Two stories in the the Globe and Mail caught my eye:
The first one says that “Some New Democrats with ties to the Alberta government say [newly elected national NDP leader Jagmeet] Singh appears to have decided he can win seats in British Columbia by standing with its NDP Premier John Horgan in opposing pipeline development. Conversely, they say, Mr. Singh has calculated – rightly or wrongly – that it will be difficult for him to make gains in heavily conservative Alberta regardless of what position he takes on the issue. So the political math says side with B.C;” and
The second one says that “The [recent elected British Columbia NDP] government [which opposes bringing Alberta oil to tidewater] believes B.C.’s fledgling LNG sector “has an important role to play,” Ms. Mungall said in a statement on Saturday night. “Despite the changes in the marketplace, we believe there is still an opportunity for B.C.’s LNG industry in the long term” … [but] … The NDP emphasizes that LNG projects must meet conditions, such as working in partnership with Indigenous groups and respecting the province’s commitments to fighting climate change. “Our government has initiated a comprehensive review of British Columbia’s LNG industry and the industry’s capacity to compete globally. We are engaging with industry, First Nations and the federal government for feedback,” Ms. Mungall said.“
Add those to “Montreal mayor dances on the graves of Alberta jobs,” and “Brad Wall slams federal government over cancellation of Energy East pipeline,” and one can see that pipelines have become the latest pawn in the never ending “national unity” debate.
The price is right
There was a time, some might say, when the national unity debate was about substance … the question was were French Canadians a “conquered people” or were they one of two “founding nations” of Canada? The answer remains elusive as identity politics denies “founding” status to anyone except the “First Nations” (and a few archeologists even dispute that) and as “nation building” fades from popularity in favour of local, parish pump, immediate financial or political gratification.
Remember, just five years ago when then BC Premier Christie Clark tried to black mail Alberta in order to not obstruct the construction of new pipelines? Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre was just playing the same, selfish, parochial game … so, in fact are many (I would argue most) First Nations leaders. I have no doubt that some First nations people are honest, committed environmentalists who want to preserve a natural habitat for wildlife and for Canadians who want to live something akin to a hunter-gatherer existence in a pristine, natural, wilderness environment (but with internet access, I suppose). But most are, I believe, in favour of developing the lands they claim when, but only when, the price is right.
There is no more “maîtres chez nous,” no more “vivre le Québec libre!” no more “my Canada includes Quebec,” either. Now it is all “what’s in it for ME?” It’s all about how much will one part of Canada pay another to not block important national ~ nation building ~ projects that might benefit all Canadians. The logical outcome of Pierre Trudeau’s bastardized version of “fiscal federalism” is the petty, often highly partisan, parochial politics of the 21st century.
Both Jagmeet Singh and Justin Trudeau are playing petty, highly partisan parish pump politics with the pipelines issue; both are trying to appease Quebec, the greenies, First nations and other assorted “idenitarians.” They will both, I suspect, end up with very similar, anti-pipeline, positions when the 2019 campaign is in full swing ~ each will be offering to do real, measurable, harm to Canada’s vital strategic interests in order to secure a few votes.
Energy self sufficiency
Make no mistake being energy self sufficient is a vital strategic interest (as is being able to sell our resources for the best (world) market price). We are not energy self sufficient just because we have vast reserves of uranium for nuclear power and petroleum for mobile applications, or rivers to provide hydro-electric power. We are only energy self sufficient when Canadian energy is available, broadly and generally, to most Canadians through Canadian owned power plants and power lines and from fuel refined in Canada from oil pumped or mined in Canada. If whole regions must rely upon Arab oil to heat their homes or on American pipelines and seaports to move their resources to market then Canada is not energy self sufficient.
It may well be true that (parts of) Europe can get rid of gasoline and diesel powered passenger cars by, say, about 2050. It will be much, Much, MUCH harder to get rid of gas or diesel powered heavy vehicles (trucks) that carry food and goods from place to place. Even India might manage that. Parts of Europe and Asia have very high population densities and might find conversion to “people movers” as opposed to private motor cars fairly easy. North America, especially Canada, is a different proposition … petroleum will remain a vital, irreplaceable power source for mobility applications for decades, at least, including for rail, air and marine transport. There probably is a future when Canadians do not use petroleum for mobile applications … but I will not live to see it, nor will my children, maybe not even my infant grandson.
For now, for the mid term future, pipelines (and refineries) and tanker ports and LNG ports all matter ~ a pipeline and a new refineries and new or expanded seaports will benefit ALL Canadians ~ many directly with jobs and tax revenues, others indirectly through a stronger equalization system.
The Conservative challenge
Andrew Scheer has a different partisan political problem than the one facing Singh and Trudeau ~ he has “right” and good economics on his side but he has to argue against the very popular, almost religious, children’s crusade that is the 21st century green movement ~ and it wants oil to stay in the ground, a position which is being, at least tacitly, endorsed by the Laurentian Elites. He has to, somehow, square the circle of winning seats about 75 of them, many in the suburbs around Vancouver and in Southern Ontario, which are filled with people who are, at least, somewhat sympathetic to the environmentalist movement. It is not the easiest case to make and he will be viciously attacked ~ especially on social media ~ when he tries to make it.
Canadians have to hope that Andrew Scheer takes up the cause of pipelines (the plural matters) (and e.g. LNG ports) as nation building and that enough voters can be persuaded to give him and the Conservative Party of Canada the keys to government, again, so that neither Mr Singh nor Prime Minister Trudeau can continue to support Arab oil and Texas refineries over Canada’s future prosperity.