October 11, 2017 8:13 pm
Updated: October 11, 2017 9:48 pm

Premier Wall stands behind ‘strong language’ used in Energy East pipeline frustration

TransCanada's decision to cancel the Energy East pipeline drew swift reaction from many in Saskatchewan, including Premier Brad Wall. Wall sees the decision as rooted in federal policy that undermines western Canada’s economy and by extension, national unity. As David Baxter tells us, Wall stands by his criticism and his choice of words.

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Premier Brad Wall’s disappointment and frustration at the cancellation of TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline has been more than apparent on his Facebook page.

“I used strong language because I feel strongly about this pipeline,” Wall said Wednesday.

Over the past week Wall’s gone as far as saying “national unity is at risk, we need a rational debate on energy in this country.” Last week, when the cancellation was announced, he likened western Canada’s relationship with federal policy to Stockholm syndrome.

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“Similar language was used in the debate around the national energy program, stronger language I would argue,” Wall said.

“Eventually, that led to change. That led to a federal government that got rid of that policy, thank goodness. So I do think, in the end, this is about policy. I think western Canadians shouldn’t shy away from using strong language, especially when you consider the cumulative effect of this federal government on the energy sector.”

READ MORE: Justin Trudeau cautions against ‘stoking national divisions’ over Energy East

TransCanada has not definitively said why they chose to withdraw the application for Energy East. Wall maintains that it is because of a federal government policy failure. Public Safety Minister and Liberal MP Ralph Goodale argued it’s about economics.

He said plunging oil prices since Energy East was first envisioned hurt the business case for converting existing natural gas pipe in Saskatchewan to oil pipeline for the megaproject.

“The demand for gas in North America makes the use of the existing line, for gas, a viable proposition, which was not the case seven or eight years ago,” Goodale said.

READ MORE: TransCanada kills plan for Energy East pipeline

Goodale said other factors may include the likely approval of TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline now that Donald Trump is in the White House and three major energy projects, like the TransMountain pipeline and Enbrigde’s Line Three, have been approved under the new regulatory framework.

“To this point, almost all the major contracts for the pipe have gone to Evraz Steel in Regina,” Goodale said.

“So the Government of Canada has successfully pursued a regulatory approach that has successfully approved three major projects, representing 22,000 jobs and $11 billion in investment.”

However, Wall maintains his belief that the addition of measuring upstream and downstream greenhouse gases during the application phase killed the project.

“Line Three’s going ahead with the same price of oil… Keystone XL is going ahead in the same low-cost environment, so I don’t think you can lay it at the feet of low commodity prices,” Wall said.

“I think the company did allude to regulatory risks, to changes that happened in mid process.”

READ MORE: Scheer criticizes Trudeau, reaction to Energy East during Edmonton visit

Language Drawbacks

Ken Rasmussen, a professor at the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy in Regina, didn’t pull any punches in describing his take on Wall’s heated social media statements.

“It’s very irresponsible for the Premier to be saying those kinds of things,” Rasmussen said, referring to comments like “national unity is at risk”.

“Words matter, and I don’t think he should be fanning the flames of western separatism. That said, western separatism has always been a fringe movement, pretty much the lunatic fringe.”

Rasmussen’s best guess on this course of action is that Wall is using these statements as a way of auditioning for a post-poltics career in the oil industry.

Wall said he has no job offers on the table for when he retires as premier next year.

Rasmussen also found it odd that at the apparent end of his political career, Wall is now becoming much more partisan on the federal stage.

“It’s funny, he’s become much more partisan now that Stephen Harper’s not there. He backed off on almost every issue with Harper, didn’t question equalization or anything,” Rasmussen said.

“Now this is all back on the table.”

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