A very po­lite, Cana­dian show­down

Winnipeg Free Press - - YOUR SAY -

S grand show­downs go, it was so po­lite — so Cana­dian. Al­berta Premier Rachel Not­ley was calm and res­o­lute. B.C. Premier John Hor­gan smiled a lot. Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau, paus­ing be­tween over­seas jaunts, looked pained but sin­cere. No­body raised their voices. No­body flung in­sults.

The up­shot of the Sun­day meet­ing in Ot­tawa was that Ms. Not­ley will keep try­ing to get the pipe­line built to bring Al­berta bi­tu­men from Ed­mon­ton to Van­cou­ver and Mr. Hor­gan will keep try­ing to block it. Mr. Trudeau will send Fi­nance Min­is­ter Bill Morneau to talk with Kinder Mor­gan, the pipe­line com­pany that wants to build the line, to find out what they need to carry on with the project.

Kinder Mor­gan won­ders — with good rea­son — whether they are throw­ing their money into a project that will never come to fruition. En­bridge’s North­ern Gate­way line to Kiti­mat was aban­doned on ac­count of Indige­nous and en­vi­ron­men­tal ob­jec­tions. Trans Canada’s En­ergy East plan was aban­doned be­cause Que­bec politi­cians would not hear of an oil pipe­line under the St. Lawrence River.

As the next bat­ter at the plate, Kinder Mor­gan

Ahas to wonder what its chances re­ally are. The com­pany an­nounced April 8 that it was sus­pend­ing prepara­tory work on the Trans Moun­tain ex­pan­sion and would con­sult stake­hold­ers. At the end of May it will ei­ther start con­struc­tion or aban­don the project.

Par­lia­ment prob­a­bly has con­sti­tu­tional power to reg­u­late the project. It may not, how­ever, be able to pre­vent the B.C. gov­ern­ment from ob­struct­ing, heel-drag­ging and gen­er­ally in­ter­fer­ing. It may not be able to pre­vent the kind of protest cam­paign that was seen in North Dakota two years ago when the Stand­ing Rock Sioux sought to block con­struc­tion of the Dakota Ac­cess pipe­line under the Mis­souri River.

The Stand­ing Rock protest suc­ceeded as long as then-pres­i­dent Barack Obama was in of­fice. As soon as Don­ald Trump took over as pres­i­dent in 2017, he di­rected the Army Corps of En­gi­neers to au­tho­rize the Mis­souri River cross­ing. The pro­test­ers yielded to the se­vere win­ter weather and the pipe­line was built.

In light of all that, Kinder Mor­gan needs to know where Canada’s fed­eral gov­ern­ment stands — and where it will stand as the pro­vin­cial re­sis­tance es­ca­lates and the protest camps fill. Pol­i­tics be­ing what it is, that’s dif­fi­cult to pre­dict. Mr. Trudeau firmly sup­ported the project on Sun­day. Where will he stand next sum­mer, as eco-war­riors and Indige­nous pro­test­ers pitch their tents in the pipe­line’s path?

At that point, harsh mea­sures may be re­quired to clear the path. In the mean­time, Kinder Mor­gan and the gov­ern­ment need to be in­fin­itely pa­tient, end­lessly rea­son­able and exquisitely sen­si­tive.

For those who have de­cided that the Al­berta oil sands are in­her­ently evil, there is noth­ing to dis­cuss: the pipe­line must be stopped — even if it is shown to be safe — as an in­di­rect way of ob­struct­ing oil sands de­vel­op­ment.

But peo­ple in Bri­tish Columbia are in the main rea­son­able, like ev­ery­one else. If they can be shown that the project is safe and ben­e­fi­cial, that the land and wa­ter and wildlife are well pro­tected from the dan­gers it could pose, then they will sup­port its con­struc­tion. Kinder Mor­gan and the gov­ern­ment will need to tell the Trans Moun­tain ex­pan­sion story un­til B.C. peo­ple are tired of hear­ing it — and then tell it again.

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