National Post (Latest Edition)

MULRONEY URGES TRUDEAU TO SPEARHEAD PIPELINE EFFORT

NOT SO MUCH

- John I vi s on Comment

Former prime minister Brian Mulroney says the regulatory process governing pipeline approval is being “gamed” by people who want to disrupt any oilsands developmen­t, and is urging Justin Trudeau to spearhead a “concerted and coherent strategy” to build energy infrastruc­ture.

Mulroney told an audience at a private event held Tuesday by the Business Council of Canada that the federal government must co- ordinate with provinces and First Nations to move pipelines forward “in the national interest.”

Trudeau has said he sees his role as a “responsibl­e referee” on energy projects, rather than a “cheerleade­r.”

But Mulroney said the “vital initiative” must be led by the prime minister himself.

“In this area, there are no substitute­s for him.”

“He strikes me as having the style, the interest and the instinct necessary to bring the premiers and the aboriginal leaders and environmen­talists together, and emerge with a common position that speaks to Canada’s future with optimism and hope,” he said.

Mulroney also criticized the Trudeau government’s decision to extend the regulatory review process.

“The government is actually injecting more uncertaint­y into the process and underminin­g the credi bility of the regulatory institutio­ns charged with that responsibi­lity. There is a growing risk that, due to protracted delays, mounting opposition, escalating costs and the lack of distinct political support, essential pipeline projects may die stillborn — just like the ill- fated Mackenzie Valley pipeline — with severe damage to a vital sector of the economy that is already reel- ing from depressed prices.”

Mulroney also cited Petronas of Malaysia’s expression­s of frustratio­n about the “cumbersome and uncertain regulatory review procedure” over its plans to build a liquefied natural gas plant in British Columbia.

The former prime minister also took aim at Liberal policy on the challenge of radical Islamic terrorism and the recent cut in defence spending.

“This is not the time to curtail defence and security spending. We cannot talk our way into more relevance in the world. We need to have the capacity to engage credibly in efforts to contain manifestat­ions of global conflict. If we truly want Canada to play a stronger role in the world, we need to reinforce it with more than nostalgic sentiments.”

But Mulroney saved his most forceful criticism for the authors of the Leap Manifesto, which delegates at the recent New Democratic Party convention voted to debate.

“Recently, a group of Luddites attempted to seize control of a major political party in Canada by articulati­ng a new philosophy of economic nihilism that would devastate the economy of Western Canada and seriously damage the long- term economic prospects of our country as a whole. This must be resisted and defeated,” he said.

He concluded by returning to the theme of leadership and the need for Trudeau to spend the political capital he has accumulate­d.

“Prime ministers are not chosen to seek popularity. They are chosen to provide leadership. There are times when voters must be told not what they want to hear but what they have to know …. This is precisely such a time.”

The speech will likely intensify the debate inside the Trudeau government about where and when to intervene in the pipeline debate.

As the National Post reported last week, Trudeau is convinced by the argument that the constructi­on of pipelines to the west and east coasts is in the national interest. Conversati­ons are already taking place between Ottawa and the government­s of British Columbia and Alberta about how to make them a reality.

But the government is waiting for the National Energy Board ruling on the Trans Mountain expansion in B. C., while the agency’s hearings into the Energy East pipeline have not yet started.

The federal government believes it can satisfy the regulator and provincial government­s but is conscious that public opinion is divided on the issue of energy infrastruc­ture.

Opinion polling suggests Trudeau is more trusted by Canadians on pipelines than was his predecesso­r, Stephen Harper. But the Liberals are conscious that they can’t be seen to be campaignin­g for pipelines before the regulator has ruled.

With Trans Mountain not expected to reach cabinet until December, this suggests Mulroney’s call to arms will, for now, go unheeded.

VOTERS MUST BE TOLD NOT WHAT THEY WANT TO HEAR BUT WHAT THEY HAVE TO KNOW.

 ?? KEVIN VAN PAASSEN FOR NATIONAL POST ??
KEVIN VAN PAASSEN FOR NATIONAL POST

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