The Canadian government is going into the boardrooms of Calgary, Toronto, Houston and New York to privately discuss new financial subsidies for fossil fuel giant Kinder Morgan, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Sunday at a news conference.

Trudeau made the comments after summoning Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and B.C. Premier John Horgan to Ottawa to discuss the unfolding political drama surrounding the Texas-based company's proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.

The emerging controversy was triggered earlier this month when Kinder Morgan threatened to cancel its multibillion dollar project due to uncertainty driven by opposition to Trans Mountain in B.C.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks to reporters in Ottawa on April 15, 2018. National Observer Facebook video

After meeting with the two western premiers in his office for more than an hour, Trudeau emerged with some details about his plan to get the pipeline built.

He explained that he had instructed Finance Minister Bill Morneau to lead the "formal financial discussions with Kinder Morgan," to remove the uncertainty that is clouding the prospects of the Trans Mountain project. He also said he told Notley and Horgan that his government was working on legislation to reaffirm federal jurisdiction over the interprovincial pipeline, and stop provincial efforts to scuttle the project.

"As I said, we have engaged in financial discussions with the pipeline owner, with Kinder Morgan," Trudeau said. "This is a series of discussions that are happening in Calgary, in Toronto, in Houston and New York. They won't happen in public, but as soon as we have something to announce, I promise we will let you know."

"This is a series of discussions that are happening in Calgary, in Toronto, in Houston and New York," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said. They won't happen in public, but as soon as we have something to announce, I promise we will let you know."

Any new money for Kinder Morgan would be added onto hundreds of millions of dollars that the Trudeau government has already committed, on behalf of taxpayers, for the pipeline, which would triple the capacity of heavy oil from Alberta flowing to the west coast of British Columbia, allowing oilsands producers to ship up to 890,000 barrels of heavy oil per day.

John Horgan, Kinder Morgan, Trans Mountain, Ottawa
B.C. Premier John Horgan arrives in Ottawa for a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley on April 15, 2018. Photo by Alex Tétreault

Trudeau says 43 out of 114 First Nations have signed agreements with Kinder Morgan

The Trudeau government previously announced a $1.5 billion federal plan to protect Canada's oceans and address the dramatic increase in west coast oil tanker traffic that will be driven by the Trans Mountain expansion. This despite recommendations from the federal Environment Department that the company should cover these costs on its own.

The government also created a $65 million program to accommodate First Nations affected by the project that will be paid for through federal funds, and not by the company.

Trudeau has said that the pipeline project is in the national interest since it will support growth in Canada's oil and gas industry as well as Alberta's participation in a national climate change plan.

But many First Nations believe he has taken the wrong approach, describing it as "paternalistic," "inadequate," and "unrealistic," according to memos prepared for Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr a few weeks before the government announced it was approving the pipeline project.

Carr was told in one internal memo sent on Nov. 10, 2016, less than three weeks before Trudeau announced his decision to approve the project, that 59 out of 114 Indigenous groups affected by the pipeline needed more time for adequate consultations, while 32 groups had signed a mutual benefit agreement, at that time.

More than a year later, Trudeau said the number of Indigenous groups accepting agreements has increased slightly.

"Canada has completed the deepest consultation with rights holders ever on a major project in this country and working with our Indigenous partners has been paramount," Trudeau said at the news conference on Sunday. "To date, 43 First Nations have negotiated benefits agreements with the project, 33 of those in British Columbia."

Several First Nations have also launched a legal challenge of Trudeau's approval, arguing that the federal government failed in its duty to consult and asking the Federal Court of Appeal to quash his decision. This case was heard last fall and the ruling is still pending.

Bill Morneau, Kinder Morgan, Ottawa
Finance Minister Bill Morneau arrives for a meeting on Parliament Hill to discuss the Kinder Morgan project on April 15, 2018. Photo by Alex Tétreault

Kinder Morgan won't provide details of consultations

When asked to comment on Trudeau's latest statements, Kinder Morgan declined to answer questions about its private negotiations with the federal government, instead sending a general statement about its position.

"Our objectives are to obtain certainty with respect to the ability to construct through BC and for the protection of our shareholders in order to build the Trans Mountain Expansion Project," Kinder Morgan Canada Limited told National Observer in a statement.

"As we said last week, we do not intend to issue updates or further disclosures on the status of consultations until we’ve reached a sufficiently definitive agreement on or before May 31 that satisfies our objectives."

In British Columbia, Chief Bob Chamberlin, vice president of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, criticized the government, saying that the prime minister's comments were running counter to Canada's commitments to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which requires Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), prior to making decisions that affect their rights.

"It doesn't matter how many times @JustinTrudeau states extensive #Consultation w/ #First Nations about #KinderMorgan," Chamberlin wrote in a message posted on Twitter. "It represents sole Crown decision making, undermines #Reconciliation & inconsistent w/ #UNDRIP which has #FPIC."

Chamberlin added that any further demonstrations and court actions launched by First Nations peoples would be a "clear response" to decisions made by governments to disregard their human rights.

Horgan called Couillard for advice

Speaking to reporters earlier, Horgan, who is opposed to the pipeline, said that he still expects new investments from the federal government to cover gaps in its national plan to protect oceans.

Scientists have warned that there is uncertainty surrounding what would happen to diluted bitumen, the product to be shipped on the Trans Mountain project, if it spills into the ocean. They have also warned that the increased marine traffic represents a serious threat to threatened populations of killer whales off the coast of B.C., a finding that was acknowledged during a federal review of the Kinder Morgan project by the National Energy Board.

Horgan's government has been studying the possibility of introducing new rules to restrict shipments of bitumen on the B.C. coast to protect the environment.

At his news conference, he also said that he welcomed new comments from the Quebec government that supported his position and warned Ottawa to tread carefully if it wanted to avoid creating a situation that would allow companies to ignore provincial rules designed to protect public health and the environment.

Those statements from Quebec came after Horgan called Premier Philippe Couillard earlier this week to ask for advice.

"I did have a very positive conversation with the premier of Quebec, earlier in the week," Horgan said. "We have a similar world view and I have a great deal of respect for him so I was welcoming his advice on how I should proceed in this, the first meeting I've had of this nature, in my life. These are not things you do on a daily basis. So I sought his advice and he gave it to me."

The B.C. premier described the morning conversation with Notley and Trudeau as "very frank." They share many values, he added, but continue to disagree about whether it is acceptable to move more diluted bitumen from Alberta to Metro Vancouver.

"I felt no threats, no intimidation. It was a collegial meeting among peers. I was grateful to have had that opportunity. I had no objection to the tone or the content of our discussion.

B.C. Premier John Horgan speaks to reporters in Ottawa on April 15, 2018. National Observer Facebook video

Notley greeted by protesters

At a separate news conference, Notley said that the risk of an oil spill was low, noting that there are strong safety measures in place to prevent accidents involving large oil tankers.

Notley, the first Alberta premier to introduce a comprehensive climate change plan that proposed a cap on emissions from the province's oilsands, Canada's fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions, has drawn a lot of criticism from environmentalists for promoting the pipeline project.

Rachel Notley, Kinder Morgan, Trans Mountain, Ottawa
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley smiles at reporters in Ottawa following a meeting on April 15, 2018 with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and B.C. Premier John Horgan. Photo by Alex Tétreault

But Notley said that the pipeline would add tens of billions of dollars to the Canadian economy while supporting the national climate change plan. But she said she felt a lot better about the prospects of it going ahead following her meeting with Trudeau and Horgan.

"I am quite confident that the nature of the conversation that we are having at this point will get the job done in terms of eliminating the uncertainty," she said.

Notley added that her government's own financial discussions with Kinder Morgan were also ongoing.

She was greeted by a small group of activists from the Council of Canadians who braved the cool temperatures in Ottawa on Sunday morning and chanted "Respect Indigenous rights," when she arrived for the meeting in the morning.

Two of the protesters, Andrea Harden-Donahue and Brent Patterson, initially arrived with a red banner that displayed their message. But they said that they were warned by RCMP officers to back off and that they might be fined for trespassing if they didn't put the banner away.

Andrea Harden-Donahue, Council of Canadians, Kinder Morgan, oilsands, pipelines, tarsands, Ottawa, Brent Patterson
Andrea Harden-Donahue and Brent Patterson from the Council of Canadians are warned by RCMP officers in Ottawa on April 15, 2018 that they may be fined for trespassing on Parliament Hill if they don't put their banner away. Photo by Alex Tétreault

Andrew Scheer blames Trudeau for allowing situation to get out of hand

Speaking at his own news conference in Ottawa, Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer said that the meeting between the first ministers should have happened weeks ago. He also blamed Trudeau for following a campaign promise to strengthen federal oversight of industry with new legislation, Bill C-69, which he said exacerbated the situation.

"I believe conversations around using taxpayers' dollars to backstop the project is a result of the crisis that we're in, that is of the prime minister's own making," Scheer said. "Had he seen the lay of the land politically in British Columbia and quickly referenced any jurisdictional questions to the Supreme Court back in the fall, had he not brought in Bill C-69, which further destabilized the investment community's confidence in these type of project, we very well may not be under the May 31 deadline."

Andrew Scheer, Conservative Party, Kinder Morgan
At a news conference on April 15, 2018 in Ottawa, Conservative Party of Canada Leader Andrew Scheer blamed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for failing to resolve the unfolding political drama surrounding the Kinder Morgan pipeline project. Photo by Alex Tétreault

In a message posted on Twitter, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh also blamed Trudeau for creating a "mess" by approving the pipeline following a federal review that started under former prime minister Stephen Harper, instead of restarting the assessment as the Liberals had promised in the 2015 election.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May used harsher language to condemn Trudeau's plans, saying it violated another promise to end fossil fuel subsidies while perpetuating Canada's colonial legacy by keeping Indigenous leaders out of the process.

"To reassure Kinder Morgan shareholders, Trudeau will buy into the project, and have Finance Minister Bill Morneau broker a deal behind closed doors," May said in a statement. "It's an affront to democracy. Canadians should know where their money is going and they shouldn't be bankrolling a giant Texas corporation by providing new subsidies to a major fossil fuel project. The reality is that Kinder Morgan's project is high risk because it lacks markets, and now Trudeau is prepared to bail them out."

Their comments also coincided with a CBC report that First Nations and Métis communities in the northern part of Alberta, near the oilsands, were interested in getting an ownership stake in Trans Mountain or a future pipeline. One of the Indigenous leaders who made these comments, Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, has criticized the pace of oilsands expansion in the past, but has also noted he's not against the industry.

"The fact is I am tired," he said in the CBC report. "I am tired of fighting. We have accomplished what we have accomplished. Now let's move on and let's start building a pipeline and start moving oil that's here already."

Greenpeace Canada climate and energy campaigner Mike Hudema also criticized Trudeau's plans to offer new financial support for the project.

"The federal government can’t buy off the opposition to this failing pipeline, as it is grounded in a commitment to action on climate change, reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples and protecting the B.C. coast," Hudema said. "If Trudeau believes he can ram this pipeline through, he is misreading both the constitution and the electorate, while underestimating the opposition on the ground.

"Bailing out failing projects, strong-arming Indigenous communities by ignoring their right to consent, and bypassing calls for science-based decision making are ways to create a crisis, not solve one. The reality remains Indigenous communities have said 'no,' the resistance continues to grow, and this pipeline isn’t going anywhere."

with files from Trish Audette-Longo

​Editor's note: This article was updated at 5:30 p.m. ET on April 15 with additional comments from Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, B.C. Premier John Horgan, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, Kinder Morgan, and the Council of Canadians. It was updated again with comments from NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, ACFN Chief Allan Adam and additional background information at 6:30 p.m. ET.

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We have a Prime Minister that has no honor, no moral core, a true hypocrite. At least Canadians knew from the start Harper's stand on the environment. Trudeau duped the progressive electorate. He won't do it again in 2019!

Well, I guess we did know but how useful was it to have a PM who shut scientists up and degraded funding for research?

Notice that this PM seems none to interested in reversing what the other PM did. That's because he approves of it. There isn't an appreciable difference. Even scientist-muzzling is still happening, as this news source recently reported.

Time to take a serious look at our electoral system...basically two parties, with a third and fourth party sometimes holding the balance of power...(rarely, but sometimes!) Trudeau has reneged on so many promises, as did Harper before him, yet we still listen to the siren songs of these "snake oil salesmen"...Canadians need to hold these people to account, not keep voting either one of them in. First past the post serves no one, as has been shown time after time. It is time to have a vote on proportional voting, but. who's going to put it out there?? Not the Liberals, nor the Tories, (too much self-interest and corporate reliance) Canada needs a voting system that serves all Canadians, not just the rich and tailored elite. Voting either Conservative or Liberal guarantees the middle class a downhill slide to oblivion, and that the poor and disenfranchised will be "kept in their place"....How sad for Canada. We can be so much better.

Didn't the Trudeau government agree to ELIMINATE fossil fuel subsidies. Now Trudeau wants to open the wallets of all Canadians to Kinder Morgan shareholders. I am 100% ashamed of Trudeau's behaviour. My tax dollars will not support this pipeline.

We can't put the genie back in the lamp. Oil was allowed to take over our economy decades ago. It became our major `crop'. It will take measures, such as that PM Trudeau is talking about, to move ourselves on from this. This should be recognised as the transitional measure it is.
I would also like to see Canada jump over to renewable energy sources but we just aren't there yet. We could have been but, in my opinion, both politicians and senior government officials lacked the understanding of the issue to take us on another route. It's quite shocking to be in a meeting with some of these folks for whom `science' appears to have not been their best subject.
We have to get from here to there and it's going to take awhile. Next time we vote, we should have a good look at the candidates' bios to see who has the broad background we need to deal with this issue. How many times have you seen candidates tout their economic chops as being the biggest reason you should vote for them? And how many times has that been pretty well their only reason?

Oh no Patricia, our politicians very well knew and understood the issue 100%. The problem is our politicians also listen to oil industry lobbyists. And they need votes to win the next election and therefore funding from those lobbyists. We really need to change our democracy to eliminate corporate donations. I remember the last federal election. I was shocked to see voters sucked in by Trudeau's platitudes, especially B.C. voters. This is NOT transitional, it is pure and simple last-minute greed! Alberta needs to get on the renewable energy wagon now. Lots of work available. Or refine the tar sands in Alberta, then ship by train. This pipeline will not be built. Remember the standoff at OKA? I do however agree with you that we need to think about the honesty and integrity of political candidates, especially Justin Trudeau.

Good article, thank you Mike and Trish. I’m curious about the photo of Andrea and Brent holding a banner in Ottawa. It says they were told they could be fined for trespassing if they didn’t put the banner away. On Parliament Hill. Really?

Methinks the RCMP overstepped themselves and violated their charter rights. In this case, it wouldn't be too hard to prove. Stand down you overdressed security personnel. You were wrong, and should apologize.

Trudeau A very dim Wited Manikin .Sad lies are all he Knowes

Trudeau .Sad Lies are all he knows. wait till he gets vindictive. We ain't see nothing yet

Isn't it gratifying to know that Canadian anti-pipeline "eco-terrorists" are about to become unwilling Kinder Morgan shareholders with their own tax dollars?

The real terrorists are the multinational corporations which use "intimidation" to get what they want, and if they don't get what they want, they threaten you with legal action for lost revenues.
It's a citizen right to oppose projects that they feel might hurt themselves and other people, or animal species. I have not seen any violence or threat of violence in people's protest against Kinder Morgan or their employees.
The only terrorist threat that I heard of is the possibility for the federal government to use the army to protect the company against peaceful protestors.

Bad decision after bad decision. Leaving indigenous leaders out of the discussion continues to undermine the Trudeau's commitment to include them in discussions.

Agree with Chief Allan Adam I'm tired of all the no decision activity.

Time for a change in Canada.

My brilliant wife has suggested that if tax money goes to K.M. we withhold our taxes. We could also refuse to cough up income tax money and we could reduce activities such as driving that generate tax money for governments. Anyone willing to join us?

This past Sunday's photograph of P.M. Trudeau with Premiers Notley and Horgan in Ottawa working out problems with the pipeline expansion through British Columbia continues the travesty of white people forcing their urgent plans on First Nations people, this time the 71 of 114 B.C. First Nations who haven't signed on to this project.

Behind two of these three leaders stand a few key, white-guy architects of Enron's illegal activities and collapse, now morphed into Kinder Morgan Limited. The optics are shocking.. Future generations of Canadian leaders will be apologizing for this, while taxpayers will still be paying for the bailout of the bitumen industry when it's heyday is over.

It boggles the mind to think that such treatment of First Nations can still be happening. That Notley is desperate to be re-elected is understandable. That Trudeau would spend Canada's capital, of every sort, on this farce at the expense of First Nations is utterly shameful. Can he really tell these 71 First Nations that Father Knows Best, and the pipeline will be built with a huge Canadian buy in, and their land and resource rights matter not one whit?