I said, just the other day that “there might be an “up side” for Canada … China still needs stuff and we produce a lot of what it needs ~ our prices may be a bit higher than what the Americans were charging but after tit-for-tat tariffs are applied by China we are quite likely to be competitive. International Trade Minister François-Philippe Champagne needs to be working now to, fairly quietly, to organize another mission to China.”
Just what stuff does China want?
Well, resources, of course, and very, very high on the list of resources for which China has an overwhelming need is petroleum. The new oil and gas pipelines from Russia will help but China’s demand for petroleum is still growing fast. China is building better trade links with the Middle East and Africa but there is almost nowhere as “safe” as Canada for petroleum supply.
In short, a better, free(er) trade deal with China, which appears to be willing, right now, may depend upon Canada’s ability to drive a pipeline through British Columbia, and through some greedy First Nations, territories, to tidewater.
For Prime Minister Trudeau this is what awaits:
The big political threat is not, in my opinion, constitutional … I think the federal government has a strong hand and can, when the time is ripe, play it well enough. But this threat is much, Much, MUCH harder to counter …
… and my sense, just a gut feeling, is that the “children” who are the mainstay of this green crusade have the bit between their teeth and are immune to reason. I think the BC government can be coerced or even bullied, into submission and I suspect the First nations have a price ~ my sense is that many want the pipelines but they also, not unreasonably, want jobs and secure futures for their people, for at least a couple of generations, in the operation and maintenance of the pipelines. But the (mostly) suburban, teen-aged, environmental activists cannot be bought or bullied … they will be out, day after day, mile after mile, breaking laws and putting their own and others’ lives at risk to do something that they believe is necessary. The First Nations are not saying “No Pipelines” … they are saying “No pipelines until you make a satisfactory deal with us,” there is plenty of room to manoeuvre. The children, on the other hand, are saying that Canada’s prairie oil must stay in the
ground and we, the big Canadian we, must stop using fossil fuels. They don’t want to negotiate anything. Kinder Morgan and federal bureaucrats can, probably, do deals with the First Nations and Ottawa can put some pressure on BC, but neither Premier Horgan nor Prime Minister Trudeau has many useful “tools” to use on the “children … they want what they want.
And so do the Chinese …
Guy Saint-Jacques, who was Canada’s ambassador to China from 2012 to 2016, has urged Prime Minister Trudeau to re-start negotiations with China soon. But, M Saint-Jacques says that China is simply unwilling to accept Prime Minister Trudeau’s progressive trade agenda and will not allow any talk of e.g. labour standards in any formal communiqué or agreement. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t want to trade … it just means that they, having a GDP about seven times as large as we do, will not be told what can and cannot be on the table. What they will insist upon, I think, is that Canada will commit to a Canada-China co-venture West Coast oil and gas terminal: i.e. Northern Gateway, again.
China appears to be willing to offer some inducements to foreign countries, but it will, most likely, remain a difficult trading partner … but, on balance, one worth having.
So what does Prime Minister Trudeau do? Let’s start with the fact that his closest advisor, Gerald Butts, believes that, in his own words, ““100 per cent sustainable, renewable energy is possible and economical by 2050 if we start the transition today.”” I suspect that he reinforces Prime Minister Trudeau’s own belief that fossil fuels are the problem and I suspect that they cannot, in their hearts, go against the green agenda.
The issue is not really about pipelines or even free trade … it is about two competing visions of the future: one held by those who place prosperity first and one held by those who put nature first. It isn’t about Alberta vs BC or Canada vs China or Burnaby vs Kinder Morgan; it is about those perceived as being rich, powerful and greedy often foreign plutocrats vs those perceived to be nice, innocent, environmentally conscious children. I believe that, in his heart, Justin Trudeau is “with” the children, even when they are shouting him down. He wants to be a “climate leader;” he wants to change the country; he wants to be loved. The battles will be intense, they will fought, occasionally in court houses where the grown-ups will, almost always win, but mainly, in the media and on the streets … and there the advantage is with the children.