An honest report from the Ministerial Panel (November 1, 2016)

Part 6 in a series of 18 discussion papers

A third process, the Ministerial Panel on the Trans Mountain Pipeline, was a final government “process” that was appointed in March of 2016, shortly before the government’s final decision approving this project. Members of the public were permitted to attend a series of public meetings in Alberta and British Columbia, to express their concerns about what issues and evidence had been overlooked, or inadequately dealt with, during the first two processes – or to express their support for the project. But the three panel members had no powers to call evidence, or to make findings, or draw any conclusions about the emissions implications of the project. Its mandate was to listen to members of the public. It was not allowed to make any recommendations.

To its immense credit, and despite its complete lack of any formal inquiry powers, the Ministerial Panel found a way to make a series of significant findings. The Panel said this at page 46 of their report:

Our role was not to propose solutions, but to identify important questions that, in the circumstances, remain unanswered.

The first “high-level question” that “remains unanswered”, according to the three panel members, was whether the growth of emissions that will result from building the Trans Mountain pipeline can be reconciled with Canada’s climate change commitments, which include our 2030 reduction target. In its report released on November 1, 2016, the panel stated the unanswered question this way:

Can construction of the new Trans Mountain Pipeline be reconciled with Canada’s climate change commitments?

Ministerial Panel Report, November 1, 2016, p. 46

The Ministerial Panel unanimously concluded that this important question “remained unanswered”. The Ministerial Panel’s report was delivered to the government on November 1, 2016. Four weeks later, the cabinet announced its decision approving the two pipelines – without any public comment on the unanswered question.