Is Trudeau announcement a softening up for pipeline approval?

Canada’s Liberal government on Monday announced a five-year commitment to fund a national Oceans Protection Plan (OPP). Prime minister Justin Trudeau told a gathering at the Royal Canadian Navy’s HMCS Discovery facility in Stanley Park that the “historic” announcement would finally make Canada a “world leader” in marine safety.

However, some environmentalists said this was a clear signal that the government would approve a pipeline from Alberta’s oil sands to the Pacific Coast. The government will announce by December 19th at the latest, whether to approve the C$6.8bn Kinder Morgan oil sands pipeline expansion.

Trudeau said the the OPP would cost C$1.5bn (US$1.1bn) over five years, but, despite being asked three times by reporters about what this meant for the pipeline, he declined to give a direct response.

Critics claim that the pipeline would lead to more tanker shipping and therefore increase the chances of an accident.

Trudeau said that the government would make shipping safer by providing better charting in key areas of high traffic, opening new radar sites and increasing the size of an industry fund that pays compensation for spills.

The provincial government of British Columbia has laid down five conditions which must be met before it allows pipelines to be built on its territory. One of these is that the federal government in Ottawa has to upgrade its ability to tackle oil spills.

The expanded pipeline would carry mainly heavy crude, most of which would be loaded onto tankers at Kinder Morgan’s Vancouver marine terminal.