellation by court order in 2016 for lack of consultation with First Nations.
Mr. O’Toole committed to the cancelled project at a campaign event in King City, Ont., on Monday. He also said he would commit to Canada’s net-zero emissions target for 2050.
Asked how his support for Northern Gateway squares with the International Energy Association’s assessment that investment in oil and gas must stop immediately if the world is to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, Mr. O’Toole did not address the question. Instead, he pointed out that the pipeline has backing from some Indigenous groups.
“The thing I like the most about the proposal for Northern Gateway was the economic partnerships for Indigenous communities. Indigenous communities were going to have 33-per-cent ownership,” Mr. O’Toole said. ”I would like to see intergenerational transfer of wealth and opportunity, after generations of trauma transfer.”
The Northern Gateway pipeline was proposed by Enbridge, and later approved by the federal government in 2014. Its future was cast into doubt when Justin Trudeau’s government formalized a moratorium on crude-oil tanker traffic on British Columbia’s North Coast. The Federal Court of Appeal then quashed approval for the $7.9-billion pipeline in 2016, saying the former Conservative government had failed in its duty to consult First Nations. If built, the pipeline would pump oil-sands bitumen from Alberta to Kitimat, B.C.
Enbridge won support for the project by negotiating equity agreements with many of the First Nations communities along the pipeline route. But support for the pipeline was far from unanimous. It was opposed by some coastal First Nations, who feared a tanker spill. Some inland bands were concerned about a pipeline leak into freshwater. Environmental groups were also against the project, as was John Horgan, who is now B.C.’s premier.
The Conservatives have said they would repeal Bill C-48, the Liberals’ Oil Tanker Moratorium Act.
A spokesperson for the B.C. government on Monday said it would not comment on promises made by parties during the federal election. Enbridge also said it would not comment during the campaign.
Mr. O’Toole said on Sunday that he would heed opposition to pipelines in Quebec. During an interview with Radio-Canada, he pledged that a Conservative government would not approve a pipeline there as long as Quebec objects to the idea.
There was strong opposition in Quebec to the Energy East pipeline, which was cancelled in 2017. And in 2019, Premier François Legault said “there’s no social acceptability” for a new pipeline in the province.
“Pipelines in the West like Trans Mountain and Northern Gateway are important. They are my priority. We need to re-establish the confidence of Western Canadians in our country. After six years of Mr. Trudeau, there is more division in our country, and we need to work together for an economic recovery,” Mr. O’Toole said.
“If a province like Quebec doesn’t want a pipeline, there’d be no pipeline?” a journalist asked.
“No, because we already have pipelines in the West,” Mr. O’Toole responded.
At Monday’s campaign stop, Mr. O’Toole said his party would aim to reduce emissions to 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. That is a smaller reduction than the Liberal Party’s target of 40 per cent to 45 per cent in the same time frame.
The Conservative Leader said he would first deliver on the 30-per-cent cut, “and then we can work on ambition past that.”
“I want to see a made-in-Canada solution for net zero by 2050,” Mr. O’Toole said.
Although Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau was opposed to Northern Gateway, his government supported and then bought the Trans Mountain pipeline, which runs from Alberta to Burnaby, B.C. Reporters asked him at a campaign event in Granby, Que., on Monday how that reconciled with his announcement on Sunday that he would, if the Liberals form government, put a cap on greenhouse gas emissions from the oil and gas sector.
”We live in a world that is dependent on oil, so it is our duty to reduce greenhouse gas emissions linked to the use of oil,” Mr. Trudeau said. “But since we’ll be using oil for another number of years, we know that a pipeline creates less pollution and less danger or risks than trucks or trains. So, we will be guaranteeing people’s safety as we go through the transition.”
At a campaign stop in Ottawa on Monday, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh was asked about his stance on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, which is already under way.
“I’ve been opposed to the expansion, and a New Democrat government would never have purchased it,” Mr. Singh told reporters. “When it comes to decisions that governments have to make, you need to know the assets and know the information before you make a decision in terms of what’s in the best interest of Canadians.”
The NDP has promised to cut Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions to 50 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, and has also committed to hit net zero by 2050.
With a report from Bill Curry in Ottawa.
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