OTTAWA — Elizabeth May issued a strongly worded statement Wednesday calling the government's decision to blame British Columbia for delaying Kinder Morgan's pipeline expansion "shameful."
The Green Party leader responded to Finance Minister Bill Morneau's announcement that the government is willing to provide indemnity to investors if the Texas-based company pulls out of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project due to delays related to a B.C. government court case.
"Subsidizing big oil at this point in the process is not surprising, but blaming Premier Horgan is plain shameful," May said.
She criticized the government for following "Harper-style politics" by offering a "blank cheque" to cover losses suffered from energy companies. The Saanich-Gulf Islands MP called the financial gesture a "spectacular violation" of a key Liberal election plank.
The Liberals campaigned in 2015 on a promise to "phase out subsidies to the fossil fuel industry over the medium-term." And though Canada reaffirmed that pledge alongside other G20 nations in 2016, the federal government has yet to assuage environmental groups it's on track to follow through on that promise.
A report released by 12 of the country's largest environmental groups last week concluded that the government needs to make "significant improvements" in order to phase out fossil fuel subsidies.
"The federal government has not yet defined, reviewed or publicly released a list or assessment of its remaining fossil fuel subsidies, nor does it have a plan to achieve its commitment to the G20 to phase-out fossil fuel subsidies by 2025," the report read.
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The environmental groups chastised the Liberals for refusing to release relevant information "that would have allowed the Auditor General of Canada to complete an audit of this commitment in 2017."
May warned that Kinder Morgan "is taking the Liberal party for a ride" as well as Canadians.
The outspoken MP was arrested in March after she joined protesters demonstrating outside a Kinder Morgan terminal site in Burnaby, B.C. She faces criminal-contempt charges for her participation in the protest.
NDP MP Kennedy Stewart was also arrested, but he pleaded guilty and was fined $500.
May is scheduled to appear in court on May 28.
Morneau calls B.C. premier's actions 'unconstitutional'
The finance minister laid significant blame on B.C. NDP Premier John Horgan on Wednesday for delaying the $7.4-billion construction project.
"We find ourselves in a situation where a project that's been federally and provincially approved is being thwarted by Premier Horgan," said Morneau, accusing the B.C. government of creating "uncertainty" over the fate of the pipeline.
"We believe that what Premier Horgan has done is unconstitutional. It's a federal jurisdiction and we are in this situation – we're here today because this is a project that's been provincially and federally approved."
Morneau stressed the economic viability of the project, repeating that the expansion of Trans Mountain is in the best interest of Canadians, so much so that the government is "willing to provide indemnity to make sure it gets done."
He suggested there are "plenty" of interested investors willing to take on the project.
Watch: Morneau says feds would back new Trans Mountain investors
During the press conference a reporter asked Morneau how the government can claim another private investor is willing to step in to twin an existing pipeline already owned by Kinder Morgan.
Morneau didn't offer a complete answer to the question, repeating that the project offers a "significant economic opportunity" and jobs.
"We think it provides economic opportunity obviously for our broader economy because we're able to get better prices for our resources," he said.
B.C.'s NDP government filed a reference case in provincial court last month asking for a ruling on whether it has the authority to pass legislation to make companies apply for permits for projects that would increase the transport of bitumen within its boundaries.
Horgan campaigned last year on the promise that the party would use "every tool in the toolbox" to halt the Kinder Morgan expansion project.
There are fundamental challenges to that project that he well knows. B.C. Premier John Horgan
B.C.'s premier responded to Morneau's comment by calling him a "Toronto-based finance minister," according to CBC News.
Speaking to reporters, Horgan called Morneau's blame "rhetoric and hyperbole on his part." He added, "There are fundamental challenges to that project that he well knows."
Seven First Nations have also filed their own legal challenges over the pipeline project in the Federal Court of Appeal.
The finance minister made no comment on its willingness to offer indemnity for investors over delays related to those specific court cases.