The climate issue came up in almost every question Mr. Morneau faced, particularly about the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, an issue that has been highly contentious over the past two years. As of Friday, he has given the green light to a new bitumen pipeline to pump more oil through Alberta’s tar sands, but his government hasn’t officially approved the expansion. Mr. Morneau was asked repeatedly about the report by the National Energy Board, which found the project would not result in significant environmental risks.
“We didn’t disagree with the NEB report or its conclusions,” Mr. Morneau told reporters. “We simply do not accept the premise that we must allow this pipeline to go ahead at all costs. … We recognize the problem that some of you are potentially facing and we want to address it.”
Mr. Morneau apologized to Indigenous people who would have to live near or rely on the new pipeline. One person in the audience asked if the government would create a department specifically to respond to the harms that Aboriginal people would suffer as a result of the pipeline. Mr. Morneau said it would look at “practical ways to address that for people on First Nations and Metis peoples.”
Mr. Morneau also defended his government’s climate policy in general. “You are going to see more expensive options and, quite frankly, you should expect that if we’re going to reduce emissions on a global scale, some of these solutions are going to be more expensive. And that is fact,” he said. “In that instance, I would actually say ‘thank you.’ The incremental cost is actually less, in aggregate, compared to what it would be without such policies.”