New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs has, according to a recent article in the Ottawa Citizen, exposed the running sore in confederation: “The country,” he explained, “is still very much dependent on oil revenues and if Alberta continues to suffer economically, it will hurt the entire country — regardless of how much hydroelectricity Quebec has … [he also said that] … New Brunswick continues to receive federal equalization payments, which represent 30 per cent of the province’s budget … [and] … Quebec is also a major benefactor of equalization, while Alberta remains a “have province” that subsidizes others … [thus] … “Alberta has been feeding our kids for a long time with the royalties, with the money that has come from oil,” Higgs said … [adding that] … “My concern is how will the federal government continue to pay, how will transfer payments survive in the current form? Will the next message be that transfer payments need to be cut because the revenue is no longer there?”“
The issue that concerns Premier Higgs is that Quebec’s recently elected Premier François Legault continues to maintain a hardline policy on pipelines. Thus, the Citizen story says “While the prime minister and Canada’s premiers found common ground on issues such as trade during their meeting in Montreal, they were confronted with the harsh reality that Quebec will not accept a pipeline … [because, the premier said that] … “I understand that Alberta and the other provinces that produce oil want to find ways to get it (to tidewater), but I was very, very clear,” Francois Legault told reporters after the closed-door meeting …[that] … “There is no social acceptability for a pipeline that would pass through Quebec territory” … [and he aded that he] … saw no contradiction in lobbying premiers Friday to buy more hydroelectricity from his province while rejecting western energy.“
He is, of course, parroting Justin Trudeau’s ill-conceived claptrap about a social licence being needed to build pipelines, claptrap that changed when he finished campaigning and took office. It’s rubbish of course, if a project, like a pipeline, is able to jump through all the proper, legal and regulatory hoops then it can and should be built even if people prostrate themselves in front of bulldozers … we have police officers and jails to deal with that sort of obstacle. The fact is that neither a Hollywood celebrity nor the premier of a large province have any ‘right’ to try to stop the construction of anything that has the proper permits. One can understand that many people can have many worries about pipelines, and about oil be carried in rail cars and about how Alberta can continue to subsidize Quebec and New Brunswick, even when Premier Legault promises to try to prevent Alberta’s oil from reaching refineries in Atlantic Canada and Quebec ~ although he is, apparently, OK with Saudi Arabian oil being refined in Quebec.
The fairly simple fact, it seems to me, is that oil, as the fuel of choice for mobile applications (powering cars and trucks and ships and aircraft) is not going to be replaced any time soon. Yes, electric cars are here, as are electric trains. They all work really, really well in cities and in congested places like Europe … but out on the nearly empty prairie, on the ocean, in the air and so on we are a long, long way from replacing petroleum powered vehicles and vessels.
Canada needs to move oil from Alberta and Saskatchewan to seaports, to feed world demand at fair market prices and to feed refineries in Eastern Canada so that Canadians do not need to import oil from tyrannical and murderous regimes in the volatile Middle East. One can certainly understand that provincial premiers like BC’s Horgan and Quebec’s Legault need to pander to electorates that have either an irrational fear of pipeline spills (as opposed to, say, rail car spills) or are hoping for more and more and more money to be funnelled their way to buy their approval, to secure from them the mythical ‘social licence.’ But, eventually, the nation’s best interests may have to override the parochial interests of one or two communities or even provinces.
It seems pretty clear to me that every time my colleagues, friends and extended family members in New Brunswick fill their cars and pick-up trucks with gas ~ say $50.00 worth ~ that some of that money, maybe only 2% or so, but some, say $1.00, goes into the purse of Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia instead of into the pay cheques of Canadians who work in the oil fields (mines, actually) in Alberta or who build and maintain pipelines. Some of the taxes are, because we are buying Saudi oil, going to build hospitals in Riyadh rather than in Red Deer or in Rimouski. The divisions that the ill-informed and the greedy have created are, actually, costing us all in very measurable ways.
I do not, for one second, say that pipelines do not break and that oil spills will not happen ~ they do and they will. But, until large, fast solar powered/sail assisted ships, long range high capacity solar powered aircraft and trucks are common we will need to mine oil and refine it into fuel and distribute it. Canada is blessed with huge reserves of heavy oil. Despite the lies being told by e.g. the Tides Foundation, we know how to mine that oil and return the land to nature. I agree that the First Nations have legitimate concerns about the impact of new pipelines on their lands and people. The most desirable impact is that building and maintaining and managing the pipelines creates good jobs for First Nations people and that the impact on those who want to maintain traditional lifestyles must be minimized ~ but even then the national interest may have to prevail over the interests of any one community.
Canadians need a sane, prudent plan to get Canadian oil to all of Canada and to the world. That means we need at least two major pipeline systems: one going from Alberta and Saskatchewan to major seaports on the Pacific Coast and one going from Saskatchewan and Alberta to refineries and seaports in Atlantic Canada. Those pipelines will have to cross many provinces and many people’s property, they will have to be planned and built to the highest possible standards … built by Canadians. They will have to be managed and maintained by Canadians, too and when, inevitably, a pipeline breaks and oil is spilled Canadians, using the best technology in the world, will have to clean it up quickly.
Doing what’s right, and doing the right things in the right way requires adult leadership in Ottawa ~ that’s missing right now. Instead we have doctrinaire anti-oil people, bought and paid for, I fear, by foreign money funnelled to them through the financial pipelines of e.g. the Tides Foundation and Leadnow, and that needs to change in 2019.