Rob Breakenridge: Justin Trudeau’s pipeline dishonesty

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau takes questions at a town hall meeting in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

As expected, there were some pointed questions for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at his Calgary town hall about the oilsands and pipelines. In the video below, the prime minister attempts to clarify his remarks about “phasing out” the oilsands and argues that his recent pipeline approvals demonstrate his commitment to developing this resource.

Certainly, the prime minister deserves credit for granting approval to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and Line 3 pipeline replacement, but unfortunately Trudeau felt the need to go even further and present a dishonest distortion of the previous government’s record:

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“You know who tried to force a choice between the environment and the economy? The last government. They said ‘we’re not going to do anything on the environment and we’re going to get all of these pipelines approved.’ Do you know what they did? They didn’t get any pipelines approved.


I have approved pipelines that the previous government wasn’t able to do.”

In just those few sentences, the prime minister manages to cram in numerous falsehoods and misrepresentations. This is unfortunate. The goal should be to get these pipelines built, and if both the Liberals and Conservatives support that goal, then the focus should instead be on standing up to those who would block these projects. Playing politics, like Trudeau is doing here, doesn’t help.

First of all, when Trudeau says he “approved pipelines that the previous government wasn’t able to do,” he’s being rather disingenuous. The National Energy Board (NEB) recommended approval of the Trans Mountain project in May of 2016. The decision on the Line 3 replacement came down the previous month.

As we all know, the Conservatives lost the election of 2015 and so clearly Stephen Harper was not prime minister when it came time for the prime minister to make a decision on these projects. So of course the previous government “wasn’t able” to approve these pipelines – that would have been impossible.

Stephen Harper’s government did, however, approve the Northern Gateway pipeline in June of 2014. And although Trudeau opposed that pipeline and ultimately killed it, it puts to lie the statement that “they didn’t get any pipelines approved.” I certainly hope that the Trans Mountain project gets built, but as of now Trudeau’s achievements match Harper’s in this area: both said yes to a pipeline project to the west coast.

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Maybe, though, when Trudeau said “approved” he actually meant “built.” Harper may have said yes to Northern Gateway, but construction of the pipeline never occurred. So no pipelines built on Harper’s watch, right?


The Alberta Clipper pipeline and the original Keystone pipeline were both approved and constructed while the Conservatives were in office. Granted, the Liberals didn’t oppose those projects, but certainly the Liberals must be aware of their existence. Not only that, but there was the Kinder Morgan Anchor Loop and the Line 9B reversal – both approved and constructed.

Now, none of those projects represent a pipeline to the west coast, but those were the projects submitted for NEB and federal cabinet approval. Harper said yes to all of them. All except Northern Gateway got built and it would be supremely disingenuous for Trudeau to fault Harper for not getting a pipeline built that he himself opposed.

Trudeau should stop playing ridiculous political games and focus instead on building political alliances to ensure that we can overcome pipeline opposition and get these much-needed projects built.

Rob Breakenridge is host of “Afternoons with Rob Breakenridge” on Global News Radio 770 Calgary and a commentator for Global News. 

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