Trudeau has made the mistake of trying to have it both ways on pipelines

sunny daze

Pipelines are federal jurisdiction, and no mayor, including Montreal's Denis Coderre, or premier has a veto

While the benefits of the proposed Energy East pipeline may seem obvious to many Albertans, we should be under no illusions about the existence of a very real and very motivated opposition to it.

As for Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, he is but a symptom of that. Surely by now, we ought to be used to politicians pandering to pipeline opponents, but the reaction to Coderre’s remarks last week was as if such a thing had never occurred.

What really matters is the position of the federal government. Pipelines are federal jurisdiction, and no mayor or premier has a veto. But is Prime Minister Justin Trudeau prepared to go to bat for Energy East, especially in the face of determined opposition?

There were some encouraging signals last week, as Trudeau declared that he’s “feeling very good about our capacity to get our resources to market in a responsible and environmentally sustainable way.” But this is also the same Trudeau who has consistently refused to take a stand on Energy East and the same Trudeau who opposed the Northern Gateway pipeline.

It would appear, though, that Trudeau is open to Energy East, and we need to keep the pressure on.

As for Coderre, his opposition to Energy East is really no different than the B.C. government’s opposition to the Trans Mountain pipeline project. It’s certainly frustrating and unhelpful, but neither is it fatal to the cause.

In Coderre’s case, it’s no great challenge to note his own hypocrisy, as many did last week. Even Wildrose Leader Brian Jean noted how “you can’t dump raw sewage, accept foreign tankers, benefit from equalization and then reject our pipelines.” Well, it turns out you can.

But what do we expect to accomplish by noting this? Even if Coderre were to concede all of Jean’s points, would Energy East be any closer to reality? Of course not.

There’s obviously a pressing need for proponents of Energy East to tout the benefits of the project, and that means selling Quebecers of the value of reducing foreign oil imports and providing Alberta feedstock to eastern refineries – including the one in Montreal. It means selling Quebecers on the merits of pipelines and the energy sector’s importance to the Canadian economy. Exposing Coderre’s hypocrisy is not a shortcut to accomplishing this important task.

Perhaps if Montreal’s mayor was not a former Liberal cabinet minister, the reaction would have been somewhat more subdued. There seems to be a fear that this well-connected Liberal insider can simply pick up the phone and call in a favour and have this pipeline scuttled. Of course, if Energy East was truly a priority for Trudeau, they’d probably hang up on Coderre pretty quickly in the first place.

The concern here therefore is not so much Coderre, but the opposition to Energy East that Coderre is pandering to. Is Trudeau prepared to face down that opposition?

Speaking in Calgary earlier this month, MP and cabinet minister Kent Hehr tried to make the case that his boss is the one who can finally deliver on market access by engaging with aboriginals and premiers. Of course, that implies that Trudeau supports these projects in the first place and the jury is still out on that.

Like Premier Rachel Notley, Trudeau has made the mistake of trying to have it both ways on pipelines – that some are good, while others are bad, without really explaining the distinction. Why is it unreasonable for Coderre to oppose Energy East when both Trudeau and Notley oppose Northern Gateway?

Coderre is smart enough to realize this. As he notes in an op-ed this week, “we are not the only ones to oppose pipeline projects.”

This hypocrisy is not helping our cause.

Despite hardening opposition to this and other pipelines, all is not lost. But proponents need to stay focused, stay on message, and avoid distractions like Denis Coderre.

Breakenridge: Never mind Coderre, what matters is what Trudeau thinks about pipelines | Calgary Herald
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Like Jean Chretien talking out of both sides of his face...

The French are good for that..
It sure is nice have political nit-wits in charge of multi-billion dollar contracts.