Power changes Trudeau and Notley
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (R) greets Alberta Premier Rachel Notley during the First Ministers' meeting in Ottawa on November 23, 2015. REUTERS/Chris Wattie
The reason for the reported conversion of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the obvious conversion of Alberta Premier Rachel Notley to the value of oil pipelines is simple.
It has nothing to do with the road to Damascus and everything to do with moving from opposition into government.
The best line I ever heard about what that does to a political party came from former Ontario Tory cabinet minister Dennis Timbrell.
In 1985, as the Ontario Conservatives’ 42-year political dynasty was about to end with a Liberal minority government backed by the NDP, Timbrell shouted at the opposition benches who were heckling the Tories’ demise: “You guys are going to find it’s a lot tougher to catch the spears than it is to throw them.” Exactly.
People content to remain in opposition — hello, Stephen Lewis — or who have never been in politics — hello, Avi Lewis and Naomi Klein — can afford to be holier-than-thou, even within the holier-than-thou NDP.
They can draft and support nonsense like the Leap Manifesto which, if it was ever implemented by a governing party — as opposed to the NDP who are at 12% in the polls — would destroy our economy.
A third-place party can indulge itself in the manifesto’s absurd call for a “new iron law of energy development” that, “if you wouldn’t want it in your backyard, then it doesn’t belong in anyone’s backyard.”
Never mind that this would wipe out wind, solar and hydro energy, in addition to fossil fuel and nuclear power, since no one wants energy infrastructure in their backyard, but everyone wants the lights to come on when they flick the switch.
The best response to the Lewis family I’ve heard comes from Sun reader David McLay, who e-mailed me his proposed “new iron law of energy activists” that, “if you are going to deny the benefits of hydrocarbon energy to all, then you must first deny it to yourself in your own personal life.”
Notley’s election platform, which ended the 43-year Conservative dynasty in Alberta, didn’t call for the end of pipelines.
But it’s only in government — with tens of thousands of Albertans having already lost their jobs due to the crash of global oil prices and many more facing unemployment — that she’s become the champion of pipelines, “built by Canadians, using Canadian steel”.
This while simultaneously trying to win the “social licence” to approve pipelines from Ottawa, other provinces, First Nations and environmental groups, by bringing in a carbon tax and ending Alberta’s use of coal to generate electricity.
Trudeau’s newfound enthusiasm for the Energy East pipeline and the Trans Mountain expansion (he supported the Keystone XL while in opposition) has occurred, according to National Post columnist John Ivison, because Finance Minister Bill Morneau and other cabinet ministers have convinced him it’s necessary to achieve the Liberals’ ambitious targets for economic growth.
That was apparently enough to change Trudeau’s stance of just a few weeks ago, that it wasn’t his job to be a cheerleader for Energy East, but rather a referee, to sending out word to his political seconds to make Energy East and Trans Mountain a reality, again by getting the social license to do so by making it part of a broader energy and climate change policy.
While it’s alarming, if accurate, that a Canadian prime minister had to be convinced of the importance of pipelines to Canada’s economy, better late than never.