POLITICS
09/04/2018 15:17 EDT | Updated 09/04/2018 15:23 EDT

Liberal MPs Block Bid For Morneau, Sohi To Face Trans Mountain Grilling

An emergency meeting of the natural resources committee was a bit of a snoozer.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau appears at the Commons committee on the statutory review of the Proceeds of Crime and Terrorist Financing Act in Ottawa on June 20, 2018.
Patrick Doyle/CP
Finance Minister Bill Morneau appears at the Commons committee on the statutory review of the Proceeds of Crime and Terrorist Financing Act in Ottawa on June 20, 2018.

Liberal MPs have shut down an opposition attempt to have two senior ministers grilled over the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project before Parliament resumes later this month.

Members of the natural resources committee met in Ottawa Tuesday for an emergency summer meeting, days after the Federal Court of Appeal overturned Ottawa's approval of the contentious expansion. The meeting was called at the request of three Conservative MPs and one New Democrat.

Despite the hype, the event was a bit of a snoozer.

Tory natural resources critic Shannon Stubbs put forward a motion calling for Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi to each appear before the committee for one hour, no later than this Thursday.

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Stubbs also wanted six full meetings dedicated to studying the federal government's actions on Trans Mountain, with a full report released in November.

But five Liberal MPs on the Grit-stacked committee voted down her motion with little debate.

Liberal MP Marc Serré told the committee that the government needs time to review the court decision and determine next steps. He said the government remains confident that he Trans Mountain expansion, something he called an "investment in Canada's future," will be built.

Serré repeated the finance minister's line that the Liberals inherited a "flawed" environmental review process from the previous Conservative government, and jabbed Tories for not getting pipelines built "to tidewater."

'It's been crickets'

Morneau and Sohi must explain why the government bought the pipeline, which runs from near Edmonton to Burnaby, B.C., and expansion assets from Kinder Morgan for $4.5 billion in the face of such legal risk, Stubbs said.

"So far it's been crickets," she said.

Tory finance critic Pierre Poilievre also made an appearance to blast what he called a "monstrous Liberal boondoggle." Since taxpayers are footing the bill, MPs represent the "shareholders," he said.

"And we want a shareholder meeting because management has failed," he said.

NDP natural resources critic Richard Cannings said last week's rulings show Liberals made "no attempt" to meaningfully consult with Indigenous communities before giving the Trans Mountain project the greenlight in 2016.

He also noted how the court said the National Energy Board had not adequately considered the impact an expanded pipeline and increased tanker traffic would have on the British Columbia coast.

B.C. MP Nathan Cullen called the purchase the "the greatest swindle in private-public history." Liberals, he said, "don't seem to have much in the way of responses."

Stubbs later said it was "shameful" that Liberals on the committee did not vote to have Morneau and Sohi provide answers, suggesting they are covering for their colleagues.

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Before the meeting, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh told reporters that Liberals need to cut their losses, abandon the project, and overhaul the review process for resource projects.

Public money should instead go to clean energy projects that "create good jobs for today and for tomorrow," he said.

MPs return to Parliament on Sept. 17.

With files from The Canadian Press