OTTAWA, O.N. – The future of resource development across Canada depends on the federal government responding correctly to a court ruling that has stalled the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, Justin Trudeau said Friday.
The government’s response is about more than just one pipeline project, the prime minister said as he took part in what was billed as an armchair discussion at a business gathering in Ottawa.
“What we need is not just this pipeline,” Trudeau said.
“We need to be able to build resource projects of all different types with appropriate social license.”
The Federal Court of Appeal quashed approval for the Trans Mountain project last week, citing insufficient consultation with Indigenous communities and failure to assess the environmental impact of more tanker traffic off British Columbia’s coast.
The Conservatives and New Democrats both have blamed Trudeau for the ruling, accusing him of relying on “botched” consultations to further the pipeline project, which would bring more Alberta oilsands crude to port in B.C. for export overseas.
But Trudeau said the decision must be seen in a broader context if the government is to ensure that Trans Mountain – and other resource projects – don’t get bogged down in endless court battles in the future.
Trudeau fired back at critics who accuse his government of being unable to get large resource projects built, pointing to one major development that has already been approved in Canada but is facing roadblocks south of the border.
“The Keystone XL pipeline has been approved in Canada for a long time and it’s bogged down in processes in the United States because, again, there are concerns that they hadn’t done enough around consultations in partnership with communities and environmental science,” Trudeau told the gathering.
“This is the way the world is going, and if we can demonstrate clarity and certainty for business through the processes to the investors, we will be able to get more built.”
The opposition parties called on the Liberal government Friday to study the Trans Mountain court decision, and use it to better define what it means to truly consider the wishes of Indigenous communities before it launches into any new consultations over Trans Mountain.
The Liberals promised a new process for consultation with Indigenous communities during the last election campaign, “and that promise was completely broken,” New Democrat MP Rachel Blaney said before introducing a motion that would see a Commons committee examine why the court rejected the Trudeau cabinet’s approval of the Trans Mountain expansion.
Her motion, along with a similar one introduced by Conservative MP Cathy McLeod, was voted down by Liberal members of the Commons committee on Indigenous and northern affairs. The Liberals didn’t speak to the motions and gave no reasons for rejecting them before adjourning.
Trudeau called the court ruling “frustrating” and “devastating” for communities that were relying on the employment that would come with the Trans Mountain project.