Canadian government rejects most Senate amendments to major projects bill
By Nia Williams and Allison Lampert
CALGARY, Alberta/MONTREAL, June 12 (Reuters) - Canada's Liberal government has rejected most of the amendments proposed by Conservative senators to a bill that will overhaul how major projects like oil pipelines are assessed, a move criticized by Canada's main crude-producing province, Alberta.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government introduced Bill C-69 to fulfill a 2015 election pledge to streamline and restore trust in Canada's environmental approval process for major projects.
The legislation in its original form was fiercely opposed by the oil industry and a number of provincial governments including Alberta, which argued it would deter investment and kill new projects. Last week a Senate committee voted to approve the legislation, but with 187 amendments.
In a motion posted overnight on Tuesday, the government said it will accept 62 amendments, most of which were proposed by independent senators. It will modify another 37.
Nearly all the amendments proposed by Conservative senators were rejected.
"The Conservative changes would take us backwards, increase polarization and ironically, make it harder to get good projects built," Canada's Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna said. "That is why we rejected 90% of the Conservative amendments."
The Liberal-controlled House of Commons will debate Bill C-69 later on Wednesday before voting on whether to approve the revisions. The legislation will then return to the Senate.
Canada holds the world's third-largest crude reserves but has faced years of regulatory delays in getting new export pipelines build, leading to crude getting bottlenecked in Alberta and trading at a discount to global oil benchmarks.
The Liberal government is due to decide next week whether to approve the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
Trudeau's cabinet originally approved the project in 2016 but that decision was overturned by Canada's Federal Court of Appeal, which ruled regulators had failed to consider marine impacts and the government had not adequately consulted indigenous groups.
Alberta's conservative premier Jason Kenney criticized the government's decision to accept only a third of the amendments. Last week he urged the Liberals to pass the bill with all 187 Senate recommendations.
"We will make one last appeal to the federal government to listen to employers, to many First Nations, to provincial and territorial governments, and to the Senate of Canada in adopting those constructive amendments," Kenney told reporters in Montreal.
Some environmental groups praised the motion for preserving many of the safeguards promised by Trudeau in the 2015 election.
"The Senate amendments would have gutted Bill C-69," said Anna Johnston, lawyer at West Coast Environmental Law Association.
(Additional reporting by Kelsey Johnson and David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Dan Grebler and Susan Thomas)
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