Pipeline Selfie Please, Justin

It's time to get a Canadian oil sands pipeline built to tidewater

November 01, 2016

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The Federal government’s approval of Petronas’s $36-billion LNG project in British Columbia is much-needed good news for the service industry. It’s the first concrete sign that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau really supports the industry, although there was an earlier indicator in August when his Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna visited Calgary. She said the Alberta government’s carbon pricing makes it more likely that pipelines will be built—McKenna wouldn’t have said this without Trudeau’s permission. It’s expected that he will greenlight the Trans Mountain pipeline in December—an early Christmas present for service firms.

Radical ENGOs danced on the table when first Premier Rachel Notley and then Trudeau got elected and signed the Paris climate deal. But Notley turned the music off, pivoted 180 degrees on Northern Gateway and came out swinging for pipelines.

A hard-earned Trans Mountain thumbs up would be another desperately needed shot in the arm for service firms, and a well-deserved finger in the eye of the radical ENGOs. In the general election, some pumped money into key constituencies to try and get the Liberals elected. ENGO investigator Vivian Krause, argues that they were successful—and that many of their dollars weren’t Canadian. They should ask for their money back.

Trudeau would prefer to be remembered as something other than a social media star who fiddled with selfies while the economy burned. This means taking tough decisions that will upset some of his supporters—those leadership decisions that create jobs and may succeed where his predecessor failed. When a federal court ruled earlier this year that the government of former prime minister Stephen Harper hadn’t adequately consulted on the Northern Gateway pipeline with First Nations—a constitutional obligation—it added that doing so would only have delayed the pipeline by up to four months. Trudeau, in contrast, has appointed a panel, headed by a former First Nations chief, Kim Baird, to do what Harper failed to do—listen.

The carbon pricing policies, international commitments and toughening of regulations cost producers. But they also buy Trudeau the political capital to build pipelines—although it would be nice to see a carbon price on imported crude along with a human rights abuse tax, seeing as the Middle East doesn’t do social license. Regulations help gain the support on the ground needed for energy infrastructure projects from whomever owns the land they are built on. Tough love regulations also head off PR disasters such as the North Saskatchewan River spill whose pipeline was only lightly regulated. So, the formula seems to be: Carbon pricing + strict regulations + consultation = Crude to tidewater.

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One Response to “Pipeline Selfie Please, Justin”

  1. Mike Priaro says:

    Thumbs down on the Trans Mountain expansion.
    Its volumes serve to weaken the case for Energy East, giving Trudeau and co. an opening to delay, or deny its approval, or approve it with such onerous conditions it never gets built.
    EE will ship twice the volume of TMX, provide opportuntiies to add value in Canada, displace foreign imports, and access new markets in Europe and W. India.
    TMX simply exports more low-value raw bitumen as dilbit – probably to US Puget Sound and California refineries. The last thing Canada needs is another crude pipeline to the US where 99% of our exports already go.
    Finally, there is no community buy-in for more than 440 dilbit-laden tanker trips through Vancouver’s busy inner and outer harbours, under the Second Narrows bridges, under the Lions Gate bridge and past Stanley Park.