The Junior Trudeau government has never demonstrated they have any kind of a grasp on economic issues. They seem to regard taxpayers as an endless well of money to support the government’s insatiable desire to spend taxpayer money. As I have said many times before, this is eerily similar to the financial mess the Senior Trudeau government left us in. Instead of trying to deal with this obsession with spending and deficits, the Junior Trudeau government is fixated on nebulous goals such as net-zero emissions by 2050. From a purely political perspective, this is a stroke of genius. Promise something that has all the right words in it, while setting the goal so far into the future you will not be around to answer for it.
The Teck Frontier project is a perfect example of this type of naive economic behaviour. Here is a project that would create jobs much needed in the Alberta economy, as well as contribute tax revenue to the federal government. As I write this article in early February, there are strong rumours the government will either delay approval, or possibly deny approval completely. Apparently, if the project is not approved, Finance Minister Bill Morneau is preparing some sort of financial aid package for Alberta to compensate for the loss of the project. Alberta Environment and Parks Minister Jason Nixon has called this package a charity handout, adding “Albertans are not going to tolerate this anymore.” Mr. Morneau’s response to Mr. Nixon demonstrated his head is anywhere but in the issues. Trying to separate the aid package from the Teck project, Mr. Morneau stated, “We’re working on how we can create opportunity in parts of the country that have the need for increased job opportunities. The issues around Teck Frontier are separate and distinct.… It’s unrelated to the work that I’m doing on thinking about how we can make sure that Alberta continues to have a robust economy.” The fact the Teck project would help the Alberta economy become more robust seems to be beyond anything Mr. Morneau can grasp.
This potential Teck project cancellation is contributing to a much larger economic issue. Economies need investment dollars in order to grow, and Canada is especially in need of investment. The Trudeau government’s mismanagement of the TMX issue did not help attract foreign investment dollars into Alberta. Now the potential cancelling of the Teck Frontier project has made this issue even worse. Premier Kenney summed this up nicely when he said, “Why would anyone invest in Canada? It’s a very dangerous path to go down.”
I suspect that if the government continues on the current economic path, the ramifications of their economic policies will inflict major damage on the Canadian economy long before the 2050 timeline for net-zero emissions. We may or may not have net-zero emissions, but we will have a poorly functioning economy with high unemployment.
Frank Atkins is a senior fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.