Environment Minister Catherine McKenna says that Alberta’s hard cap on oil sands emissions provides “certainty” that resource projects in that province will fit into the federal government’s updated project-approval framework.
In other words, if you want to build a future pipeline in Alberta, chances are good that Ottawa would give it the green light — at least on the environmental front.
Last week, McKenna announced that her government is overhauling the process by which new resource projects can be approved. The future assessments will take into account, among other things, the potential effects linked to climate change.
“Everything we do has to be consistent,” McKenna told The West Block‘s Vassy Kapelos. “It’s really (that) a project has to overall fit within our climate plan. Let’s take Alberta, Alberta’s a great example … We know that projects in the oil sands have to fit in that hard cap, so that’s good.”
Asked if that meant that any future Alberta pipeline would therefore automatically be approved at the federal level, McKenna said “as long as they’ve fit in the hard cap on emissions, that’s provided certainty in that particular province.”
The new Impact Assessment Agency of Canada, which will replace the National Energy Board, will also need to carry out a review of other health, social and economic impacts for any future projects, as well as their effects on Indigenous peoples.
Ultimately, McKenna acknowledged, the final approvals will still come down to political decisions made in Ottawa.
“We’ve been really clear about what the rules are going to be,” she said. “Under the previous government … decisions were really made on politics. And that’s not even what project proponents want.
“For hard decisions, yes, they will end up on either my desk, or it could end up in cabinet. And that’s the right thing.”
McKenna was also asked about the ongoing dispute between Alberta and British Columbia linked to the Trans-Mountain pipeline expansion, which B.C. wants to see halted. She reiterated that the federal government has already approved the project.
“Let me be really clear: this project is within our jurisdiction,” McKenna said.
“We understand the concerns that folks have on the coast (of British Columbia). And this is a twinning, so there is already a pipeline there. So the concerns about protecting the coasts, and protecting the oceans, already exist. That’s why we announced an oceans protection plan.”
McKenna said she recognizes that no resources project will ever enjoy complete consensus. There will always be people who want to see no development whatsoever, and those who want projects to move ahead no matter what the consequences.
“We need a system that builds confidence. And when you have confidence, you’re not going to get everyone on-side, but people are going to feel heard.”
-Watch the full interview with Environment Minister Catherine McKenna above.