UBC law professor questions Ottawa's jurisdiction on planned pipeline expansion

Sean Kilpatrick  CP                       Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto in Lima Peru

Sean Kilpatrick CP Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto in Lima Peru

He made his comments in a news conference following an urgent meeting with premier Rachel Notley of Alberta and her British Columbian counterpart, John Horgan.

Prime Minister Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Sunday he has instructed his finance minister to begin talks with Kinder Morgan to "remove the uncertainty" hanging over the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project that would almost triple the flow of oil from Canada's oil sands to the Pacific Coast.

He said the government would "pursue legislative options" to "assert and reinforce jurisdiction in this matter".

He noted that 51 First Nations communities (41 in B.C. and 10 in Alberta) have signed mutual benefit agreements with Kinder Morgan regarding the project.

"The imminent Mexican elections and the upcoming American midterms means that we have a certain amount of pressure to try and move forward successfully in the coming weeks", the prime minister said. But the hit to the economy if the pipeline isn't built could also have devastating effects at the ballot box.

Trudeau said private, financial discussions will be held with Kinder Morgan in the coming days to remove uncertainty over the project.

"That is good, because the project is in the national interest", she said.

"The federal government can't buy off the opposition to this failing pipeline. the resistance continues to grow", said Mike Hudema of Greenpeace Canada.

Trudeau said the pipeline was approved by his government in 2016 after a rejigged environmental assessment and Indigenous consultation process, and only in concert with the Liberals' climate change and oceans protection plan.

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No details were revealed as to whether Ottawa and Alberta would take a financial stake in the $7.4-billion project - which Notley floated as a possibility last week - or what "legislative options" the federal government would present to Parliament.

"This Prime Minister could not be less serious about this vital issue", said Leader of the United Conservative Party Jason Kenney.

"We have been working at the official level for some time laying out concerns, and I was encouraged that today's meeting will allow us to get back on track in that respect", he said.

"We are no further close to getting this critical project built".

The leader of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs has also vowed that the project will not proceed.

Lee said if the Alberta government believes the only way to create jobs is by increasing the production and export of fossil fuels, it should be investing in better refining capacity to avoid shipping diluted bitumen, which poses greater risks in ocean spills and has limited markets. Now, those actions just need to happen, he added. He said government investment in the project would do nothing to solve B.C.'s continuing opposition.

"His damaging policies ... have only led to more uncertainty and instability in Canada's resource sector", Scheer said. "And if we can't, it's going to have a negative impact on the economic prospects for our children and grandchildren", McMillan said.

Trudeau, whose political ambitions have a lot riding on the project, spent more than 30 minutes at the podium following Sunday's meeting, much of it spent in an effort to depict Canada as a unified country with complex needs and interests, all in an effort to ease the persistent tensions in Western Canada and elsewhere over the dispute.

But he said, "Canadians and people around the world know that we can not choose between what is good for the environment and good for the economy".

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