Alistair Speaks on the Dangers of the Trans Mountain Pipeline


Alistair MacGregor (Cowichan—Malahat—Langford)

Mr. Speaker, earlier this year, on April 27, I rose in the House to convey the concerns B.C. coastal communities had about the foregone conclusion made by the government on the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline.

The former parliamentary secretary to the minister of natural resources said that the review “was the most exhaustive in the history of pipelines in Canada” and that the “additional steps...made the process more rigorous.” One of the problems I have with this government is that its representatives can keep standing in this place and make such preposterous claims.

First, the ministerial review panel in question admitted that it lacked the time, the technical expertise and the resources to fill the gaps in the National Energy Board process. lt ended up with little more than questions that remained unanswered. It kept no public records of hearings, admitted that the meetings were hastily organized and confirmed that it had a serious lack of public confidence in the National Energy Board and its recommendations. I attended one of those meetings when it came to Victoria in 2016, so I witnessed how bad it was first-hand.

Next, we have the internal memo from the office of the former natural resources minister, which described the negotiations with first nations as “paternalistic”, “unrealistic” and “inadequate”. We now have evidence that the government had made up its mind to allow Texas-based Kinder Morgan to build a major pipeline and that it regarded consultations with first nations as simply an item to check off a grocery list.

The government maintains that it fulfilled its legal duty to consult first nations about the project before it announced that it was approving the pipeline on Nov. 29, 2016. However, it has been revealed that at a meeting in late October 2016, a group of about two dozen senior staff were invited to Vancouver and were told by a senior government official at that meeting that their job was to find a way to get the pipeline approved.

The NDP, and our leader Jagmeet Singh, have repeatedly told the Liberal government that its consultation process for the Trans Mountain pipeline was completely inadequate and destined for failure. Unfortunately, our enquiries were repeatedly met with the same old Liberal arrogance. However, we found vindication last month as the unanimous Federal Court of Appeal ruling on Trans Mountain found that the National Energy Board's review of the project was so flawed that the federal government could not rely on it as a basis for its decision to approve the expansion. The court also concluded that the federal government failed in its duty to engage in meaningful consultations with first nations before giving the green light to the project. ln their consultations with indigenous communities, the government's representatives limited their mandate to listening to and recording the concerns of the indigenous applicants and then simply transmitting those concerns to decision-makers. There was no meaningful two-way dialogue.

The Prime Minister has repeatedly stated that no relationship is more important than that with indigenous people, but the government's approval process for Trans Mountain exposed a calculated and predetermined strategy to get to a yes decision on this project.

lndigenous people are entitled to a dialogue that demonstrates that the government gives serious consideration to the specific and very real concerns they have. Is the parliamentary secretary prepared to still say that this project is going to be built in spite of these concerns?

Joël Lightbound (Louis-Hébert)

Mr. Speaker, I also want to thank the hon. member for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford for bringing his question to the House today. We know that he shares his concerns in all sincerity and, in my view, makes very important points.

As many members before me have said, no direction was given to federal representatives to justify expanding the Trans Mountain network. No direction was given, period.

In fact, the reality is quite different. Our government insisted that the federal review of the TMX project include broad public consultations and engagement sessions with indigenous peoples. All these sessions and consultations were held in good faith. These principles are at the heart of a healthy democracy. Processes are more effective and decisions are sounder when every voice is heard. That is why our government engaged in the entire review process of the Trans Mountain expansion project.

However, as the hon. member pointed out, we know that the Federal Court ruled that although there have been significant improvements in the way major natural resources projects are reviewed, there remain two areas where these efforts still need to be improved.

First, the National Energy Board should have included the potential impact of marine shipping as part of its review of the TMX project. Second, the Crown failed to adequately discharge its duty to consult with indigenous people. I think it is worth reading what Justice Eleanor Dawson stated in her written decision with respect to both of these issues.

On the first one, the judge said, “I conclude that most of the flaws asserted against the NEB's process and findings are without merit.”

The justice continued, “However, the Board made one critical error. The Board unjustifiably defined the scope of the Project under review not to include Project-related tanker traffic.”

On indigenous engagement, she added, “I also conclude that Canada acted in good faith and selected an appropriate consultation framework.”

We acted in good faith. Where we fell down in our duty to consult was in the stage of engagement known as phase III.

Our government has heard what the court said. We are listening and we are taking action to ensure that we move forward in the right way. That is why the Minister of Natural Resources has announced the first step of our planned response by instructing the NEB to revisit its recommendation on the TMX expansion to take into account the impact of the project's increased marine transportation.

I would also draw the attention of the House to yesterday's decision by the NEB to appoint the panel for this review. We are hoping that the NEB will move efficiently.

The minister has also indicated that additional steps will be announced. I would urge the member opposite to be patient and to wait for those details.

Alistair MacGregor (Cowichan—Malahat—Langford)

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the parliamentary secretary's response. The fact of the matter is that the government, the taxpayers of Canada, are now owners of the $4.5-billion pipeline. The government has repeatedly stated that it wants to get the project built and I think that puts the Government of Canada in an inherent conflict of interest in the negotiations with first nations.

The Liberals have yet to credibly explain where all of the international buyers for our increased bitumen exports are lining up. They have yet to credibly state how this project is in any way going to aid our country in meeting its climate change goals. We are in 2018 and climate change is arguably the issue of the 21st century. It is shameful that we are letting down a young generation that is going to take this country and one day lead it through some of the biggest challenges. We are not setting them up for success and I just hope that the government reconsiders that fact in the negotiations that go forward.

Joël Lightbound (Louis-Hébert)

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his comment. It was not so much a question as it was a comment.

I completely agree with him. I am a millennial, and I would say that climate change and environmental protections are the most pressing concerns facing all societies and governments.

However, I will tell him that our government has an ambitious plan to combat climate change. For example, we put a price on pollution, which should have been done a long time ago. The government is proposing that pollution have a price in Canada. We also invested $182 billion over 12 years in infrastructure to fund public transportation, for example, and ensure that we are less dependent on today's vehicles and have access to good public transportation across the country. This is part of our plan to protect the environment and combat climate change.