EDMONTON, A.B. – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is pouring cold water on Alberta’s suggestion that the federal government use legislation or a court appeal to get construction started quickly on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
In an interview on Edmonton radio station CHED, Trudeau says using “tricks” such as a new law or the Constitution’s notwithstanding clause would create further legal fights down the road.
“Using a legislative trick might be satisfying in the short term, but it would set up fights and uncertainty for investors over the coming years on any other project, because you can’t have a government keep invoking those sorts of things on every given project,” he told the radio station.
“People want to know that we are doing things the right way for the long term – that jobs that get started will continue and won’t get stopped by the courts. That’s the change we are focused on making.”
The Federal Court of Appeal last week reversed a cabinet decision to allow Trans Mountain construction to go ahead.
The court found not enough consultation was done with Indigenous people and said the impact of increased tanker traffic was not properly considered.
The prime minister is in Edmonton to meet with Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, who has pulled her government from the national climate plan and demanded either an appeal of the ruling or a legislative fix.
Trudeau downplayed the idea of an appeal in the radio interview.
He said the court ruled more consultation and study needs to be done.
“We are, right now, trying to figure out how to get work restarted on it but … the court was very clear: You need to do more on the environment. You need to do more on consultations, if anything is going to happen, so that’s what we are going to do.”
The project would triple the bitumen-carrying capacity of the existing pipeline from the Edmonton area to Metro Vancouver. Notley has said the expansion is necessary to get more Alberta oil to the coast for shipment to overseas markets.
The line has faced stiff opposition from some Indigenous groups, environmentalists and the British Columbia government.
Earlier this year, the federal government announced that it was buying the pipeline after owner Kinder Morgan balked at starting construction, and, minutes after the court ruling was released on Friday, company shareholders approved the sale for $4.5 billion.
The purchase closed on Friday, so the federal government is now wholly responsible for what happens next.
Trudeau said the project would be dead had Ottawa not stepped in. He said the government’s goal is not to make money but to see the expansion completed.
“If this decision had come down when the pipeline was still in private hands, the project would be dead,” he said.
“We have a greater tolerance for risk and, quite frankly, our focus is not on making a profit from the pipeline. Our process and our focus is on getting that pipeline built the right way so we can finally get our resources to markets other than the United States.”