Trudeau’s in trou­ble in bat­tle over pipe­line


“The Trans Moun­tain ex­pan­sion will be built.”

With the nation mourn­ing Hum­boldt’s loss, peck­ing out an ob­sti­nate tweet about an oil pipe­line wasn’t at the top of Justin Trudeau’s to-do list, yet out came the above tweet ahead of the prime min­is­ter join­ing mem­bers of the shat­tered community for last Sun­day’s vigil.

Wel­come to gov­ern­ment, where events never pause and most days are an end­less se­ries of bad and worse choices. Trudeau is cer­tainly down to bad and worse on Kin­der Mor­gan.

Trudeau might want this pipe­line built, but if the com­pany is wa­ver­ing and the Green party-de­pen­dent NDP premier of the prov­ince through which it must pass hasn’t yet found a body he won’t chuck in front of it, at what point do you con­cede the Earth will not be mov­ing?

The an­swer from Team Trudeau is a ring­ing “not now, not ever.”

“We are de­ter­mined to see (Trans Moun­tain) built,” Trudeau has told re­porters. “It is in the na­tional in­ter­est. It doesn’t make any sense for us to con­tinue to have a $15-bil­lion dis­count on our oil re­sources be­cause we are trapped with an Amer­i­can mar­ket. We need to get our re­sources to new mar­kets.”

The same words could have and did come out of Stephen Harper’s mouth. Trudeau now has to bell the cat.

It wasn’t meant to be this way. Harper’s con­fronta­tional “cram-them-down-your-throats” pipe­line pol­icy was to be re­placed with Trudeau’s more charis­matic ap­proach that would ac­crue the “so­cial li­cence” needed to grease con­struc­tion.

What Trans Moun­tain ul­ti­mately proves is 20 years of de­bate in Canada has split peo­ple into two ir­rec­on­cil­able camps: pro-oil and anti-oil. Preen­ing at cli­mate sum­mits and taxing car­bon won’t make ex­port­ing oil kosher to those who are res­o­lutely op­posed.

Giddy though the op­po­si­tion par­ties might be, now is not the time for them to revel in Trudeau’s mire. See­ing your op­po­nent hoisted with his own petard is sat­is­fy­ing, but if the pipe­line re­ally is in Canada’s na­tional in­ter­est, the op­po­si­tion should of­fer some con­struc­tive sug­ges­tions.

But the par­ti­san urge is too strong. Fur­ther dis­in­cen­tiviz­ing bi­par­ti­san ef­forts is the Trudeau car­bon tax that is not par­tic­u­larly well-read by any cap­i­tal-C Con­ser­va­tive.

Trudeau shoul­ders a good chunk of the blame. His Pan Cana­dian Frame­work for Clean En­ergy and Cli­mate Change with its plan for car­bon “pric­ing” was ef­fec­tively crammed down pro­vin­cial throats.

And with Rachel Not­ley and Kath­leen Wynne’s gov­ern­ments now in se­vere fi­nan­cial dis­tress, vot­ers there and across Canada will be­gin to won­der why they’re on the road to higher taxes if those up­pity Bri­tish Columbians aren’t hold­ing up their end of the so­cial-li­cence bar­gain.

This is where fed­eral NDP leader Jag­meet Singh should have a use­ful in­ter­ven­tion to make, given it’s his pro­vin­cial fam­ily on op­po­site sides of the Kin­der Mor­gan dis­pute. But

Singh has sided with B.C. and its brighter fed­eral elec­toral prospects.

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment can, and should, re-as­sert its con­sti­tu­tional right to build the pipe­line. And yes, the feds can join Al­berta in slapping down money and in­sur­ance guar­an­tees. But that’s only half the bat­tle.

If the com­mu­ni­ties along the pipe­line route re­main ready to ob­struct its con­struc­tion, it’s go­ing to take a lot more than bucks and words to clear the way. Even the stern words of a judge urg­ing protesters out of the way might not do the trick. What then?

Do the sunny ways of Trudeau al­low for a hint of the army steel flashed by his fa­ther? Do we just watch him?

An­drew Mac­Dougall is a Lon­don­based com­mu­ni­ca­tions con­sul­tant and ex-di­rec­tor of com­mu­ni­ca­tions to for­mer prime min­is­ter Stephen Harper.

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