Trudeau’s on Alberta’s side, sort of


I’m glad Prime Minister Justin Trudeau got a second chance to clarify where he stands on the Trans Mountain pipeline extension, because his first effort didn’t inspire much confidence.

In fact, Trudeau’s first effort (on CBC Edmonton Thursday morning), was so weak, it provoked Premier Rachel Notley to hold a news conference Thursday afternoon during which she demanded Trudeau come out more forcefully in favour of Kinder Morgan’s $7.4-billion project.

Trudeau’s federal Liberal government approved the 900,000 barrel-a-day expansion of the existing Trans Mountain line back in November 2016, but it has barely lifted a finger since.

News stories about Trudeau’s CBC interview reported that he “vowed the pipeline would be built.” And he did. Sort of.

If you read the edited versions of Trudeau’s words, with all the um’s and uh’s cleaned up, his meaning is clear-ish.

But listened to in real time, the P.M. sounds dodgy, as if he’s trying to conceal his true intent.

Does the federal government plan to take action against B.C.’s stalling tactics?

“Uh … we’re … ah … we’re gonna, you know, look at various steps involved if necessary. But people need to know that that pipeline is one that we approved because it’s in the national interest … uh … and because we know … uh … that it fits within the … uh … balance between environment and economy that … uh … we need to move forward with. And we’re going to get that pipeline built.”

Are B.C.’s actions illegal?

“Uh … you know what, I’m not going to … uh … opine on … uh … on the disagreements between the provinces in this case. Uh…we’re just going to reiterate that the decision that we made was in the national interest and we’re going to continue … uh … to move forward with … uh … that … uh … with that decision.”

What actions will your government take to get the pipeline built?

“Ah … you know, we’ll … uh … it’s still uh … it’s still early on this, and … uh … we’re still … uh … we’re still moving forward the way we always planned to.”

Sleep well, tonight, Canada. Justin Trudeau is on our side! (I think.)

OK, so it was early. Maybe Trudeau hadn’t had his morning kombucha yet when the CBC called.

A couple of hours later, on 630 CHED’s Ryan Jespersen Show, he was firmer, although he remained vague about what his government was prepared to do to ensure the line was constructed.

This is all very complicated because none of the governments involved truly want any pipelines built. The federal Liberals, the Canada NDP and the B.C. NDP are all just about equally “green.” In their ideal world, there would be no more pipelines.

But at least the Canada New Dems and the Trudeau Liberals know they need the money from pipelines to fund their Big Government fantasies.

Then there’s the electoral math.

Trudeau’s party has four seats in Canada and very little chance of winning more. (Indeed, he’ll likely lose two seats next election – maybe all four.) Meanwhile, he has 18 MPs from B.C. He could lose some if he makes the wrong play on Kinder Morgan. Or he could win an additional four to six if he makes moves popular with B.C. voters.

So, with the next election in mind, Trudeau is unlikely to tread heavily on B.C. government toes. And he’s unlikely to call in the RCMP or army when First Nations and eco-activists stand in the way of construction equipment, as they inevitably will.

But he is keen enough on the money from Trans Mountain to push for it – a little – because he really doesn’t want a resurrection of Energy East, which his government indirectly killed.

That’s because pipelines (especially Energy East) are really unpopular in his home province of Quebec, where his party hopes to gain as many as a dozen seats in 2019.

So don’t be too hard on our prevaricating prime minister. He’s got a lot of balls in the air at once.

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