February 5, 2016 3:09 pm

Canada’s natural resources minister says politics at play in pipeline decisions

Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr speaks to a crowd gathered at the Calgary Chamber of Commerce on Friday, Feb. 5, 2016.

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CALGARY – Canada’s natural resources minister isn’t shying away from describing the decision-making process for pipelines as political.

Industry players often lament how political the pipeline debate has become and the uncertainty that brings to their projects.

But Jim Carr says deciding whether a pipeline is in Canada’s national interest is just as much a political consideration as any piece of legislation or budget measure the government handles on a daily basis.

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The National Energy Board, an arms-length regulator, conducts hearings and makes a recommendation on pipelines, but the federal cabinet has the final say.

Carr was grilled on the Liberal government’s approach to pipeline oversight in front of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce on Friday.

Seated at the head table were the bosses of companies behind two contentious proposals before the National Energy Board — Russ Girling with TransCanada and Ian Anderson with Kinder Morgan Canada.

Last week, Carr and Environment Minister Catherine McKenna announced changes to pipeline reviews governing projects such as TransCanada’s proposed Energy East pipeline to New Brunswick and Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain expansion to the Vancouver area.

READ MORE: Energy East pipeline application too hard to understand, says NEB

The changes include adding an assessment of a pipeline’s broader climate change impacts and enhanced consultation with affected indigenous communities.

While some may have a cynical interpretation of “political” in the context of pipelines, Carr frames it more positively.

“I see political as a word that is at the very heart of our democracy. We’re elected on a platform. We have a mandate from the prime minister. We’re held accountable for achieving those goals,” he told reporters.

“We’re held accountable by the prime minister and the government. We’re held (accountable) by the people of Canada, ultimately. And if you’ve got a better way, let me know.”

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