February 4, 2016 / 2:21 AM / 2 years ago

UPDATE 1-Canada government to fast track infrastructure investments in Alberta

(Adds details from press conference, background on pipelines)

By Euan Rocha and Nia Williams

CALGARY, Feb 3 (Reuters) - Canada is committed to fast-tracking infrastructure investments in the province of Alberta that is reeling from the global slump in energy prices, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Wednesday.

Canada stands ready to provide up to C$250 million to the province in the form of advance fiscal stabilization payments, said Trudeau, who spoke at a news conference with Alberta Premier Rachel Notley.

“We know these are challenging times for Alberta and Albertans, and I reiterate that the government of Canada is committed to being there for the people of this province,” he said.

Trudeau said that he and Notley agreed Canada must get Alberta’s resources to market in responsible and sustainable ways, but he stopped short of stating his government would back TransCanada’s Corp’s Energy East pipeline project, in the event that it clears the National Energy Board’s review.

Energy East, which would take up to 1.1 million barrels of oil per day from Alberta and Saskatchewan to Canada’s east coast, faces increasing problems as environmental and aboriginal groups ramp up protests.

Last month, the influential mayor of Montreal and leaders representing 81 nearby municipalities said that they opposed the project because of environmental and economic concerns.

TransCanada and Alberta’s landlocked oil sands industry are looking to it to reach international markets after President Barack Obama rejected TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline project to the United States last year.

Trudeau blamed the lack of movement on pipeline projects on his predecessor Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, which had been in power for nearly a decade before Trudeau took office in late 2015.

The Conservatives had argued strongly in favour of Keystone XL, but Trudeau said their approach had marginalized community concerns and ignored environmental science, leading to a lack of headway on pipeline projects.

“A responsible government is a referee that ensures a level playing field so that everyone understands what is going on, and is not simply a cheerleader for projects because cheerleaders do not score goals, and for 10 years nothing got built,” he said. (Reporting by Nia Williams and Euan Rocha; Editing by Sandra Maler and Andrew Hay)

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