The ministerial panel charged with hearing from Canadians along the Trans Mountain pipeline route has produced its final report.
The group was formed in response to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s election promise to re-evaluate energy policy and to rebuild trust in the approval process.
Ministerial panel’s six questions to cabinet
- Can the project be reconciled with Canada’s climate change commitments?
- Without a national energy strategy, how can Ottawa effectively assess projects such as the Trans Mountain Pipeline?
- Can Cabinet square project approval with a commitment to First Nations reconciliation?
- Can Canada be confident in its assessment of the project’s risks and rewards given perceived flaws in the NEB process and the Ministerial Panel itself?
- If approved, what route would best serve aquifer, municipal, aquatic and marine safety?
- How does federal policy define the terms “social licence” and “Canadian public interest?”
While many had hoped that would mean scrapping pipeline approvals already in process, the Liberals opted instead to strike a panel which would hear from Canadians who felt shut out of the National Energy Board approval process.
Now five months, 44 meetings, 650 presentations, and a record breaking 35,000 questionnaire responses later, there’s no disputing the three member panel got an earful from Canadians.
The report makes no recommendations. However, it does broadly summarize the concerns of stakeholder groups.
While the authors make it clear there there were differences of opinions among each groups, economic concerns stood out in Alberta, environmental concerns in British Columbia, and concerns about participation and consultation among indiginous groups.
And while it offers no direction to Cabinet, the report does pose six questions policymakers will need to answer as they weigh the project approval decision, highlighting the tough spot the Trudeau Liberals now find themselves in.
Those include whether the project can dovetail with Canada’s climate change commitments, whether it can square with First Nations reconciliation, and, fundamentally, just how does Ottawa define social license and the public interest?
The NEB gave the project a conditional green light back in May, Cabinet’s final decision is expected by year’s end.