While Houston-based Kinder Morgan made moves to sell off the last of its Canadian assets, federal sources say the Trudeau government—Kinder Morgan’s C$4.5-billion benefactor in the bailout—is considering hiring a retired federal judge to guide a new round of Indigenous consultation in light of last month’s Federal Court of Appeal ruling against the project.
“The Liberals are still considering whether to appeal the decision, but at the same time are looking at how they can do what the court said was lacking in order to get the pipeline work back under way,” The Canadian Press reports, citing an official close to the government’s planning. “One option being closely considered is hiring of a former senior judge, possibly a retired Supreme Court of Canada justice, to advise the government on what would constitute meaningful consultation with Indigenous communities to satisfy the conditions of the court.”
Whatever the final decision is, an announcement is expected by the end of the month.
Meanwhile, Kinder Morgan has hired TD Securities to negotiate the sale of its Canadian business, which carries an estimated value of $2.4 billion, Reuters reports.
As for the project Kinder left behind, “the government wants to have the pipeline’s fate decided within the next six to eight months so it is no longer an issue for the opposition parties to use against the Liberals in next year’s federal election, or potential fodder for the Alberta Tories against Premier Rachel Notley’s NDP government in May’s provincial election,” CP notes. University of Calgary environment and resource law professor Martin Olszynski said a decision to hire a former Supreme Court judge what signal that Ottawa was “taking its task seriously.” He added that it would be “interesting to see what role such a judge will have—whether it will be strictly advisory, or whether they may play a role in mediating the consultations themselves.”
CP recounts a House of Commons exchange Monday, in which MP Lisa Raitt (CPC, Milton) demanded to know the government’s plan for restarting the pipeline project and Finance Minister Bill Morneau “seemed to confirm the government’s plan is to go back and talk to Indigenous communities another time, as well as do the additional environmental reviews the court wanted.”
But Toronto Star columnist Gillian Steward says there isn’t much to the Tories’ position beyond blaming the government in power for the project’s apparent demise.
“There’s no question the Conservatives can capitalize on the anger of many Albertans and supporters in B.C. and Saskatchewan who are seething over yet another delay or perhaps the death of the pipeline,” she writes. “But then what? Does getting rid of a price on carbon change anything when it comes to getting a pipeline completed? And yet, in the conservative mind, snuffing Trudeau’s carbon taxes will fix everything, even stalled pipelines.”
She adds that, “for Scheer and the Conservatives, getting rid of Justin Trudeau and the Liberals is the best way to ensure that the pipeline goes ahead. But they have yet to explain exactly how they plan to get Trans Mountain built. Until they do, all their huffing and puffing will amount to nothing but hot air.”