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Morneau talks Teck, coronavirus in Calgary visit

Last Updated Feb 10, 2020 at 2:36 pm MDT

Minister of Finance Bill Morneau speaks at a Economic Club breakfast in Calgary, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol

CALGARY (660 NEWS) — Less than a month since he was last in the city, Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau was in Calgary once again on Monday.

This time speaking to the Economic Club of Canada, Morneau’s visit comes amid concern from the provincial government around the fate of the proposed Teck Frontier oilsands mine project in northern Alberta.

Also, Morneau was asked about how the government is preparing for any impacts relating to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

A decision from the Liberal Party cabinet is expected some time this month around the Teck project, but Morneau was mostly vague when asked by reporters.

“I know that people are paying close attention to the Teck Frontier project,” Morneau said. “We are going through a process — which has been a robust process — that will culminate in a cabinet decision on the project. We’ve not yet come to that decision, it’s not yet come to cabinet formally, so for that reason I don’t anything more to say about that project at this time.”

RELATED: Ottawa launches consultations on Indigenous ownership of Trans Mountain pipeline

The minister indicated there are still more consultations going on with indigenous communities that may be impacted by the project, as they also look to address any concerns around greenhouse gas emissions.

“We want to see if there’s a way to ensure economic opportunity for all the peoples impacted along the route. And then we want to more broadly think about this as part of our overall reconciliation agenda. We have to do that while considering the ongoing commercial viability of the project and the benefits to all Canadians,” he added. “It’s a complicated process, but one that we are engaged in and the only way you can get there is if you continue to have these discussions — which by definition need to have some sort of time limit, I just don’t have that time limit at this stage yet.”

He said the government is also keeping a close watch on pipeline protests in the country, notably the opposition to the Coastal GasLink project in British Columbia which has involved raids conducted by the RCMP on camps representing solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en First Nation.

“I have been encouraged to see the law enforcement professionals dealing with this in an appropriate manner, and we will continue to advocate for a lawful approach to dealing with issues of disagreement.”

After Morneau discussed Teck, Premier Jason Kenney also tweeted that he has sent a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about the project.

In the four-page missive, Kenney says Trudeau and the cabinet should “put evidence above politics” and approve the project, adding that Teck has made solid promises over mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and proper consultation is being done with indigenous groups.

Kenney said a negative decision would send signals of uncertainty to the international investment community and “raise roiling Western alienation to a boiling point.”

RELATED: Teck Frontier mine not a ‘political gift’ from Ottawa: Alberta minister

Also in his round of questioning, Morneau responded to queries over how the coronavirus is impacting Canada.

He said while the risk to individual Canadians’ health is low, there may be impacts felt in other ways.

“There’s going to be impacts on tourism, on the oil sector, on supply chains, and we need to understand those. In the Canadian context, we’re in a good position. Our economy is strong, and we want to make sure that we remain resilient in the face of any challenge,” Morneau said.

However, at the same time, it is hard to quantify the exact financial or social impact and it could be unpredictable as the scale of the outbreak continues to grow.

“Like tension in parts of the world because of geopolitical issues, like things we can’t necessarily see around the corner. That’s why our government is going to remain fiscally responsible so that we can deal with those challenges as they come.”