U.S. judge denies request for Keystone XL pipeline pre-construction work

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A U.S. judge has denied a request for pre-construction work to go ahead on the Keystone XL pipeline.

U.S. District Judge Brian Morris on Friday denied a request by Calgary-based TransCanada to begin constructing worker camps for the 1,905 kilometre pipeline that would ship crude from Alberta to the Gulf Coast. 
 
However, Morris said TransCanada could perform some limited activities outside the pipeline’s right-of-way. Those include the construction and use of pipe storage and container yards.

« I don’t see it as that significant, » said Nigel Bankes, a professor of law at the University of Calgary.

« I think it simply confirms that the permit that TransCanada had remains suspended and what TransCanada has got out of this is some clarification about work that it can continue to do and work that it’s not allowed to do under the earlier judgement. »

The Keystone XL pipeline would bring oil from Hardisty, Alta., to Steele City, Neb. (Natalie Holdway/CBC)

TransCanada said last month it plans to start clearing trees and foliage for the northern route of the pipeline after the National Energy Board announced it had approved the pipeline company’s request to do some winter clearing work.

The regulator said the company had satisfied requirements to remove trees and shrubs around Hardisty, Alta., and further south in a block known as Keystone’s north spread.

Hardistry is about 210 kilometres northeast of Red Deer, Alta.

The pipeline, expected to cost $8-billion, would carry 830,000 barrels of crude a day from Hardisty to Nebraska. The pipeline would then connect with the original Keystone that runs to refineries in Texas.

In December, a Montana Federal Court judge gave the company permission to continue some pre-construction work such as engineering, awarding contracts and taking meetings.

The pre-construction work is essential, the company has said, to be ready for the 2019 spring construction season and meeting its targeted 2021 completion date.

TransCanada is still waiting for approval to continue field work in the United States.

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Wet’suwet’en hereditary leaders, supporters call for stop work order on Coastal GasLink pipeline

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Driving along the forest service road outside Houston, B.C. voices come in and out over the radio channels as people co-ordinate with one another at a worksite for the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline.

About 15 minutes down the road from the worksite is the Unist’ot’en camp and healing centre. The camp is located on the edge of the Wedzin Kwah (Morice River) and is currently home to dozens of people, many of whom have come to support the Unist’ot’en in their opposition to the pipeline.

The bridge that crosses the river has been used as a checkpoint by the group for nearly a decade. People at the camp have been controlling who has access to the territory past the bridge in an effort to put Wet’suwet’en law into practice on the land.

Approaching the bridge on Wednesday it’s clear much has changed since the RCMP arrived earlier this month to enforce a court injunction for access. That led to an agreement between the nation’s hereditary chiefs and police to allow pipeline workers through Unist’ot’en.

As it stands, work continues on the TransCanada-owned Coastal GasLink pipeline while Wet’suwet’en hereditary leadership are still fighting the project, calling for a stop work order from the province. 

Depending on who you ask, the work taking place along the forest service road past Unist’ot’en is either scheduled pre-construction work on a welcome, $40 billion natural gas project that has all the necessary approvals or it is the unlawful destruction of a landbase, according to Wet’suwet’en law, in an era when governments are publicly committed to implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP).  

Police approach the Gidimt’en checkpoint Jan. 7 to enforce an injunction ordering people to stop preventing Coastal GasLink workers from accessing the road and bridge. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

In addition to the workers who have been moving through the area regularly, staff and chiefs from the Office of the Wet’suwet’en have also been visiting on a regular basis.

A pair of fisheries staff from the office are stopping in at the Unist’ot’en healing centre on their way to check on streams in the area.

But they’re stopped on the bridge because a group of people are standing in the road.

Several members of the RCMP are talking to camp spokesperson Freda Huson. She’s telling them about a truck that drove through and knocked out an electrical box earlier that day and wants to know what the police are going to do about it.

A woman stands next to her with a notebook that is being used to track how many vehicles are coming and going through the area.

Freda Huson (left) at the entrance to the Unist’ot’en camp and healing centre with a supporter, speaks to a member of the RCMP Division Liaison Team. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

Interactions with the RCMP have become a daily occurrence in the area, with police fielding complaints from both sides. Officers have been coming and going through the territory, sent in from detachments across B.C.

People at Unist’ot’en are growing increasingly frustrated with them and a perceived lack of action on complaints.

List of complaints, allegations

At the Office of the Wet’suwet’en, where several of the nation’s hereditary chiefs work, that frustration has grown into a formal request to the province to issue a stop work order against Coastal GasLink, at least until the litany of complaints and allegations can be properly addressed.

The chiefs have taken issue with several incidents and work activities that have been happening since the enforcement of the injunction at the Gidim’ten checkpoint Jan. 7.

In particular, they’re upset that Coastal GasLink workers razed the buildings at Gidim’ten and about the heavy machinery brought into the area past Unist’ot’en, where workers recently cleared a large treed area the Wet’suwet’en say is a historic trapline site where people were actively trapping.

The buildings that were constructed by the Gidimt’en on the Morice Forest Service Road were razed by Coastal GasLink contractors in late January. The company said the buildings were torn down for safety purposes. The area is now being used by RCMP working in the area. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

« Having the RCMP stand idly by when there is personal and private property being destroyed is not anything that the hereditary chiefs would agree to, nor would we expect it, » said Chief Na’Moks, who estimated the area recently cleared is about 20 hectares.

« There’s miscommunication between the RCMP at all levels. »

CBC sent requests to the RCMP to find out how many complaints it’s received and files it’s opened since the enforcement at Gidimt’en but has not received a response.

Remnants of traps that were set in a treed area since cleared by heavy equipment in a pile on the side of the road at the Coastal GasLink worksite. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC )

Coastal GasLink said it stopped work temporarily after the trapline incident, stating in a release « Fully approved and permitted work was shut down temporarily today due to safety concerns arising from a number of individuals entering an active construction site and the continued placement of traps on the construction site.

Work resumed and Coastal GasLink directed any questions about the matter to the RCMP.

On the road

The fisheries staff from the Office of the Wet’suwet’en stop and talk with members of the RCMP Division Liaison Team on their way to the site.

They’ve been there several times recently and have watched as the bulldozers and excavators level an area where the company plans to build a work camp for construction crews.  

« They’re digging a lot, » Gary Michell says to his brother Brian as they pass workers in hardhats and high visibility vests and the heavy machinery on either side of the forest service road.

Pre-construction work on the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline is underway along the Morice Forest Service Road near Smithers in northern B.C. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

The brothers point out the trapping tents set back from the road, in the snow. This is the area where the trapping equipment was destroyed by the heavy equipment that was clearing the area.

They spot a pile of wooden boxes and traps piled on the side of the road amid tree debris.  

After checking the streams, the brothers drive out where the road ends and point out the signs of another trapper in the area, a pickup truck parked on the side of the road, the trapping sign tacked to a tree and tracks in the snow leading into the bush.

‘Nobody will take responsibility’

Several provincial bodies are involved with fielding the complaints and allegations from the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and their supporters: conservation officers, the oil and gas commission, the environmental assessment office.

A joint investigation into allegations from the Office of the Wet’suwet’en of non-compliance by Coastal GasLink with its permits is underway and said officials visited the area to conduct a site inspection this week.

« It will take some time subsequently to determine whether any non-compliances are evident and, if so, the appropriate enforcement action, » wrote a spokesperson from the province’s Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy.

A man stands at a Coastal GasLink worksite where the company gained access to after receiving an interim injunction from the B.C. Supreme Court in December 2018. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

In an email response to CBC about the recent allegations from the hereditary chiefs, a Coastal GasLink spokesperson wrote: « We are committed to undertaking all work in a safe and respectful manner that minimizes any impacts to traditional activities and meets regulatory requirements.

« We will continue to co-operate with the regulators and address any identified deficiencies. We remain open to dialogue with all stakeholder and First Nations.

A previous complaint against Coastal GasLink from the hereditary chiefs took at least a year to resolve. The chiefs say the complaints began in 2013 but the province said the complaint wasn’t received until January 2018.

Site inspections were carried out last summer and found Coastal GasLink was not in compliance with six of the 23 conditions of its Environmental Assessment Certificate specific to pre-construction.

The Environmental Assessment Office issued a warning to the company and an investigation report posted on Jan. 16 said the company is now in compliance at those sites.

Coastal GasLink says it is on track with pre-construction and construction activities. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

In a statement on its website, Coastal GasLink said it was its understanding « that certain work required prior to construction, such as geotechnical earthworks or the placement of monitoring wells typically and routinely done in advance of construction, was appropriate.

« The inspection has since clarified that these activities fell under the definition of construction. Coastal GasLink has since satisfied all the conditions and is on track with pre-construction and construction activities. »

Knowing the results of the current investigation could take a while, the Office of the Wet’suwet’en wants elected officials in the B.C. government to step in.

Na’Moks said at this point it looks like the different provincial bodies and politicians are busy « trying to point fingers at each other. »

« So they’re going to play the name game for a little bit here and nobody will take responsibility, » he said.

« That’s why the cease and desist must happen. »

The elected and hereditary divide 

Twenty First Nation band councils along the route have signed agreements with Coastal GasLink. Some have been outspoken in their support for the project. But others, particularly currently elected leaders within the Wet’suwet’en, have been less eager to talk about the situation.

From left: Hereditary Chief Smogelgem, Chief Warner Williams, Chief Madeek, Chief Hagwilneghl and Chief Na’Moks speak to media following a meeting with RCMP members and Coastal GasLink representatives to discuss ways of ending the pipeline impasse on Wet’suwet’en land earlier this month. (Chad Hipolito/Canadian Press)

The hereditary chiefs at the Office of the Wet’suwet’en have said the band councils have jurisdiction only over reserve lands, and not over the nation’s 22,000 km of traditional territory that was the focus of a landmark Supreme Court of Canada case.

The plaintiffs in the Delgamuukw case were the hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en and Gitxsan Nations. The Supreme Court’s decision confirmed Aboriginal title to land in British Columbia had never been extinguished, laid out the nature and scope for Aboriginal title, and how to prove such a claim in court. 

The court decision did not however go so far as to decide on the nations’ land claims to their territory and instead recommended a new trial.

Victor Jim is someone who knows the Delgamuukw case intimately. He worked as an interpreter on the case for several years. Jim is also a hereditary chief, former teacher and currently the elected chief in the village of Witset.

Sitting in his office on Friday he is visibly drained talking about everything that’s happened in the last couple of months.

« It’s been pretty hard on me, » he said, mentioning that it’s had an impact on his health. He mentions the names of a couple of close friends from whom he hasn’t heard in recent months.

Jim says he’s been on the receiving end of a lot of criticism and name calling over his council signing an agreement with Coastal GasLink. But he said it’s not right to frame this pipeline conflict as hereditary chiefs vs. elected band councils.

It’s more about the unfinished business between the Crown, province and Wet’suwet’en post-Delgamuukw.

Signs at the Unist’ot’en camp. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

« They need to go back to litigation for jurisdiction and title, and they’ll win it, » he said, in reference to his fellow hereditary chiefs.

« I think if we had ownership and jurisdiction things could have played out a lot differently. You know the governments would realize that they can’t push industry on us if we had title and jurisdiction. »

When it comes to his own band’s agreement with Coastal GasLink, Jim said it came about after they realized the project would go ahead with or without their support.   

« We support [Coastal GasLink], but the way they do business I’m beginning to have my second doubts. You don’t run roughshod over a nation to get what you want as industry, » he said.

He said the band has received some financial benefits from the company already that they plan to put toward language instruction and facilities.

Looking forward, Jim said he hopes someone can take leadership to bring the Wet’suwet’en people together so they can talk about what’s gone on and where things go from here.

Injunction case still before the court

The interim injunction that led to the spotlight on this pipeline and those opposed has yet to go to trial. Coastal GasLink has said the injunction application was a last resort after repeated attempts to gain access to the area past the Unist’ot’en camp.

A group of people hold up signs expressing their solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en outside the constituency office of local MLA Doug Donaldson on Thursday. His office was occupied by a group of people for several hours. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

The named defendants in the case, Freda Huson and hereditary chief Smogelgem, said they’re expected to file their response in court in late February. They haven’t said what their legal strategy will be but they do have the option to file for a counter injunction against Coastal GasLink.

Meanwhile supporters of the Unist’ot’en, Gidimt’en and the Wet’suwet’en continue to organize rallies and actions across the country. On Thursday two people were arrested for mischief after occupying MLA Doug Donaldson’s constituency office in Smithers for several hours.

Those arrested at Gidimt’en in early January are expected to be in court on Monday.

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Pipeline Trans Mountain: au-delà des chiffres

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L’achat du pipeline Trans Mountain par le gouvernement fédéral ne serait jamais allé de l’avant si Ottawa s’était conduit comme une entreprise privée. Il a pris le risque de tenter de mener à terme le projet d’expansion de l’oléoduc parce que d’autres considérations, étrangères à la recherche de profits, ont pesé dans la balance. A-t-il trouvé un juste équilibre ? Là est la question.

Il y a une différence fondamentale entre un gouvernement et une compagnie. Le premier doit prendre en compte le bien commun alors que la seconde n’a d’yeux que pour son bilan comptable et les intérêts de ses actionnaires. Si Ottawa n’avait pas pris la relève de Kinder Morgan, le projet d’expansion de Trans Mountain serait probablement mort et enterré.

Mais dans un rapport rendu public hier, le directeur parlementaire du budget, Yves Giroux, souligne l’importance du risque financier qu’a pris Ottawa en payant 4,4 milliards (le ministre des Finances, Bill Morneau, parle maintenant de 4,1 milliards) pour les infrastructures existantes et le projet d’expansion de Trans Mountain. Si l’agrandissement de l’oléoduc n’aboutit pas, ce qui serait le « pire des scénarios » selon M. Giroux, la valeur des actifs fédéraux chutera de 2 à 2,5 milliards. Rien ne dit qu’on en arrivera là, mais il est à peu près sûr que le projet prendra du retard et que les coûts augmenteront, ce qui entraînera des pertes pouvant atteindre un milliard.

Aucune entreprise privée n’aurait accepté un tel risque. Le gouvernement l’a fait parce qu’il estimait nécessaire, pour des raisons politiques et de politique publique, de garder le projet à flot. De lui dépend l’essor de l’économie albertaine, en particulier de son secteur pétrolier, qui cherche depuis des années à diversifier ses marchés. Si Trans Mountain se matérialisait, calcule-t-on, l’écart entre le prix du brut albertain et le prix mondial rétrécirait, l’économie en profiterait et les gouvernements récolteraient davantage de revenus.

Ottawa a fait ce pari parce qu’il en est capable. « Un gouvernement qui génère à peu près 300 milliards de revenus par année peut se permettre de prendre un risque de 2 à 2,5 milliards », convient M. Giroux. Aux Canadiens, dit-il, de juger si c’est la meilleure utilisation qu’on peut faire des fonds publics.

Et là est le fond de la question. Les libéraux avaient promis d’investir d’abord et avant tout dans les énergies renouvelables, mais leur plus gros investissement énergétique est allé au secteur pétrolier, remettant en question cette conciliation qu’ils disaient possible entre la défense de l’environnement et la poursuite de la croissance économique.

Le secteur pétrolier affirme jouer son avenir à moyen terme, mais à long terme, de quel avenir parle-t-on alors que les bouleversements climatiques secouent déjà la planète ? L’élargissement du pipeline renflouerait les coffres des gouvernements, mais il favoriserait aussi l’expansion des sables bitumineux avec, à la clé, une hausse des émissions de gaz à effet de serre. Les électeurs ne sont pas des actionnaires et ce n’est pas un choix financier qu’ils auront à soupeser l’automne prochain, mais bien la justesse de ce choix gouvernemental.

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Resale value of Trans Mountain pipeline expansion will drop by $700M from year of delay: PBO

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The resale value of the Trans Mountain pipeline project will drop by close to $700 million if it is completed just one year behind schedule.

According to a new report by the Parliamentary Budget Officer that was released Thursday morning, a one-year delay in completion would reduce the value of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project by $693 million, while a spike of 10 per cent in construction costs would lower its value by another $453 million.

Those new findings come amid continued concerns about when stalled construction of the pipeline will resume, and as the Liberal government refuses to set a timeline for when it will complete renewed consultations with Indigenous stakeholders.

READ MORE: Canada’s Trans Mountain purchase is seeing a return of as much as 4.4%

The PBO also noted the government may have paid more than the pipeline is worth when it offered $4.5 billion to buy the existing pipeline and its associated assets, including terminals, from Kinder Morgan last spring.

But while the report pegged the valuation of the pipeline at between $3.6 billion and $4.6 billion, it also noted that it is possible the analysis didn’t take the full scope of the value of the project into account.

WATCH BELOW: Trudeau says Kinder Morgan was walking away from Trans Mountain






“However, PBO’s valuation does not include related assets that were bought as part of the acquisition, including multiple pipeline terminals and the Puget Sound Pipeline,” the report stated.

“Therefore, PBO’s valuation would be understated relative to the total value of all the assets bought as part of the purchase.”

In May 2018, the Liberals announced they would buy the existing pipeline infrastructure for $4.5 billion — not including any of the costs of actually expanding it.

Expanding the pipeline, as Kinder Morgan had initially proposed doing before abandoning the project, has been forecast to cost roughly $9 billion in addition to the purchase price of the existing pipeline and associated assets.

That meant the total cost to taxpayers would be roughly $14 billion.

WATCH BELOW: First Nations look at purchasing Trans Mountain pipeline from feds






According to the government’s fall economic statement last year, it had raked in roughly $70 million in earnings since officially buying the pipeline on Aug. 31.

The 4.4 per cent return seen so far works out to about $200 million per year in earnings, that fiscal statement said.

However, the Liberals have so far failed to find a buyer for the project, which has been mired in regulatory delays, reviews and protests.

A court order stalled construction work on the pipeline last summer, citing problems with the environmental review process done by the former Conservative government and the round of Indigenous consultation done by the Liberals.

While a new marine impact review by the National Energy Board is set to wrap up on Feb. 22, there is still no date for when the government expects to complete the further round of consultations it launched last year with the 117 Indigenous stakeholders along the pipeline route.

There remains no date in sight for when construction on the pipeline will resume.

— More to come … 

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

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Wet’suwet’en complaints about pipeline builder to be probed by government, police

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The British Columbia government says it will inspect the site of a planned natural gas pipeline southwest of Houston following allegations that the company building the project is violating its permits.

Members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation and supporters have alleged that Coastal GasLink is engaging in construction activity without an archeological impact assessment and also destroyed traplines and tents unnecessarily.

The Ministry of Energy, Mines, and Petroleum Resources says in a statement that joint site inspection will be conducted by the province’s Environmental Assessment Office and the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission next week.

« We anticipate that it will take some time subsequently to determine whether any non-compliances are evident and, if so, the appropriate enforcement action, » the ministry said.

The RCMP also said it has received complaints from both the Office of the Wet’suwet’en and Coastal GasLink regarding traplines and the removal of personal property items.

« We are following up on all complaints and continue to facilitate ongoing and direct dialogue between all parties regarding various issues, » the RCMP said.

Gidimt’en say 3 tents bulldozed

Trans Canada-owned Coastal GasLink is working to build a natural gas pipeline from northeastern British Columbia to LNG’s export facility on the coast as part of a $40-billion project.

Members of the Gidimt’en clan of the Wet’suwet’en Nation issued a statement Monday saying the company « wilfully, illegally, and violently destroyed » its property this weekend, while the company said its actions have been permitted and lawful.

Jen Wickham, a member of the Gidimt’en clan, said Coastal GasLink bulldozed three tents constructed with timber and canvas in an area along a logging road not included in the company’s plans.

« CGL workers just tore down all our stuff, threw them in [shipping containers] and said we had until the end of the day to pick them up or they would be thrown in the dump, » she said.

The tents were constructed when members erected a barrier at the same location, where RCMP enforced a court injunction on Jan. 7 and arrested 14 people in a move that sparked protests across Canada and internationally.

Wickham said Wet’suwet’en members told RCMP they wanted the tents to remain to host cultural workshops.

Following the enforcement of the court injunction, a road was plowed around the tents allowing free movement of vehicles.

President of Coastal GasLink pipeline Rick Gateman leaves the Office of the Wet’suwet’en after meeting with RCMP members and hereditary chiefs in Smithers, B.C., on Jan. 10. (Chad Hipolito/Canadian Press)

Coastal GasLink said in a statement that all work it’s doing is « approved and permitted and in full compliance » with its environmental assessment certificate issued by the province and the company has met all required pre-construction conditions.

« These areas are active work zones that are lawful and permitted. Any obstruction impeding our crews from safely accessing these work zones is in contravention of a court order, » Coastal GasLink said.

Traplines in dispute

On Friday, Coastal GasLink said it stopped work in an area closer to its planned work site because traplines had been placed inside construction boundaries and people were entering the site, raising safety concerns.

Jason Slade, a supporter with the nearby Unist’ot’en camp run by Wet’suwet’en members, said Monday that work only halted temporarily and the traplines had been destroyed. He said excavation had begun at the site of a planned « man camp. »

The Unist’ot’en allege the actions violate the Wildlife Act by interfering with lawful trapping, as well as an agreement that the Wet’suwet’en hereditary clan chiefs had reached with RCMP allowing the company access to the area and ensuring traditional practices like trapping could continue.

The clan also alleges it is violating its permits with the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission and Environmental Assessment Office by beginning construction work before an archeological impact assessment has been complete.

In a letter to the commission on Friday, Chief Knedebeas of the Unist’ot’en Clan points to an affidavit filed by a company official in November as part of its court injunction application, saying the assessment is scheduled for May.

Knedebeas asks in the letter that a stop-work order be issued immediately while the allegations are investigated.

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Indigenous convoys slow Ontario highway traffic in solidarity with B.C. pipeline protest

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Two convoys of vehicles slowed traffic on stretches of Canada’s busiest highway Friday morning in Ontario in a show of solidarity with an anti-pipeline protest in British Columbia. 

One rolled westbound from the eastern part of the province, while the other began in southwestern Ontario and headed east. Both left before dawn and disrupted traffic during the morning rush hour.

One fleet left from the Mohawk Nation at Akwesasne, about 86 kilometres southeast of Ottawa, and travelled about 50 km/h as it moved toward Belleville, Ont. People from the Kahnawake Mohawk Territory, just south of Montreal, joined those from Akwesasne.

Provincial police cruisers formed a buffer around the eight trucks and SUVs and surrounding traffic. 

Brandon Bigtree, who was driving one of the vehicles, said the demonstration was to show support for protesters at the Unist’ot’en camp — the site of a fortified checkpoint preventing people set to work on the Coastal GasLink pipeline project from accessing the Wet’suwet’en territory in northern B.C.

Wet’suwet’en and police have agreed to allow the company access to do pre-construction work as specified in an interim injunction order for the time being, following arrests on Monday.

« We’re standing strong with our brothers and sisters out west. What’s going on out there isn’t right, » Bigtree said.

He said Indigenous communities across the country feel the federal government and provinces are failing them.

« We just need to let [the federal government] know that we’re all united. »

Those in the convoy from the Mohawk Nation at Akwesasne are also trying to raise awareness about local governance issues. Some in the community are frustrated with how the elected band council has handled negotiations over a 130-year-old land grievance along the banks of the St. Lawrence River. They are advocating for the nation’s hereditary leadership to play a larger role in the process.

The convoy hopes to make it to ​the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory today. 

A second fleet of vehicles headed east from the Oneida Nation of the Thames in southwestern Ontario. (Submitted by Brandon Doxtator)

Meanwhile, the second convoy left the London area before dawn to slow Highway 401 traffic in the southwestern region of Ontario.

People from the Oneida Nation of the Thames and Chippewa of the Thames First Nation were riding in the dozen vehicles that made up the motorcade. The action caused considerable slowdowns for commuters. 

« We’re doing this rolling blockade as a peaceful reminder to Canadians that First Nation people have rights to the land, » said Brandon Doxtator, who was in one of the vehicles.

The convoy from Oneida was heading to the territory of the Six Nations of the Grand River, south of Brantford, Ont., where a rally was planned for later on Friday.

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Trudeau’s Kamloops town hall combative in wake of pipeline protests

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau faced a combative crowd in Kamloops, B.C. Wednesday night at a public town hall meeting dominated by questions about reconciliation with Indigenous communities and the future of several pipeline projects.

The meeting, staged in a packed university gymnasium, came amid a tense standoff between RCMP and First Nations in northern B.C., which has sparked protests across Canada.

Since Monday the Mounties have been enforcing a court injunction granting workers with the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline project access to a road and bridge from which they had been blocked by opponents of the project.

On Monday, the RCMP entered the first of two blockades and arrested 14 people. Hours before Trudeau’s townhall meeting, Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and RCMP reached a tentative agreement allowing workers access to the pipeline.

Arnie Jack from the Schuswap nation confronted Trudeau about a standoff between RCMP and First Nations in northern B.C. (CBC)

Arnie Jack from the Shuswap nation in the B.C. Interior confronted Trudeau about RCMP actions in northern B.C., saying that without the consent of the people, the Prime Minister would have to « go through us first. »

« You can stand up all the elected chiefs that you want and say that you have consent, but you do not have consent from the people on the ground, and you said yourself that these major projects would not be approved without community consent, » Jack said.

« What you did to the Wet’suwet’en, that’s a national disgrace. »

Trudeau responded by saying there are a broad range of Indigenous perspectives regarding the project.

« We are going to have to work together, » he said amid heckles from the crowd.

« I understand your frustration. »

Trudeau addressed the issue again in a later question, saying the process of reconciliation should not be rushed.

« We’ve gone from a place where Indigenous people were not listened to, were not consulted, were not included, and we are doing a better job of it, » he said.

« If we choose to determine what the right solution is for Indigenous peoples, we’re — however well-meaning we may be — compounding the mistake that has gone on forever. »

Protestors, jokes

The meeting, attended by over 1,000 people, is part of Trudeau’s annual tour of town halls around the country during January, which he describes as an important exercise in democracy. 

Trudeau came face-to-face with demonstrators even before the packed event. Earlier on Wednesday he was met by more than 100 anti- and pro-pipeline demonstrators as he arrived at a Liberal party fundraising luncheon.

One of the most contested topics in Kamloops remains the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, with some adamantly supporting the pipeline because of the jobs it could create, and others opposing it for environmental reasons.  

Indigenous demonstrators stood in support of the Wet’suwet’en people’s pipeline blockades. (Glen Kugelstadt/CBC)

The town hall meeting also had lighter moments —Trudeau was grilled on his problem-plagued India trip in 2018 — to which he replied, « it was a trip that happened. »

He was also asked about his favourite part of being Prime Minister, his favourite part of the day, and at one point, was offered a beer if he would « push the U.S. President off a cliff. »  

Trudeau’s next scheduled town hall meeting is in Regina, Sask. 

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Justin Trudeau talks jobs, economy and pipeline expansion in Kamloops

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is back in British Columbia on Wednesday, flying into Kamloops for a public town hall and fundraising lunch.

Trudeau said he expects jobs and the economy to be at the forefront of the discussion, hosted at Thompson Rivers University.

« That’s one of first things we focused on as a government in terms of growing the economy and creating good jobs, » he said.

« We’ve had good numbers in B.C. particularly, some of the lowest unemployment rates in history in B.C. right now, and across the country. But there are also people who continue to struggle. »

Pipeline protests

One of the most contested topics in Kamloops currently is the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, with some adamantly supporting the pipeline because of the jobs it could create and others opposing it for environmental reasons.  

Trudeau said he’s confident about keeping the peace around the pipeline debate.

« Most people understand that we need to both create good jobs for the future and protect our environment at the same time, » he told Shelley Joyce, the host of CBC’s Daybreak Kamloops.

« Getting those two things done together is a bit of careful navigating … and that’s exactly what we’re focused on. »

RCMP officers approach the barricade at the Gidimt’en camp in northern B.C. Members of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation have been preventing company workers from getting through their checkpoints, asserting they can only pass if they have consent from hereditary leaders. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

Trudeau said he’s not happy with the police response to recent protests about an LNG pipeline project in northern B.C. RCMP moved in to remove protestors and have made a number of arrests.

« It’s not an ideal situation, » said Trudeau.

« A hundred years ago, if the government decided ‘Well, the railway is going here,’ nobody was consulted and the government could just do this. That’s not how we do things anymore and that’s now how we should do things. »

Elder Carmen Nikal speaks at a rally in Smithers, B.C., Tuesday. She was among 14 people arrested Monday at the Gidimt’en camp for defying an injunction. She was released overnight but the others were held in custody. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

Trudeau said he isn’t planning to visit the northern pipeline protest on this trip to B.C.

« One of the things that is really important is to try to reduce the temperature a little bit and sometimes engaging in that way is actually raising the political attention and the stakes, » he said.

‘Exercise in democracy’ 

Trudeau’s visit to Kamloops is part of his annual tour of town halls around the country during January, which he describes as an important exercise in democracy.

He emphasized that it’s a chance for British Columbians to express their concerns, give feedback and share their opinions.

« It’s an opportunity for Canadians to come out and ask questions to the Prime Minister  — there’s no vetting, no entrance fee. Anyone who wants to show up can show up, » he said.

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Why there won’t be an Alberta sales tax any time soon, and who to blame for provincial pipeline paralysis

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In a year-end interview with the CBC, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley ruled out the idea of introducing a provincial sales tax (PST), saying it’s not a conversation she’s interested in having while trying to get the provincial economy back on track.

Notley sat down with CBC Calgary News at 6‘s Rob Brown and talked about the state of the economy, the impact of carbon pricing, who to blame for the pipeline paralysis and the upcoming 2019 provincial election campaign.

What she didn’t talk about was how much fuel consumption has decreased since the implementation of the carbon tax, and whether she regrets putting all her eggs in the Trans-Mountain pipeline basket.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Q: Albertans are very angry right now. Who do you think they should hold responsible for the fact that construction [on the Trans Mountain pipeline] hasn’t started yet?

A: There’s a number of different factors. It’s been almost 70 years since we’ve gotten a pipeline built to Canadian tidewater. You probably heard me talk about it when I was at the Canadian first ministers meeting in Montreal a couple weeks ago. It’s as if Canadian political leaders both federally and provincially, for the last 10 to 15 years, sat around and watched this car crash happening in slow motion, and they sat back and politely admired the problem without actually digging in to find a fix.

  • Watch an extended version of CBC News’ interview with Premier Notley above

We know the obvious barrier to getting Trans Mountain built is the decision of the Court of Appeal — and they identified different problems: the direction of the previous federal government to the NEB [National Energy Board] to exclude consideration of marine safety, and the failure of the current federal government to engage in appropriate consultations with Indigenous people.

As the people of Alberta, we just sit by the wayside and pull our hair out, and get increasingly frustrated — particularly now — because we’ve got the [price] differential blowing out.

Q: You’ve been focused on the prime minister lately, and used much sharper language in describing him. Any regrets about going all in on the Trudeau/Trans Mountain basket? And giving in on Gateway and Energy East?

A: I wouldn’t put it that way. We worked very hard on Line 3, on Keystone, and, as you know, with Trans Mountain.

Gateway was pretty much over by the time we got elected, because the court’s review of it was a great deal more scathing and the fix for it much more complicated than what we’re dealing with Trans Mountain.

Premier Rachel Notley announces at a news conference her government wants expressions of interest from private companies wanting to build an oil refinery in Alberta. (David Bajer/CBC)

And of course, with Energy East, I’m very frustrated — like all Albertans are — that we can’t function more like a country in terms of supplying our product to Canadians. But I do think we need to continue to have that conversation about shipping our products east. That’s one of the reasons we’ve been raising concerns about Bill C-69.

Q: As a province, we’re still riding the economic ups and downs of the royalty roller-coaster. You’ve spoken in the past about how we need to have a conversation about a PST [provincial sales tax].

A: No, no,  no — I haven’t been talking about that.

Q: Your exact quote is: « In the long term, is this a conversation we need to have? I think it is — but not right now. It needed to happen in the context of a government needing a mandate. »

Is this something you want Albertans talking about in the coming campaign?

A: No. Not at all.

Q: Why not?

A: Because we are working really hard to bring Alberta through a recovery and to get our oil and gas industry back on its feet — and to do a lot of other work that we have been doing to promote diversification and economic development.

Now is not the time to bring something like that in.

Instead, what we need to do is carry on with what we have been doing, and on some fronts it has been successful.

Before we got to the point, in August, of the Federal Court of Appeal decision, Alberta was leading the country in economic growth this year. It led the country in economic growth last year, creating well over 100,000 jobs since the depth of the depression.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said it’s not the right time to have a conversation about introducing a provincial sales tax to Alberta, in a year-end interview with CBC’s Rob Brown. (CBC News)

Q: Introducing a PST could address that. So if not now, when it’s so acutely needed, then when?

A: I don’t think you take that kind of money out of the economy when the economy is struggling.

Right now, it’s just not on my horizon.

My horizon is for our economy to get to a point where it has actually recovered, where people who have lost their jobs have work again, and where they feel confident and secure in that employment. That’s absolutely our focus right now.

Q: Are you tax adverse because of the backlash you’ve seen with the carbon tax?

A: No. It’s really about what the economy can handle. For instance, If you look over at Saskatchewan, they took a much different approach. They took a very austerity-based approach to their public services and then they extended their sales tax — which is not insignificant —  to construction, out of the blue, and we’ve seen their growth diminish quite significantly.

That doesn’t work to build the economy. And so we’re focused on building the economy.

Q: We’ve had two years with a provincial carbon tax. What kind of decline in fuel consumption have we seen in Alberta in those two years?

A: I would have to get back to you on that. Because, of course, it’s related to economic activity as well. So you’ve got a lot of different things going on at the same time.

Q: Do you know if we’ve had a decrease in car emissions during that time?

A: I honestly can’t tell you right now because I wasn’t prepped for that. What I can say is just yesterday, through our CLP [climate leadership plan], we had our second and third auctions for renewable energy. And in doing that, we’ve now managed to bring in enough renewable energy — electricity — to power 300,000 homes in Alberta, to create 1,000 jobs, and to do so less expensively than anywhere else in North America

In the last 12 months, through our climate leadership plan, and the carbon pricing it generates, we’ve tripled the amount of renewable energy being used in Alberta in 12 months. As opposed to the amount of renewable energy being used in Alberta over the previous 20 years. So we’re doing some good work there.

Q: British Columbia measured fuel decrease — and in the first five years, they saw, I think, a 16% decrease. I can appreciate you don’t have those numbers at hand, but wouldn’t they be top of mind so you can explain to Albertans, in two years, that we’ve made this much of a difference in cutting emissions from vehicles? Are you not getting those numbers?

A:  We may have been, Rob, but there’s other things that have been going on: the economy was picking up, and so that’s a factor [with emissions] that you have to take into account.

As you know, our carbon pricing at this point still — as a portion of the fuel cost — is still very very small. But at the same time, what we are doing is we’re able to look at other things we’re doing — other projects we’re funding through it. That’s why I’m telling you about the renewable energy piece, which is a very direct, measurable thing.

We’ve also been able to dedicate funds toward the phasing out of coal. And as you can imagine, going from being the single biggest coal producer in the country — the rest of the country doesn’t produce as much coal combined as we do in Alberta — we’re well on track to be completely off coal by 2030.

That is going to bring about measurable reductions. There’s a lot of things we can look at.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley arrives at the first ministers’ meeting in Montreal on Dec. 7, 2018. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

Q: Your party is trailing provincially. You’re ahead in Edmonton but behind in Calgary. Do you think you can win the next election without winning Calgary?

A: I think Calgary is absolutely fundamentally important … but we’re not into the election campaign yet. We’re still focused on doing things like governing the province, which we were elected to do, and that’s why we’ve been focused so much on work around the energy industry, the curtailment, the rail, pushing for more upgrading here in Alberta and more diversification like the announcement I made today.

The fact is, when we get to the campaign — I’m looking forward to it — I think when you get to the actual election, it turns into a choice between two options, and I’m looking forward to that debate.

Q: Your personal approval numbers are higher than your party’s. Does that keep you up at night? Do you feel like you’re carrying a burden?

A: Not at all. At the end of the day, polls are an interesting snapshot in time. The campaign is where people make their decisions. You get a chance to talk to folks about what your record is, what your vision for the future is, and to present that with as much honesty and integrity as you can — and that’s when we’ll have those conversations.

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Calgary city council wades into pipeline debate – Calgary

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Calgary city council is getting vocal in supporting Alberta’s oil and gas industry.

On Thursday, Ward Sutherland was the first of city council to release a short video outlining his support for the industry as well as explaining the positive benefits of Alberta oil.

“We got together as a team, we filmed different segments to talk about the positive parts of the oil industry,” Sutherland said. “Those videos are going to get released every couple of days from all the councillors, everybody is participating, so it’s a total team effort.”

Each councillor put forward $500 from their ward offices to fund the series of videos.

In addition to the videos, members of city council will be attending a pro-pipeline rally on Monday outside city hall, hosted by Canada Action; a volunteer group that encourages Canadians to support Canada’s natural resources sector.

“We’re going to make some announcements that council is going to decide on Monday morning on what we can do as a council, because we’re very limited at a municipal level.” Sutherland said.


READ MORE:
Calgary councillor submits motion urging city to support Alberta’s energy industry

According to officials, the initiative with Canada Action is separate from a motion introduced by Councillor Jeromy Farkas last week that calls on the city to advocate and support oil and gas, as well as the construction of pipelines.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi said Alberta’s current economic situation is a problem that needs to be fixed, and said Calgary has had a role in the pipeline debate.

“I have been in Montreal and Vancouver and Quebec City; I’ve made speeches in English and in French advocating for people to understand the importance of pipelines,” Mayor Nenshi, said. “We are certainly in no way new to this game.”

But one expert believes that at the municipal level, the city won’t have much influence in the debate because pipelines fall within provincial and federal jurisdictions.

“I think what they’re doing by voicing their support is much more of a showing solidarity, adding political support to actions taken by the government,” economist Trevor Tombe, said.

“But there’s nothing the municipal government can do to influence pipeline construction one way or the other.”


READ MORE:
Expert panel doubts curtailment will help western Canadian oil prices after Jan. 1

This as frustration continues to mount over a lack of an immediate solution to the province’s oil price differential. The provincial government has announced an 8.7 per cent cut to oil production starting Jan. 1, 2019, as well as their interest in the construction of a refinery — a project that could take nearly a decade to build.

“Thinking of the next 12 months, there’s really not much we can do,” University of Calgary School of Public Policy economist Kent Fellows told Global News,

“We need to think about what this market looks like in December 2019 and how we want to get from here to there — and I think curtailment is probably the best and only short term thing that can be operational to do this properly.”

In the meantime, the Alberta government is trying to raise awareness through TV and radio ads to create a sense of urgency across Canada. Premier Rachel Notley even tweeting a video of the province’s lost-revenue ticker being projected on a building across the street from a federal Liberal Party Christmas event in Ottawa on Wednesday night.

READ MORE: Alberta government brings up pipeline issue with projection prank at Liberals’ Christmas party in Ottawa

“When people don’t care in other provinces, how are we going to convince them?” Haskayne School of Business professor Robert Schulz, said. “I think everyone is trying their best but I think it’s going to be a personal sell.”

Schulz believes its up to the public to reach out to relatives and friends in other provinces to raise awareness of the situation in Alberta.

The city’s pro-pipeline rally is at 12:15 p.m. inside city hall on the southside of council chambers.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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