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Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr indicated the federal Liberal government would ensure the controversial Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline has the confidence of Canadians before approving the expansion.
Carr, speaking at the GLOBE summit for sustainable business in Vancouver, was asked how the Liberal government could approve Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain expansion when major cities like Vancouver oppose the project.
"We've added time after the government has the recommendation from the National Energy Board, and we will appoint a ministerial representative and talk to Indigenous and other communities up and down the line," Carr said.
"In December 2016, the government will make a decision looking at all of the evidence put forward during the hearings and in our own consultations."
Texas-based pipeline giant Kinder Morgan is applying to triple the capacity of its existing Trans Mountain pipeline to carry 890,000 barrels of bitumen per day from Alberta to the B.C. coast. Although the company claims the project will bring jobs and over $300 million in tax revenues to B.C., the pipeline expansion proposal has sparked fierce citizen opposition due to the five-fold increase of oil tanker traffic it would bring through Burrard Inlet.
The Liberal government campaigned in the 2015 federal election on the promise of restoring public trust in the National Energy Board's pipeline review process. And Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told environmental group Dogwood Initiative in August that Kinder Morgan's pipeline expansion review would have to be "redone." But the federal government ultimately decided not to make the company go back to the drawing board. Instead, it announced in January that the regulatory process was undergoing a "transition period," with an extended time period for regulators to consider the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
As for what the Liberal government would do if First Nation communities, including North Vancouver's Tsleil-Waututh Nation, continue to withhold consent from the project, Carr expressed optimism about "restoring" trust through 'engagement'. The company is proposing to offer First Nations along the pipeline route employment and training opportunities, but some Indigenous groups are unmoved.
"We are going to meaningfully consult with Indigenous communities. That's our commitment," Carr said.
"The Prime Minister has said many times that restoring this relationship is the top priority of the government. We also have to make sure the regulatory process carries the confidence of Canadians...that's why we're in this current transition period."