Feds restart Indigenous pipeline consultations, stoke caution from First Nations

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Premier Rachel Notley says Ottawa's constitutional duty to consult with Indigenous people means there can't be a hard deadline placed on the additional consultation on the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion.

He said the government will make "a honest effort to listen, consult and offer accommodation where those accommodations are possible", but accommodation does not mean Indigenous communities opposed to the project will have authority to halt it.

The latest phase of consultation was announced Wednesday by Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi.

The government is hiring former Supreme Court of Canada justice Frank Iacobucci to oversee a new round of consultations with affected Indigenous communities.

"It couldn't be more frustrating", Auspice Capital founder and chief investment officer Tim Pickering said, adding he's angry that while the discount for Canadian crude has crossed US$40 per barrel, progress seems slow on adding a pipeline to the West Coast to fix the problem. "It can not be defined by an arbitrary timeline".

"Our government does not agree with the decision of the federal government to not pursue an appeal of the original decision", she said Wednesday.

Notley expressed frustration that avenue has been closed as it could have served as the government's backup plan.

Notley says the government should keep all options - including an appeal - open. "Or to put it another way, you don't lock up your tool box when you haven't finished the job and the job's not finished yet".

Jason Kenney, leader of the Opposition United Conservatives, said Notley has failed to follow up on her promise to hold federal "feet to the fire" and get the court decision appealed.

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He criticized her for offering "empty words" in response.

NDP MP Romeo Saganash questioned whether the government could call the consultations meaningful when it is adamant the pipeline expansion proceed.

Kenney said he thinks the chances pipeline construction will resume before the spring election are "very slim".

"The federal government should not have pre-determined the amount of time the NEB should take". She offered her oft-repeated assertion that the pipeline will be built.

The B.C. government has filed to register as an intervenor in the National Energy Board's reconsideration of aspects of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

Newman said it is possible that consultation between Ottawa and affected First Nations could run simultaneously with the new NEB review but "others might have a different view on that".

"I think Albertans can be forgiven for being extremely frustrated with the way the federation is working right now", she said.

Construction is expected to start immediately as all the required approvals have been granted.

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