New Mon­treal mayor, same pipe­line hate

Edmonton Sun - - COMMENT - ricky LEONG rleong@post­ @Rick­yleongyyc

Can you re­mem­ber the last time a civic elec­tion more than 3,000 km away from here felt as if it were a mean­ing­ful po­lit­i­cal event hap­pen­ing at home?

You could hear a good num­ber of Al­berta po­lit­i­cal types cheer­ing last week as De­nis Coderre, once a fed­eral Lib­eral cab­i­net min­is­ter, went down in flames in his bid for re-elec­tion as mayor of Mon­treal. Coderre had been vo­cally op­posed to Tran­scanada Pipe­lines’ now-de­funct En­ergy East project, which would have de­liv­ered oil­sands crude from Hardisty to tide­wa­ter in Saint John, N.B., pass­ing through Que­bec.

The project, which would have seen an ex­ist­ing gas pipe­line con­verted to carry oil and new pipe­lines built mainly in Que­bec and New Brunswick, was shelved in early Oc­to­ber.

While the com­pany cited busi­ness and mar­ket con­di­tions, there’s no deny­ing the ef­fect of oner­ous en­vi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions set by the Na­tional En­ergy Board and strong op­po­si­tion from politi­cians in ar­eas where the pipe­line would have been built.

“I’ve been say­ing since Day 1 that (Tran­scanada was) ar­ro­gant and con­de­scend­ing,” Coderre told me­dia shortly af­ter the project’s can­cel­la­tion. “It’s an enor­mous vic­tory.”

Funny how a month later, Mon­treal vot­ers would deem Coderre ar­ro­gant and con­de­scend­ing, and hand him an enor­mous elec­toral loss.

If you’re still en­thu­si­as­ti­cally set­ting off your noise­mak­ers at the news of Coderre’s come­up­pance, I’m go­ing to sug­gest it’s time you put them away.

There is ab­so­lutely no in­di­ca­tion the new mayor of Canada’s sec­ond-largest city will be any more open-minded about pipe­lines than the pre­vi­ous oc­cu­pant of its high­est elected of­fice.

In an ex­u­ber­ant tele­vised vic­tory speech af­ter a stun­ning win, Coderre’s re­place­ment, Va­lerie Plante, was the pic­ture of pos­i­tiv­ity.

She switched back and forth seam­lessly from French to English and back again, thank­ing her sup­port­ers and re­it­er­at­ing her elec­tion pledges.

Ad­dress­ing higher or­ders of gov­ern­ment, she of­fered to work with them to get all man­ner of in­fra­struc­ture built.

Then she reached out to com­merce types.

“To my friends in the busi­ness com­mu­nity, Mon­treal is open for busi­ness,” she de­clared in English, fol­lowed by a hearty laugh and cheers from the crowd.

“Yes it is. And what we are look­ing for are value-added in­vest­ments that will ben­e­fit all Mon­treal­ers.

“So let’s work to­gether to get things done … to find the best op­por­tu­ni­ties for star­tups and our small busi­nesses. Let’s cre­ate the best en­vi­ron­ment to in­vest in Mon­treal.” This all sounds very lovely. But to be open for busi­ness and want­ing stuff built doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean to be open for just any kind of busi­ness and to build just any kind of in­fra­struc­ture.

While news re­ports re­gard­ing Plante’s po­si­tions on pipe­lines have been hard to come by, there was one telling mes­sage she sent on Twit­ter on the day of En­ergy East’s can­cel­la­tion.

“Great ci­ti­zen-driven vic­tory in the En­ergy East file!” she wrote in French on Oct. 5. “We must now be­gin our tran­si­tion to clean en­ergy.”

Yup, def­i­nitely put away those noise­mak­ers now.

There’s ab­so­lutely noth­ing wrong with tran­si­tion­ing to clean en­ergy.

But there’s ab­so­lutely ev­ery­thing wrong with think­ing that block­ing pipe­lines will some­how mag­i­cally move us in that di­rec­tion.

It’s a fal­lacy peo­ple con­tinue to cling onto at home and abroad.

It’s some­thing that will con­tin­u­ally have to be dis­pelled with even more vigour by those who wish to see an or­derly, con­trolled and min­i­mally dis­rup­tive tran­si­tion away from our heavy de­pen­dence on fos­sil fu­els.

A change in politi­cians for our friends in the east does not mean change in pol­i­tics.

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