Trudeau sees the sunny side of pipe­line col­lapse

Fort McMurray Today - - COMMENT - DON BRAID dbraid@post­media.com

Oh, so that’s it. The pipe­line re­jec­tion is just a bump in the road. In fact, you could even see it as proof of just how ro­bust the Lib­eral ap­proval process is.

That’s what a per­son might think, lis­ten­ing to Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau on Wed­nes­day, as he ac­tu­ally tried to turn this mess into an af­fir­ma­tion of his ideals.

He said he’s “dis­ap­pointed” with the rul­ing, mind you. He knows it “re­ally hurt” Al­berta. Ot­tawa will do bet­ter and meet the Fed­eral Court of Ap­peal’s con­cerns.

At one point, he slammed the Harper gov­ern­ment’s ap­proach and said “the court has just con­firmed that was never go­ing to work.”

Ac­tu­ally, the court ruled on a Trudeau gov­ern­ment ap­proach that was never go­ing to work.

But the court also agrees with Trudeau on the need for rigour, it seems.

“This is some­thing I’ve been say­ing for a long time, that the only way to get projects built in this coun­try is to do them re­spon­si­bly.”

Premier Rachel Not­ley, dis­tanc­ing her­self from her favourite ally, de­mands a leg­isla­tive can­non­ade, a fed­eral bill to re­assert the for­mer ap­proval. She de­cries the “reg­u­la­tory merry-go-round that isn’t go­ing to help any­body.”

The job now is to get the project back to where it was last Wed­nes­day, be­fore the court rul­ing came down.

It had been signed and sealed. This was an of­fi­cially ap­proved in­ter­provin­cial pipe­line, ramp­ing up to full con­struc­tion.

Now it’s noth­ing. The ap­proval process even over­turned a fed­eral cabi­net or­der. The work­ers will be go­ing home, the con­trac­tors pack­ing up.

Get­ting back to “YES” (that is, last Wed­nes­day) will take time and money. And no­body knows what fur­ther le­gal hor­rors might await, even af­ter an­other ap­proval.

But Trudeau paints it as a sim­ple mat­ter of im­prov­ing con­sul­ta­tion and look­ing into mar­itime trans­porta­tion.

Trudeau also says that if Ot­tawa hadn’t bought the project, it would be dead to­day.

Ac­tu­ally, if Ot­tawa hadn’t pur­chased it for $4.5 bil­lion in May, the as­sets would now be a much bet­ter buy.

“Why didn’t the fed­eral gov­ern­ment wait un­til af­ter the rul­ing?” re­tired oil and gas an­a­lyst Gor­don Tait asks in an email.

“They could have ac­quired the pipe­line for a lower price than they paid a few months ago. There was no down­side in wait­ing.

“If the ex­pan­sion had been ap­proved, Kin­der Mor­gan share­hold­ers would have paid for the ex­pan­sion — not Cana­dian tax­pay­ers.”

Other peo­ple are du­bi­ous about the Fed­eral Court of Ap­peal, a lit­tle-known body that ex­am­ines fed­eral ac­tions.

It does ap­pear to have enor­mous power that few peo­ple knew ex­isted.

But the le­gal ex­perts I’ve spo­ken to agree that this judg­ment is well-ar­gued and sound, de­spite doubts about sud­denly in­clud­ing mar­itime trans­port.

Blam­ing the court only lifts the onus from the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, which failed to meet con­di­tions that should have been ob­vi­ous.

Trudeau wants to correct the fail­ings as quickly as pos­si­ble through Indige­nous con­sul­ta­tion and work on the marine is­sue.

Af­ter that, the Na­tional En­ergy Board could again ap­prove, and cabi­net would is­sue an­other or­der. Con­struc­tion would restart. But the new ap­proval and cabi­net or­der, just like the first ones, would then be sub­ject to ap­peal. Pipe­line op­po­nents in B.C. are not likely to pass up that chance.

If the court agreed to hear the case, the Trans Moun­tain pipe­line would face many more months of un­cer­tainty, and even a sec­ond re­jec­tion.

We just don’t know. That’s why the most telling words spo­ken Wed­nes­day about Al­berta and Canada came from New York.

“There is clearly a cri­sis of con­fi­dence in Canada,” Sun­cor CEO Steve Wil­liams told an in­vestor con­fer­ence.

Sun­cor won’t start its sched­uled ex­pan­sion projects “without more clar­ity on pipe­lines,” he said.

“I would want to see ac­tual, phys­i­cal progress on the ground . . .”

And I would like to see a uni­corn.

ED KAISER/POST­MEDIA

Premier Rachel Not­ley meets with Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau at the Fair­mont Ho­tel Mac­don­ald in Ed­mon­ton, Septem­ber 5, 2018.

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