B.C.’s pipe­line op­po­si­tion is nar­cis­sis­tic non­sense

The Recorder & Times (Brockville) - - OPINION - CLIVE COCKING — Clive Cocking is a re­tired western Canada correspondent for The Econ­o­mist who lives in Van­cou­ver.

Do most Bri­tish Columbians see them­selves as Cana­di­ans? On cur­rent ev­i­dence, the an­swer must be no.

This is demon­strated by the un­yield­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist op­po­si­tion to any pipe­lines car­ry­ing Al­berta oil or gas across B.C. to tide­wa­ter. The op­po­nents’ only ev­i­dent con­cern is in pre­serv­ing “Beau­ti­ful Bri­tish Columbia.”

Search all the B.C. com­men­tary about this is­sue and you will not find one com­ment where the naysay­ers give any con­sid­er­a­tion to the im­pli­ca­tions for Canada, let alone for our Al­berta neigh­bours, in their re­jec­tion of trans-provin­cial pipe­lines. Not even from the gov­ern­ment of Bri­tish Columbia.

The new coali­tion gov­ern­ment is among the most hard-line op­po­nents, cam­paign­ing to “use ev­ery tool in the tool­box” to block Kinder Mor­gan’s $7.4-bil­lion pipe­line expansion.

Since the elec­tion in May, Premier John Hor­gan has re­peat­edly de­clared that the fed­er­ally ap­proved twin­ning of the ex­ist­ing Kinder Mor­gan pipe­line, and tripling of tanker traf­fic in coastal wa­ters, is “not in B.C.’s best in­ter­ests.” His gov­ern­ment has en­gaged ex­ter­nal coun­sel to join a le­gal chal­lenge to the expansion.

The B.C. gov­ern­ment is be­hav­ing like an un­friendly for­eign state. As a na­tive Bri­tish Columbian, I’m em­bar­rassed and ap­palled at the nar­row-minded iso­la­tion­ism that per­vades pub­lic life in this nar­cis­sis­tic prov­ince. We’re all Cana­di­ans here and we should be work­ing to­gether to solve our prob­lems, not just de­fend what we per­ceive as our provin­cial “in­ter­ests.”

The re­spon­si­ble ex­ploita­tion of Al­berta’s oil­sands is very much in the in­ter­est of all of us. Al­berta oil pro­duc­tion is al­ready a ma­jor driver of Cana­dian pros­per­ity and con­trib­u­tor to tax rev­enues.

The con­tri­bu­tion would be greater in fu­ture if Al­berta were able to break free from its sole mar­ket, the United States, and ship its oil to other coun­tries, es­pe­cially in Asia, where much higher prices can be gained.

This means nothing to the cur­rent B.C. gov­ern­ment, which is dead-set on block­ing its land-locked neigh­bour from achiev­ing a higher re­turn from its most im­por­tant re­source by deny­ing it ac­cess to Canada’s big­gest west coast port, sup­pos­edly to de­fend the en­vi­ron­ment.

The re­sponse from Al­ber­tans has been amaz­ingly mod­er­ate. It’s doubt­ful the B.C. re­sponse would be so mild if Al­berta threat­ened to block ship­ments of our soft­wood lum­ber.

This Thurs­day, in a ma­jor speech in Van­cou­ver, Premier Rachel Not­ley will make a case for why B.C. should change course. I hope she calls Bri­tish Columbia out on its lack of con­cern for Canada’s in­ter­ests.

But her words are not likely to change that in­dif­fer­ence. B.C.’s green zealots show no con­cern for the econ­omy, jobs and the de­vel­op­ment of their coun­try.

The in­tense anti-pipe­line cam­paign waged since be­fore the May elec­tion has been marked by fear-mon­ger­ing emo­tion, pro­pa­ganda and a crass play for green votes. There’s not been much dis­cus­sion of facts.

Instead, the NDP the Green Party and their sup­port­ers have given a dooms­day aura to the struggle, that to yield is to ac­cept en­vi­ron­men­tal catas­tro­phe. They claim that the Na­tional En­ergy Board’s re­view is fa­tally flawed, hav­ing failed to ad­e­quately con­sider B.C.’s en­vi­ron­men­tal risk. They main­tain the eco­nomic ben­e­fits (to B.C.) are not enough to war­rant the en­vi­ron­men­tal risk.

And they as­sert that Kinder Mor­gan’s tripling of oil tanker traf­fic through the port of Van­cou­ver will in­evitably lead to a mas­sive ma­rine en­vi­ron­men­tal dis­as­ter. This de­spite the fact that tankers (30 to 50 a year) have been vis­it­ing Van­cou­ver for 60 years with­out any ma­jor oil spills, and de­spite the fact that other ma­jor ports deal safely with much more tanker traf­fic, such as Rot­ter­dam (8,200) and Sin­ga­pore (22,200).

In its 600-page re­port, the Na­tional En­ergy Board con­cluded that the Trans Moun­tain Expansion Project is in the pub­lic in­ter­est and should be al­lowed to go ahead, pro­vid­ing 157 con­di­tions are met.

It looks like Trudeau will have to ex­ert fed­eral author­ity over the econ­omy to make the new pipe­line a re­al­ity.

Too much is at stake for Canada to al­low the project to be stran­gled by one prov­ince’s op­po­si­tion.

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