August 7, 2018 3:50 pm

Danielle Smith: Saudi Arabia dispute shows it’s time to kickstart Energy East

Canada is raising serious concerns after Saudi Arabia's sudden and unexpected move to expel Canadian ambassador Dennis Horak, and freeze all new trade.

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The best thing the Liberal government could do in response to the diplomatic and trade war started by Saudi Arabia is to kickstart the Energy East pipeline project again. The second best thing they could do is tell Saudi Arabia that we don’t need their dirty oil and source it from the Americans instead. The last thing we should do is apologize.

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I don’t know what possessed the Saudi Arabian regime to amp up the outrage machine in response to Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland’s tweets, but I won’t be crying the blues if we stop trading with that loathsome regime.

Saudi Arabia is not our friend. Amnesty International has done a great job of profiling the growing list of injustices that plague the country. Freeland was responding to the detainment of Raif Badawi and the recent arrest of his sister Samar Badawi, along with several other women who have been jailed for pushing for more civil freedoms, including former UBC student Loujain al Hathloul.

READ MORE: Tensions between Saudi Arabia and Canada affecting international students in the Maritimes

We can only presume that the Saudi leadership thought that allowing women to drive and opening up movie theatres would allow them to continue to crack down on activists with impunity. Because that’s what’s the international community always does. No matter how much they continue to abuse human rights and export Wahhabi extremism, we continue to act as if Saudi Arabia is a friend and ally.

LISTEN: Danielle Smith discusses Canada’s push on Saudi Arabia to release detained rights activists

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At least now we can drop the pretense. If they don’t want to trade with Canada anymore, I say the feeling is mutual. The only thing the Saudis seem to want to buy from us is military equipment that has been used to help create the world’s worst humanitarian crisis and even used against civilians in Yemen.

READ MORE: Canada can easily replace Saudi Arabian crude oil, economist says

The major import we have from Saudi Arabia is an annual $2.2 billion worth of oil that goes to the Irving refinery in Saint John. That was the refinery that was going to be supplied by the Energy East pipeline if it had been built. When proponents of the line were talking about the benefits of becoming energy independent, this is exactly the sort of reason why. We need to get that conversation going again.

Pipelines can’t be built overnight, of course, but with the vast majority of our imports coming from the United States, I’m quite certain Irving could source a replacement for Saudi oil (about 86,000 barrels a day) from a friendlier source closer to home. If we agree to buy an additional $2.2 billion of crude from the U.S. each year, maybe that will even help us with our NAFTA negotiations.

Freeland has been criticized in some quarters for her lack of diplomacy in raising this issue. I say it’s about time.

Danielle Smith is host of The Danielle Smith Show on Global News Radio 770 Calgary. She can be reached at danielle@770chqr.com.

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