There is lots of frustration and anger in Alberta these days. Perceptions are hardening, fasts are used and abused selectively, beliefs depend on where you stand and are personally impacted on an issue, or what political partisan ideology you identify with.
In the various Alberta-based sources of rhetorical flourishes we often hear that “Ottawa Liberals have done nothing for Alberta” particularly when it comes to pipeline issues. I think there has been a lot done but more to be done. That more to be done includes a re-affirmation of the previous Federal Cabinet decision that approved the Kinder Morgan Pipeline NEB recommendation to proceed.
The implementation of that “final” Cabinet approval was stalled by the last of about 18 court hearings on the project. All but the last one, thrown out or decided in favour of the project proceeding by the Courts. The Federal Court of Appeal said the NEB process on refusing to embrace marine impacts of the pipeline was a mistake of jurisdiction so they had to revisit that issue and report back.
The other matte the FCA took issue with was the nature and quality of Constitutionally protected Aboriginal interests that are subject to “meaningful consultation.” The consultation was found to be far from meaningful and more or a shallow listening and “note taking” approach rather than any real effort at understanding an accommodation.
The Liberal Federal government knew that there was serious criticism of Aboriginal consultation process by the Court on the Northern Gateway project. That no doubt, in part, contributed to the withdraw from the Northern Gateway project by Enbridge. That was a major move that killed the project.
IN an attempt to show the Feds had learned that lesson they revisited the Aboriginal Consultation process for Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain project for many more months. The Court found that while extra effort had been made in Aboriginal Consultation it was still short of meeting the Constitutional requirements of being meaningful and illustrating real efforts at accommodation.
The Marine Review is to be done be the end of February 2019. The Aboriginal consultation revision is in process under the advisement of a retired Supreme Court Justice as a way to provide non-political assurances that it is a sincere and meaningful process this time.
There is no time limit here because, unlike before, consultation is not seen as a transaction, it is now being appropriately viewed as a relationship. That means mutual trust and respect are central elements that takes time, especially how poorly these matters have been dealt with in the past. That said, I am sure it will be dealt with in a very timely and highly appropriate manner so that reasonable Aboriginal accommodation are made and the project can proceed.
For some much-needed perspective on the view and action s of the Federal government in all of this, and an effective factual rebuttal of those who just want to blame the Feds for all Alberta’s economic related oil issues, read this message from Edmonton Centre MP Randy Boissonnault:
“As many of you know, our province is in the midst of dealing with an unprecedented price differential on Western Canadian oil. I understand your concern on this subject, and I feel the weight of this oil price differential on my loved ones, on anxious families, and, within our communities. This is a crisis that is taking its toll not only on Alberta, but on Canada as a whole.
The situation, although incrementally at first will improve. Over 900,000 BPD of U.S. refining capacity went offline in October and November, hurting the price of Alberta oil. These refineries are now back up and running, and ramping up production. This will bring some welcomed relief and capacity to our energy sector, and begin helping with the backlog.
Our government understands that short term solutions are not enough to combat this critical issue, and we refuse to simply watch while Canadian oil is being sold at bargain prices to the lowest bidder. We will do everything possible to continue alleviating the pressure weighing heavily on Alberta. That is why we are collaborating with Alberta and Saskatchewan through our Working Group, to review options that could help relieve the pain being felt by so many. It is why we launched a non-partisan group of government experts from Canada, Alberta, and Saskatchewan – including finance, rail, and energy experts.
It is also why we moved forward on providing an accelerated capital cost allowance across the energy sector, which will help the Canadian oil and gas sector reduce costs by three times. It is why our government, in our Fall Economic Statement issued two weeks ago, decided to approve over $770 million for infrastructure improvements through the National Transportation Corridors Initiative, which will help open up new rail efficiencies for crude, with coordination across other crucial sectors like grain, and lumber.
It is why we remain committed to moving forward with the TMX expansion project in the right way. We know that getting our resources to non-US markets is the ultimate solution to relieving the pain of this oil price differential. We also know that Line 3 pipeline, approved by our government, will add 370,000 Barrels per day in capacity next year, and the Keystone XL pipeline will help relieve oil price differentials even more.
In October, our government instructed the National Energy Board to reconsider the effects of marine shipping related to the project and report back by February. We also relaunched Phase III consultations with Indigenous communities affected by the project. To build the pipeline properly, we need to solve the issue of transparency and public participation with pipeline projects throughout their review processes. That is why we asked former Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci to oversee the consultation process.
Let me be clear. No community, province or First Nation has a veto over the construction of federal infrastructure deemed in the national interest. That includes BC with a pipeline heading to the West Coast and would also apply to Quebec with a future pipeline project heading east. What is critical in a democracy committed to the rule of law, is that when the Courts instruct a government to do better, that government responds. We are taking the necessary steps to accommodate the reasonable needs and interests of communities along the TMX line. That is our moral and legal duty.
Canadians know that the Conservatives brought in a new system that cut corners, dodged our responsibility to meaningfully consult with Indigenous Peoples, and short-circuited steps required to protect the environment. So we set about rebuilding Canadians’ trust in impact assessments, improving transparency, and enhancing public participation throughout the review process.
Our work has only begun. We need to ensure we are getting the highest value possible for our product. We need to diversify our exports to non-US markets so we are not beholden to one single customer. We need to upgrade and refine our products, so that we can get that higher value. And our government will not rest until Canadian oil is being sold for its full value. Through all of our actions, we will build a strong and sustainable Canadian energy sector for this century. Together, we are proving, yet again, that Canada reaches its best solutions when we work together to make decisions for all Canadians, for our families, and for our children.”
FULL DISCLOSURE HE IS MY MP AND A FRIEND.