COMMENTARY: Pipeline opponents are losing — deservedly so
It’s hard to tell through all the noise, but opponents of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project are losing – and with each major decision that comes down, they fall further behind.
Not everyone’s going to be happy about that fact, but that’s something to be sorted out in the political realm. Those who’d prefer Canada not build pipeline infrastructure can choose to support politicians and parties who share that point of view. Otherwise, though, the rule of law needs to prevail. And so far it is.
It’s still within the realm of possibility that the Trans Mountain project could be derailed, but at this point, that would need to likely involve either the Liberal government suddenly getting cold feet or the company losing patience and pulling the plug. So far, though, the Liberals haven’t wavered and the company appears to be adjusting to the delays they’ve encountered thus far.
As it stands then, things are proceeding as they should. This pipeline project went through an exhaustive National Energy Board (NEB) review and was approved with a number (157, to be exact) of conditions. It has faced numerous legal and regulatory challenges and withstood them all. If such a project is still not worthy of a green light, then truly none are.
Most recently, we had the NEB rule that the city of Burnaby’s bylaws do not overrule federal jurisdiction in this area — a decision that the Federal Court of Appeal let stand. In February, the NEB issued three separate decisions that clear the way for construction of the project to begin at the Burnaby Mountain tunnel entrance. We also had the B.C. Supreme Court issue an injunction to keep protesters from blocking work sites. And that injunction is being enforced, as MPs Elizabeth May and Kennedy Stewart can attest to.
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And where are the victories that pipeline opponents can point to? The NDP-Green coalition that took power in B.C. looked to be a boost to pipeline foes, since both parties had campaigned against the pipeline. But so far, their pushback against the project has fizzled – not surprisingly, since the province doesn’t have much of a constitutional leg to stand on.
Frankly, pipeline opponents have been losing ever since Nov. 30, 2016 – the day when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced his support for the Trans Mountain pipeline project. That wasn’t just a go-ahead goal, it was more like multiple hat tricks in a single period. The side that has the backing of the federal government is the side with a considerable lead.
Trudeau’s approval was not a fait accompli, and it was a decision that entailed a fair amount of political risk. Having angered pipeline opponents, it would be political suicide for Trudeau to turn around and anger pipeline supporters by abandoning the project altogether. He’s locked into this.
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No one is — or should be — surprised by the fact that opposition to this project exists. That’s been obvious all along.
We also knew that the pipeline expansion would be challenged and would be protested, and therefore nothing that’s happened so far should be surprising, either.
No one is under any obligation to enthusiastically embrace this project, but nor is there any reason why the NEB process and federal authority should be tossed aside. This project is needed and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be built.
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It is peculiar to see environmentalists making a single pipeline their hill to die on. There wouldn’t be a need to provide the means to supply fossil fuels if there wasn’t a demand in the first place, and blocking one particular project does nothing to address that demand.
It is ironic that pipeline opponents are so dismissive of the climate plans of Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and Prime Minister Trudeau, since carbon pricing does far more to address demand than pipeline activism does.
Perhaps it will take defeat on this pipeline to make them realize that. And at the moment, that’s what they’re facing.
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