June 16, 2019 11:00 am
Updated: June 16, 2019 4:02 pm

McKenna mum on whether feds will hit Trans Mountain approval deadline

ABOVE: No decision yet on Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project

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The deadline for the federal cabinet to approve the Trans Mountain expansion is in two days.

But Environment Minister Catherine McKenna isn’t saying whether the government will hit that target or delay approval for the second time.

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In an interview with the West Block‘s Mercedes Stephenson, McKenna was asked about the deadline and if the government will finally give an answer on the future of the project. In response, she said Canadians will have to “stay tuned.”

“We’re moving forward in terms of being in a position to make an announcement but we’ve always said it has to be done in the right way,” she said.

“There’s no decision yet but just stay tuned.”

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When pressed, McKenna repeated the same point.

‘There’s a deadline and so stay tuned,” she said. “We’ve been working very hard.”

Ottawa said in April it would not hit its original deadline to approve the project.

Instead, the federal government punted it until June 18, citing the need for more consultation with Indigenous communities.

READ MORE: Ottawa extends deadline for Trans Mountain decision to June 18

That came after the federal government first gave the project the go-ahead in 2016, but a Federal Court judge slapped an injunction on the project in the summer of 2018, freezing the start of construction.

That injunction said the government had failed to meet its obligations to study the environmental impact of the project and consult with Indigenous stakeholders.

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In response, the government sent the project back to the National Energy Board for a marine impact assessment and restarted consultations with 117 Indigenous stakeholders, but refused to publicly declare a deadline for when those talks would end.

Earlier in 2018, the government bought the pipeline after regulatory delays and political backlash stalled the project and led Kinder Morgan to walk away.

The federal government spent $4.5 billion to buy the existing Trans Mountain pipeline and associated infrastructure.

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That price did not include the cost of the planned expansion, which will twin the pipeline and triple its capacity.

Shortly after the decision to delay the deadline, Transport Minister Marc Garneau insisted the pipeline was the “number one priority” for the government and added that the government hoped “that we will come to a satisfactory resolution to it.”

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has argued though that the federal government isn’t taking the project seriously enough.

The looming deadline comes as tensions between the federal government and provinces run high.

A proposed federal ban on tankers off the northern B.C. coast as well as a bill to overhaul environmental assessments for major energy projects has prompted Kenney along with five other provincial and territorial premiers to argue national unity is at risk because those measures would hurt the energy industry.

Both bills will need to pass this week if they are going to become law before the House of Commons rises for the summer.

MPs will not be back until after the federal election.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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