There is no Chinese “curse” that says “May you live in interesting times,” the closest might be something written 500 years ago: “寧為太平犬，莫做亂離人” which means, roughly, “Better to be have been born a dog in a peaceful time, than to be a man in an interesting one.” Interesting meant chaotic and full of wars.
In the Globe and Mail, John Ibbitson, a perceptive political pundit, says that times will be interesting for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and all because of one, and only one issue: the Kinder Morgan/Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. He predicts that “Justin Trudeau’s handling of the Trans Mountain pipeline issue will decide the fate of his government. Nothing else is this important − not deficits-for-infrastructure, not legalizing cannabis, not the refugee situation, not even trade and NAFTA … [and, therefore] … If the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is under construction 18 months from now, Mr. Trudeau is likely to win the October, 2019, election. If the project is frustrated by legal and illegal resistance, he is likely to lose. Federal governments are expected to manage the national economy in the public interest. Those that fail are punished.” In other words, I might be very wrong for worrying about whether or not the Conservatives have plotted a course to victory or, as I fear, may have lost the plot; Justin Trudeau and his team are, in John Ibbitson’s view, masters of their own fate … they will win because they can manage the country or they will lose because they will defeat themselves.
I sincerely believe that Prime Minister Trudeau wants his “grand bargain” ~ a national price on carbon plus getting Canada’s (high carbon) prairie oil to tidewater ~ to work and I think that his team believes that their current plan, which I find insufficient, is the least bad way to get there. But, Mr Ibbitson says, and I agree, that “The biggest problem involves the protesters. Dozens of Indigenous communities in B.C. and Alberta have signed agreements with Kinder Morgan approving the Trans Mountain expansion. Many are First Nations who already have the pipeline going through their lands, and who will benefit from the expansion … [but, several] … other First Nations are adamantly opposed, fearing an oil spill that could contaminate British Columbia’s lands and waters. And they are joined by environmentalists who are willing to engage in civil disobedience to block construction.“
John Ibbitson looks at the politics involved in several potential course open to both Premier Horgan and Prime Minister Trudeau before concluding that “But millions of middle-class suburban voters in Ontario determine the outcome of elections. How will they react? Will they quietly applaud a Liberal government that is going to the wall in defence of Canada’s economic interests? Or will they shake their heads at Liberal mismanagement of the pipeline issue? … [he says that] … The answer will lie in whether Mr. Trudeau succeeds or fails in getting the pipeline built. His political future hinges on that answer.”
As I understand it, Kinder Morgan needs shovels in the ground this spring ~ that’s why their May deadline ~ if they want to meet their 2022 target for completion of.
Canadian energy executive and commentator Gwyn Morgan, writing in the Financial Post, explains that “Canada is endowed with the third-largest oil reserves in the world, but a lack of access to world markets means our oil is sold far below world prices. Each day, this “captive-market discount” hands a $40-million gift to Americans. Adding insult to injury, the discount also drives tens of billions of dollars in Canadian investments to American oilfields … [and] … Now, after seven years and billions of dollars spent by proponents of three oil-export pipelines, hopes for revival of Canada’s oil industry has come down to one extremely troubled project: the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. How could this possibly have happened? … The answer,” he says “lies in politically motivated decisions that progressively narrowed those three proposals to what was always the most fraught project.“
He provides a precis of the “saga” as he calls it of the three pipelines and it is pretty sad reading because it shows that Liberal ideology, which is both anti-Alberta and anti-oil …
… is mainly responsible for the current situation. In fact, he says that, “The Trudeau government’s cynical and politically motivated elimination of Northern Gateway and Energy East left the Trans Mountain expansion as the lone route left to getting Alberta oil to tidewater. But it should have been perfectly clear that the project would face vastly more strident opposition than the other two projects … [and] … Trudeau himself provided justification for that opposition during the federal election campaign. He had attacked the NEB as lacking “public trust” (a regulator that had served Liberal and Conservative governments with distinction for decades), the same words that Trans Mountain opponents, including protestors chaining themselves to construction sites, now use to support their claims that NEB approval of the project was flawed.“
So, here we are: we must wait and see if Justin Trudeau can keep all the constitutional, environmental, economic and political balls in the air or, perhaps, do some magical trick that might, simultaneously, satisfy Alberta, BC, the First Nations, the Greens (political and children’s crusaders, alike) Ontario and Québec and the international investment community which appears to be abandoning Canada in the face of the Trudeau Liberals‘ policies. (Yes, I know that last graph is from a CPC attack ad but while the presentation is, undoubtedly “biased,” the data (which is properly sourced and identified) is not.) Interesting times, indeed.
The prime minister is, Gerald Butts says on social media, is in London, with New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, being “hosted by Mayor Khan to talk gender equality.” That’s all well and good … I agree he needed to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting and meet with the Queen and the President of France, that’s one important part of his job. I also agree that equality ~ gender, racial social and so on ~ matters a lot and needs to be discussed by political leaders. But Justin Trudeau will also need to face down anti-pipeline protests there, in London, too .. the children’s crusade is the biggest threat to the Trans Mountain pipeline, Premier Horgan’s political and legal challenges pale in comparisson. The anti-oil crusade is well funded, often from shadowy (foreign) sources and Canadians and the Government of Canada should be asking who is funding anti-pipeline groups and why.
It more than just voters’ decisions that matter. Prime Minister Trudeau has set Canada on a socio-economic course that few expected (although some, me included, feared) with goals that are ill-defined or, when they exist at all, just shimmering images of “good” in the future. I said, yesterday, that good leaders must, sometimes, stand alone and even make enemies. Justin Trudeau and his team need, soon, to step up, to display leadership … I don’t agree that it is time, now, to send in the army or “get tough with BC.” I think it is time for Justin Trudeau to stand face-to-face with the children and their leaders, and face-to-face with some, but by no means all, First Nations’ chiefs, and face-to-face, with some BC and Québec politicians, and to tell them, face-to-face, that it is not only possible to have a healthy energy industry and a cleaner environment, but it, tax revenue from healthy, world class export industries, may be the only way to pay for that cleaner environment that everyone wants, and that he, Prime Minister Trudeau, will not be beholden to special interests, and he, the prime minister of Canada, will act in the national interest … using all the tools he has available.
It is time for national leadership … and not just from Justin Trudeau’s Liberals. All Canadian political leaders need to step forward and offer a united front in support of getting prairie oil to tidewater and, more broadly, “making Canada a great trading nation again.” They need to propose solutions, not just, blindly, oppose the government. But, for now, it is thuis Liberal government’s duty to lead, no matter how painful that may be.