Isn’t protecting B.C. from bullies in the national interest?


How on Earth did the Canadian economy make it this far without the TransMountain pipeline? And, even more importantly, how did the Fathers of Confederation ever cobble this country together without the pipeline?

These questions are probably weighing heavy on your mind if you’re listening at all to this country’s panting punditry or preening politicians (mostly from Alberta, but from elsewhere too) pontificate about pipeline politics.  The rhetoric over British Columbia seeking a legal opinion over what it can, or can’t do, about increased oil tanker traffic through waters surrounding the country’s third largest metropolitan area, is nothing short of astounding.

And, of course, the American company that is to apparently singlehandedly save the Canadian economy and reaffirm our national identity has ratcheted things up a notch by saying we’ve got to give it a green light by May 31 or it will take its toys and go home.

Sounding a lot like his predecessor, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has declared the pipeline in the national interest. What exactly does ‘in the national interest’ mean anyway? If you believe all the rhetoric being bandied about, then you might believe this pipeline will cement Canada together like bitumen drying in a Prairie sun (does bitumen actually dry out?).

However, for most Canadians, who have yet to go off madly in all directions about this pipeline, it’s hard to reconcile Trudeau’s assertions that the pipeline is in the national interest. Stephen Harper declared the Northern Gateway pipeline to be in the ‘national interest’ yet Trudeau easily put the kibosh on that deal (a decision he’s now likely regretting as it likely would have been easier to ram a pipeline through northern B.C. than the Lower Mainland).

And then, of course, there’s Alberta Premier Rachel Notley who has cobbled together legislation designed to cut off, or severely limit, B.C.’s fuel supply. Albertans still remember the ‘sunny days’ of that province’s history when Peter Lougheed started cutting back on the fuel supply to eastern Canada because of Pierre Trudeau’s National Energy Plan. Lougheed tightened the screws, went to Ottawa, and inked a deal with Trudeau. Yay, Alberta won. Notley is hoping to do the same.

What Albertans forget is that the senior Trudeau gladly signed the deal with Lougheed and while the Alberta premier was basking in ticker-tape parades celebrating Alberta’s sticking it to eastern Liberals, Trudeau was gleefully writing the Canadian Constitution (ratified a year later), including wording specifically designed to prevent stunts like what Lougheed pulled from every happening again.

That’s where the irony comes in. A lot of the politicians and pundits who are fuming over what B.C. Premier John Horgan is doing, are saying it’s contrary to the rule of law and un-Constitutional. In fact, the opposite is true. Horgan and B.C. have simply asked for a legal ruling on what jurisdiction it has over protecting B.C.’s marine waters. Yes, there is no doubt the intent is to find a way to stop the TransMountain pipeline. However, Horgan has made it clear he, and the province, will abide by whatever the court rules.

On the other side of the coin, should Alberta, and by osmosis Saskatchewan, actually restrict the flow of fuel to B.C., that would clearly be un-Constitutional (thanks, Pierre) and B.C. would surely win the subsequent lawsuit. However, there is no doubt, should it come to that, the damage to B.C.’s economy would be catastrophic.

That’s why Trudeau, as much as he wants the pipeline and even if he indemnifies Kinder Morgan from any risk, must first do what’s in the ‘national interest’ and prevent Alberta and Saskatchewan from bullying B.C. right out of Confederation.

And that is exactly what Notley is doing … bullying.

Some might say that Horgan threw the first stone in this battle, and that he did. The difference being that everything British Columbia has done has followed the rule of law. Unlike when Christy Clark was worried about Northern Gateway and threatened to withhold permits, Horgan’s government has done nothing of the sort. In fact, the province has approved 201 permits required for the pipeline, another 386 are being reviewed, and Kinder Morgan has yet to submit the remaining 600 permits needed.

The B.C. government has followed legal avenues available to it to oppose the project, not sleight-of-hand trickery or bullying.

That’s why the meeting last week between Trudeau, Notley, and Horgan didn’t yield any results. Trudeau and Notley have no real leverage over Horgan, other than intimidation and bullying.

And that is even more upsetting.

British Columbians can be split, and we are, on whether to support Horgan or the pipeline, but we should, and must, be united in our condemnation of the un-Constitutional bullying coming from east of the Rockies.