Trudeau cabinet approves Trans Mountain pipeline, eliciting disgust from First Nations and environmentalists

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      Flanked by a fleet of cabinet ministers, Justin Trudeau has announced that his government is proceeding with a $9.3-billion pipeline project to triple shipments of diluted bitumen from Alberta to the Lower Mainland.

      The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project will boost the amount moving through the system from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels per day.

      Trans Mountain is owned by the federal government after it paid $4.5-billion to Texas-based Kinder Morgan for its Canadian operations.

      "The company plans to have shovels in the ground this construction season," Trudeau promised.

      If it's completed, the pipeline project will lead to a nearly seven-fold increase in oil tanker traffic in Burrard Inlet off of five ridings represented by Liberal MPs.

      "In 2015, we were elected on a promise to Canadians," Trudeau said in his opening remarks. "We were elected on a campaign to make real change happen in this country and grow the middle class.

      "We also committed to build a real plan to protect our environment and fight climate change," the prime miniter continued. "We do not see these goals as irreconcilable. We see them as complementary."

      He went on to say that there can't be a real economic and jobs plan in the 21st century without a real climate change plan.

      What he didn't say is that the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project will lead to the the release of 71.4 megatonnes of downstream carbon dioxide equivalents, according to research conducted for the City of Vancouver. That exceeds the entire carbon dioxide emissions of the province of B.C. on an annual basis.

      Trudeau did say, however, that to create good middle-class jobs now and for our kids, "we need to create wealth today so that we can invest in the future."

      He also declared that policies of the last century will not serve Canadians in this one.

      "That's the approach we take in everything we do, including decisions we make about resource development," Trudeau insisted.

      In 2016, the Liberal cabinet approved the expansion project, but that was overturned by the Federal Court of Appeal.

      Three judges ruled that the federal government fell short of its constitutional requirement to consult with affected First Nations and the National Energy Board failed to consider the impact of tanker traffic on threatened marine species.

      After more consultations with Indigenous people and new policies concerning endangered southern resident orcas, Trudeau's cabinet has again approved the Trans Mountain expansion.

      Trudeau pointed out that the consultation work was overseen by former Supreme Court of Canada justice Frank Iacobucci.

      "We listened to community concerns and we are acting on community ideas," Trudeau said. "We're working with Indigenous peoples to codevelop and implement real accommodation measures to make our environment, our coast, and our communities safer and healthier and better protected than ever before."

      He also claimed that the cabinet approached this decision with an open mind.

      In another part of his prepared remarks, Trudeau talked about the downside of Alberta oil not having access to tidewater.

      "Right now, we basically have only one customer for our energy resources: the United States," he said. "As we've seen in the past few years, anything can happen with our neighbours to the south."

      He later said that Canadians can only make choices when they have choices.

      "Right now, when it comes to our conventional energy, we do not. We have only one customer."

      That leaves Canada in a weaker position, Trudeau maintained, because the country is more vulnerable to that one customer's desires and changes in its market and policy orientation.

      Trudeau's announcement has been condemned by environmental groups and some First Nations.

      They're planning a protest in downtown Vancouver at the corner of West Georgia and Hamilton streets at 5:30 p.m.

      In the meantime, the Tsleil-Waututh Nation has said that its concerns about the project remain unaddressed.

      "Tsleil-Waututh again engaged in consultation in good faith, but it was clear that the federal government had already made up their mind as the owners of the project,” Chief Leah George-Wilson said in a statement. “Unfortunately, this feels too familiar—Canada repeated many of the same mistakes from last time. We will review the decision carefully with our team, and we will consider our legal options to ensure our rights are protected."

      Will George, spokesperson of the group Protect the Inlet, simply declared that the pipeline will not be built.

      And the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs echoed that point, adding that the announcement "demonstrates a lackadaisical and irresponsible approach to combatting climate change and recognizing the human rights of Indigenous Peoples".

      “Our lands are burning and flooding. Our fish are dying and our people are suffering. Now is not the time to recklessly pursue environmentally devastating projects while our territories suffer,” Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, said. “We will actively and continuously resist the pursuit of short-term gains, in order to ensure the quality of life and the well-being of our children and our children’s children.

      "We are immensely disappointed by today’s announcement, but we are also prepared," Phillip continued. "We do not accept Canada’s premeditated decision, and we are prepared to continue to oppose this project through any means possible.”

      Meanwhile, the Wilderness Committee has called Trudeau's announcement "an unforgivable betrayal of people in Canada and around the world who are already suffering from climate change impacts".

      “How can Canada, as wildfires and floods rage all around us and our citizens are forced to flee their homes, choose to make the climate crisis worse?” Wilderness climate campaigner Peter McCartney said in a statement. “Building the Trans Mountain pipeline is a slap in the face to every young person across the country who worries for what a hotter future holds.”

      The Georgia Strait Alliance said that Trudeau "made a bad decision".

      "Big Oil wants a pipeline, and so our prime minister will try to get it done," the group said. "He’s already spent billions of taxpayers’ money on a leaky old pipeline, and he wants to spend billions more building a new one. He can never again claim to be a climate leader or environmental champion."