Remember the Energy East pipeline? Here was a good idea that would have benefited the economy. However, after many court cases and many protests, the idea just had to die. Now we are seeing the same thing happen with the Trans Mountain pipeline. In early April, Kinder Morgan announced it had suspended all non-essential spending on the project due to “continued actions in opposition to the project.” It is like dé jà vu all over again.
This pipeline has now become a political game, with the usual cast of characters. First, there is the prime minister who continues to issue vacuous statements, while doing absolutely nothing concrete to address the situation. The scripted answer to all questions concerning Trans Mountain is, “We will continue to look at all our options; legal, regulatory and financial.” So far, there is no word on just what the options actually are, and just what action the government may be contemplating. It is hard to believe this is the same government that approved this project. The prime minister actually bragged about this stating, “That was our commitment, and it goes together with a national price on carbon and a historic oceans protection plan that is going to keep our coasts safe. This is all a package together.” Mr. Trudeau appears to be good at sticking to the script, which saves him from the painful process of actually thinking about an issue.
Next in line is (soon to be not) Premier Notley. We must remember this is the same Rachel Notley who opposed both the Keystone XL and the Northern Gateway pipelines while in opposition. Ms. Notley is doing an interesting balancing act of pretending to fight for the pipeline, but not too hard, lest she offend her left-wing voter base. We Albertans have got to be wondering how it came to be that we elected a party that opposes pipelines.
The last character in the political comedy is British Columbia Premier Horgan. Mr. Horgan got sort of elected (his party did not win the most seats in the election) by promising to oppose the Trans Mountain pipeline. This buys a lot of votes in the left coast where they have taken environmental hypocrisy to new heights. Here is a province that protests over pipelines, endlessly droning on about protecting the coastline and the evil climate change effects of using fossil fuel in cars. At the same time, British Columbians loudly protested when the price of gasoline recently surged to new heights. Apparently you are allowed to drive your car to the anti-fossil fuel protest. British Columbians also conveniently ignore the fact that Victoria harbour is basically a very busy airport.
My prediction is that Kinder Morgan’s deadline of the end of May will come and go, and the project will quietly die. The prime minister will shrug his shoulders (just like his father did) and say we did everything we could, but it was a business decision. Premier Notley will breathe a quiet sigh of relief, while pretending to be shocked and outraged, and Premier Horgan will gloat, while catching a seaplane from Victoria to Vancouver.
Frank Atkins is a senior fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.