Canada can build pipelines in a way that is ecologically responsible and the Trans Mountain expansion project is ready for construction, according to a former federal minister of the environment.

“We can do it right,” said Jean Charest in an interview with BNN Bloomberg on Wednesday. “But we need to clearly say from the beginning that these are projects we want to do, ‘A,’ and ‘B,’ do them at conditions that are acceptable."

Charest served as minister of the environment under former prime minister Brian Mulroney from 1991 to 1993 before becoming the federal leader of the federal Progressive Conservative Party of Canada.

“I think we’re there now with Trans Mountain,” he added. “We’ve gone through all the court processes, the assessments. We’re there now. Let’s do it. Put the shovels in the ground.”

The federal government reapproved the expansion project – which it purchased from Kinder Morgan Canada Ltd. for $4.5 billion in May 2018 amid mounting regulatory delays and political pressure - on Tuesday. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters on Tuesday that “it doesn't make economic or environmental sense to sell any resource at a discount.”

Charest, who is currently a partner at McCarthy Tetrault LLP and was also premier of Quebec from 2003 to 2012, agreed that Canada has to broaden its customer base for its natural resources.

“We are literally prisoners to a single market in the United States,” he said. “We’re losing a lot of value in selling our products to this market that we’re under at a price that would be much higher if we had access to shores and could sell it to [other] countries, and Trans Mountain is part of that.”

Charest added that getting more of Canada’s natural resources overseas could help mitigate carbon emissions worldwide.

“Pipelines, in terms of transportation, [are] one of the ways of doing it safely, reducing carbon footprint, moving the products to market,” he said.

“Think of gas, for example, that we can sent to Asia, that would reduce [carbon dioxide] emissions if it replaces coal thermal plants in places like China. That’s a real gain for the environment.”