Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the new federal government wants to oversee a full and fair national debate over controversial energy issues such as pipelines and will act as a "responsible mediator."
The Liberals intend to see that all aspects of energy and resource proposals are carefully examined with the interests of all concerned, including First Nations communities, Mr. Trudeau said Tuesday after meeting with Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, who has voiced strong opposition to Calgary-based TransCanada Corp.'s Energy East pipeline.
"It's not up to the federal government to decide in advance which projects it wants to do or what it wants to promote. We have had over the past 10 years a government that acted like a cheerleader on these projects rather than being a responsible mediator setting up a clear, open, rigorous and transparent process and that's what we're going to do," Mr. Trudeau told reporters after a 45-minute meeting with Mr. Coderre.
But he stressed the importance of stringent environmental reviews. "Canadians know you can't build a strong economy without protecting the environment," Mr. Trudeau said, adding that his government plans to strengthen existing assessment processes.
"The federal government's role is to put in place a process through which TransCanada or any other company might proceed to demonstrate that a project is in the public interest and get Canadians' approval."
"We will both build on previous work done by the processes that did exist and we will ensure that in the process going forward we take into account all greenhouse gas emissions, including those upstream," he told reporters.
The federal government intends to require a separate climate test for proposed pipelines and a planned LNG export terminal, which are now under regulatory review, to determine their impact on Canada's greenhouse gas emissions, possibly resulting in new delays on major projects.
Mr. Coderre said he welcomes Mr. Trudeau's approach, which takes sustainable development into account, but stressed that it's up to the proposing companies to do their homework and address public concerns over environmental risks.
Last week, Mr. Coderre – a former federal Liberal cabinet minister – and 81 Montreal area mayors condemned the $15.7-billion Energy East pipeline, which would move 1.1 million barrels of Western crude through Quebec and on to a refinery in Saint John, N.B., saying it presents an environmental risk.
The move provoked outrage from Western Canadian leaders, including Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall and Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi.
With a file from Shawn McCarthy