Canada's Trudeau leaves room for oil pipelines to gain local approval

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a news conference with aboriginal leaders on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Canada, December 16, 2015. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Canada’s government sounded another note of opposition to a proposed oil pipeline in the country’s west coast, though he appeared to leave the door open to allowing proponents to acquire the needed local approval for projects to go ahead.

The newly elected Liberal government campaigned on a promise to toughen up the environmental review process for oil pipelines and has voiced its opposition to Enbridge Inc’s Northern Gateway pipeline.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reiterated that stance on Thursday, telling reporters, “I’ve been saying for years that the Great Bear Rainforest is no place for an oil pipeline, (and) that continues to be my position.”

Oil would travel through parts of the Great Bear Rainforest as part of the planned pipeline from Alberta to British Columbia.

“We need to be consulting with communities; we need to be partnering with indigenous peoples; we need to be reassuring Canadians that the science and environmental impact and the risks are being properly monitored,” Trudeau told reporters.

“However, we do need to continue to allow processes ... underway where proponents of a broad range of projects can attempt to acquire the social license that simply was not available, even as a theoretical option, over the past years,” he added.

Canada’s energy minister said in an interview earlier this month that Canada will give aboriginal groups more say in discussions over natural resource projects located on their territory, which should help pave the way for major pipelines and mines.

Reporting by Julie Gordon in Vanvouver; writing by Leah Schnurr in Ottawa