Roy Green: Do we still have a nation?
The Trans Mountain pipeline extension imbroglio is unzipping Canada’s emotional fault lines with a surgical dexterity unimagined by any remaining members of Quebec’s constitutional dismemberment teams of 1980 and 1995.
Trans Mountain was to be Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s bone tossed to Alberta and Saskatchewan. The script would see our globe-trotting, folk dancing, adulation seeking, climate saving, social justice warrior take a key step toward fulfilling his town hall wish to phase out the oilsands. Wink, wink.
Surely, oil-haters would identify and accept the Golden Child’s strategy. We’ll give them one (Trans Mountain) and slash the remainder, bit by bit, one by one.
Now Canada will distance itself from massive amounts of guaranteed income gained by extraction, transport and sale of economy-stabilizing fossil fuel reserves. Instead, the nation will follow the path cleared by Ontario under premiers Dalton McGuinty and Kathleen Wynne.
Gone are the days when Ontario was described as the engine of Canada. That engine has been overtaxed, causing Ontario to fall to “have not” from “have” status. Provincial well-being has been managed with an apparent distaste for budgetary fundamentals. (A baby’s first scream is over the debt for which it is already responsible.)
Federally, Trudeau, Catherine McKenna, et al., would plunge the nation into debt so huge through programs and initiatives so inept the average Ontario taxpayer might experience pangs of nostalgia for the fiscal skills of Bob Rae and Floyd Laughren.
The province’s Auditor General, Bonnie Lysyk, in her 2015 annual report, noted that electricity consumers are paying billions of dollars more for the Liberal government’s decision to ignore its own planning process for new power generation projects. Hydro customers will pay a total of $9.2 billion more for wind and solar projects under the Liberals 20-year guaranteed-price program for renewable energy than they would have under the old program.
WATCH ABOVE: Ontario Auditor General accuses Wynne government of intentionally hiding true cost of hydro reduction
Lysyk slammed Premier Wynne in 2017 as well, pointing to the Liberals’ “improper accounting” for $26.2 billion in net debt taken on to reduce hydro bills just before the provincial election this June.
Prior to the 2015 federal election, Trudeau declared famously that budgets will balance themselves. His 2016-17 deficit target was $9.9 billion. The actual deficit? $23 billion. The 2017-18 deficit target was $9.5 billion. Now it’s projected to be $28.5 billion. During the 2015 election campaign, Trudeau projected a $1-billion surplus for 2019-20. Instead, there is a projected deficit of some $14.5-billion. Oh, by the way, Oct. 21, 2019, is the scheduled date of our next federal election.
Perhaps budgets do balance themselves for trust fund babies, but not for that screaming Ontario middle-class baby mentioned earlier.
So now we find provinces snarling over the completion of one pipeline extension in British Columbia. B.C. Premier John Horgan, who occupies the premier’s office only with the support of Andrew Weaver’s Green Party, is behaving as though federal government supremacy in pipeline decision-making matters little.
Horgan speaks of B.C. as an independent entity within Canada (“our coast and inland waters”). Horgan, though, does not for a moment believe that oil located in Alberta is Alberta’s. Oil and energy supplies are the province’s to do with as it wishes, even if that were to mean closing Alberta’s supply to B.C. until the Horgan supports the federally approved Trans Mountain pipeline. Alberta Premier Rachel Notley’s government has already introduced legislation which would empower the province if that decision were to be taken in Edmonton. Horgan’s Attorney General has now threatened court action if Alberta were to cut supply westward.
Last weekend I spoke with Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe. He was unequivocal. “The Premier of British Columbia has no grounds to state opinions on this project. It has been approved and it should be built.”
I asked Premier Moe whether Saskatchewan would stand with Alberta, were the Alberta government to decide to stop all energy product shipments to B.C. Moe’s reply: “If Alberta were going to pass legislation to turn the taps off to British Columbia, the next logical place for B.C. to come to for that product is Saskatchewan. We would pass legislation so that it wouldn’t be accessible (to B.C.).”
Premier Moe insisted “the crux of the matter is that this is a federal government decision. They should move on this pipeline with whatever tools they have,” adding railways, ports and pipelines are under federal jurisdiction and have in the past proven to be unifying initiatives.
Premier Moe’s question should not be underestimated. “If a province such as British Columbia is able to stop one of these projects, it begs the question, do we still have a nation?”
Let’s ask our prime minister to engage — as soon as he returns from France and England.
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