Time and again I read and hear accusations from progressives that conservatives, and especially members of the Conservative Party of Canada, ignore scientific evidence in favour of blindly following dogma or in an effort to please commercial interests.
And I cannot deny that there are times when I worry about motivations behind some policy pronouncements of politicians, of all stripes. Tribalism of the political kind is alive and well in our land and progressive politicians make progressive policies most of the time and Conservative politicians make conservative policies most of the time. I wouldn’t expect them to do otherwise.
There are issues, though, that transcend party politics—or, at least, they should. And I suggest Canada’s economic welfare is one of those issues. Traditional East-West rivalries notwithstanding, when our economic future is at stake, I expect all regions to stand together. When one region prospers, we all derive some benefit, even if its only through the federal government’s equalization payments.
What I find galling, though, is Ontario—a beneficiary of equalization payments financed primarily by Alberta and Saskatchewan—sucking up to the environmentalists by raising gratuitous concerns over TransCanada Pipelines Ltd.’s proposed Energy East project.
Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne’s list of seven “principles” for the much needed pipeline to gain her support is a shameless political play aimed at gaining credit with those Canadians who believe that anything connected to fossil fuels—and especially those derived from Canada’s oil sands—is inherently evil.
As Margaret Wente recently noted in The Globe and Mail, “It’s not just global warming—it’s that they are thought to be inherently dangerous. They leak, spill, kill birds, devastate natural spaces and poison our earth, water and air.”
The federal National Energy Board as the appropriate body to review a pipeline project that crosses provincial boundaries. It is that agency which is charged with the responsibility to conduct environmental assessments during its review of applications for pipelines.
Dwight Newman, a professor of law at the University of Saskatchewan writes in The Globe and Mail today:
These premiers [Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard and Wynne] have no constitutional basis to be making conditions, demands or anything else on this pipeline, and they play a dangerous game in attempting to do so.”
I agree, and Premier Wynne is very aware of the NEB’s function. She was recently quoted by The Canadian Press as saying, “We are not going to preempt the National Energy Board’s process. We are going to feed into it.” But, of course, when it comes to the oil sands, one of the environmentalists’ hot-buttons, ideology trumps legal process, good science and, yes, even common sense.
How much common sense does it take to understand the incongruity of insisting that the “upstream” carbon emissions of the proposed pipeline be weighed when we have never heard Wynne express her concerns about “upstream” carbon emissions from the oil currently being imported, refined and consumed in Eastern Canada?
How much common sense does it take to understand the incongruity of insisting on extra “principles”, which are little more than added roadblocks, to be met before endorsing the pipeline when Canada currently imports oil from countries with much more serious human rights and environmental issues than have ever existed in Alberta or Saskatchewan? Oil that is targeted to be displaced by that which the pipeline will deliver seems to arrive in Canada free from any of Wynne’s environmental or ethical concerns.
How much common sense does it take to understand the incongruity of insisting on extra “principles” beyond the normal criteria the NEB will consider, when Lac-Mégantic should be reminder enough why we need more pipeline capacity? Everyone seems to agree: Oil is going to move one way or another, and pipelines are safest.
As to carbon emissions attributed to any oil or gas production or transportation in Canada, it seems sensible to me that we develop plans to limit emissions and protect the country’s international reputation, but as the Premier of Saskatchewan Brad Wall stated recently, the regulatory process for this pipeline isn’t the place to do that.
But Wynne doesn’t seem to care much about common sense or being consistent, she seems to care far more about appealing to the noisiest elements of her base. That is all too apparent.
When it comes to Canada’s oilsands, progressives seem to be at war with science and oblivious to Canada’s economic welfare. As is neatly summed up in a Nov. 26 editorial in The Globe and Mail, “The bottom line is that this country is an oil exporter, and it needs pipelines. It also needs a GHG [green house gas] reduction strategy. The two are not mutually exclusive.”