Home Regular Contributors Frank Atkins National Energy Program II by Stealth

National Energy Program II by Stealth

Frank Atkins

In early October, TransCanada announced it was abandoning the Energy East pipeline. The Trudeau administration responded to this in the usual manner, by issuing an astonishingly naive statement. This job was delegated to Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr, who smugly stated this was simply a business decision which had nothing to do with the government. What Mr. Carr failed to realize is that, unlike Liberal policy pronouncements, business decisions do not come out of vacuums. Business decisions are guided by the policy environment the government has created. In this case, the government changed the rules after TransCanada filed its application, yet Energy East was subject to the new regulations. The government essentially forced the business decision upon TransCanada. It is interesting this can be viewed as a new style of “inconvenient truth”: policy decisions based on votes rather than economics force business decisions that are bad for the economy.

Like his father before him, Trudeau the Junior has shown it is more important to protect votes in Central Canada than it is to formulate policies that will help the economy. This is clearly one more attempt to gain votes from Ontario and Quebec at the expense of a well-functioning economy. From the moment it was announced, Energy East faced strong opposition in Quebec. A group of Montreal-area mayors that called itself the Communauté métropolitaine de Montréal (MMC), which is headed by Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, immediately announced strong opposition to the Energy East pipeline. In addition, all of the progressives in Quebec and Ontario droned on incessantly about the nasty environmental effects of pipelines and fossil fuels. The hypocrisy here is astounding. Does anyone really believe stopping Energy East is actually going to reduce fossil fuel consumption? The MMC does not want oil from Alberta, but does not mind importing oil to meet its energy needs. Presumably it is all right to allow foreign countries to reap the benefits of our fossil fuel consumption, but it is bad for Alberta to benefit from this.

I am certain the Trudeau administration will never attempt to explain why they can formulate polices that harm the western economies, while at the same time, they pour billions of dollars into Bombardier, which is a very poorly-run company. The signal that is being sent to the investment world is that Canada is not really a good place to invest, as the government seems to only support inefficient industries.

We are slow to learn the truth of the adage – like father, like son. Albertans still remember the devastating economic effects of the original national energy program (NEP), brought in by Trudeau the Senior. When Trudeau the Junior first got elected, I warned of the possibility of NEP II. What we are seeing here is not one package of legislation similar to the original NEP, but rather a whole series of decisions on energy policy that, when taken together, essentially are NEP II. Sort of like NEP II by stealth.

Frank Atkins is a senior fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.