The Kinder Morgan pipeline dispute between B.C. and Alberta continues to dominate the political agenda across the country as Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley prepare to meet in Toronto to try to hash out a resolution.
Few details about the meeting are available and officials speaking for both Morneau and Notley said they would not be releasing the time or place of the meeting.
However, Morneau provided a rough timeline during a press conference on Wednesday morning.
“I haven’t met with her yet,” he said. “I’m meeting with her at the end of the day.”
Notley is in Toronto as part of a visit to meet with energy industry and financial stakeholders over the Kinder Morgan pipeline project, which has escalated in recent weeks from a tit-for-tat trade spat between Alberta and B.C. to verging on a constitutional crisis over the latter’s refusal to allow the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion to proceed.
On Tuesday evening, the federal cabinet held an emergency meeting in Ottawa to try to come up with a solution after Kinder Morgan announced over the weekend it was stopping all non-essential spending and work on the pipeline project until it gets reassurance it will go ahead — highly unusual, given the House of Commons is on a two-week break from sitting.
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Opponents of the pipeline argue it is not worth the risk of a potential oil spill along the B.C. coast and that proceeding without the consent of Indigenous communities violates their right to grant permission to projects going across their land.
Supporters argue that not allowing the pipeline to proceed would leave Alberta captive to the American market, which is a direct competitor, and unable to get its oil resources to the coast and on to more lucrative foreign markets.
The project was granted approval in 2016 but work has not yet begun given repeated protests and court challenges seeking to stop construction.
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Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, who has previously voiced his opposition to the pipeline, held a press conference on Parliament Hill Wednesday to stress the need for a legal resolution to questions over who has jurisdiction to dispute the project.
He said he wants the federal and provincial governments to submit a joint reference question to the Supreme Court of Canada and ask the court to rule on the matter.
However, experts say that process would take at least six months.
Pressed for details on how such a plan would fit within the deadline Kinder Morgan set for the end of May, Singh was non-committal and said only that he thought if all the parties involved signed on to the question together, it would get handled more quickly.
“It’ll get priority,” he argued.
Last month, a B.C. court issued an injunction barring protesters from entering one of the work sites but that was broken within days by opponents including federal Green Party Leader Elizabeth May and B.C. NDP MP Kennedy Stewart.
Both could now face criminal contempt of court charges.
WATCH BELOW: B.C. Premier John Horgan responds to Kinder Morgan’s decision
Kinder Morgan has set a deadline of May 31 to resolve the dispute, saying it cannot ramp up spending on the next phase of work on the project without assurances they will be able to complete it.
The company has already spent more than $1 billion of the roughly $7-billion price tag attached to the project.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is not taking part in the Toronto meetings and is listed as being in Ottawa on a personal day ahead of a 10-day trip to the Summit of the Americas, Commonwealth meetings in the United Kingdom and a bilateral meeting in France.
He has repeatedly said the pipeline will go ahead and that federal officials are looking at a range of options to attempt to coerce B.C. into cooperating.
However, Conservatives argue he is not doing enough to take concrete action towards getting the pipeline built.
If work on the project is not underway by 2021, the permit authorizing construction will expire.