Photos courtesy: Left: Dave Cournoyer, Right: BC NDP

Pipeline conflict is just politics for B.C. leadership

By Kayle Van’tklooster, February 27, 2018 —

The dispute over pipelines between British Columbia and Alberta is unnecessary and divisive. B.C. premier John Horgan is simply playing politics with the economies of Alberta and the rest of the nation. In an ill-advised attempt to shore up support for his coalition government, Horgan tried to paint himself as a champion of environmentally conscious governance. He chose what he assumed would be an easy target, his oil-loving neighbour to the east. However, his actions have only served to disrupt both provinces’ economies and soured the relationship between B.C. and Alberta. The results of B.C.’s last election produced an uncertain government composition. The B.C. Green Party could pull out of their coalition with the B.C. New Democratic Party at any time, meaning that Horgan has no choice but to bend over backwards to ensure their ongoing support. This dispute is not a matter of Horgan’s conscious or his love of the environment. This is merely politics.

Had Premier Horgan launched this crusade five years ago, his words would have had a bit more bite, but Alberta is not the province it used to be. Since the provincial election in 2015, Alberta has been cleaning up its act. Rachel Notley’s government has passed significant environmental legislation, including implementing the carbon tax and an emissions cap on the oil sands. The Alberta government has also taken measures to lessen its reliance on coal, with the goal of phasing it out completely by 2030. However, the fact remains that Alberta’s economy is heavily dependent on the energy industry and that’s not likely to change anytime soon. Thousands of livelihoods rely on income from the energy industry and its offshoots, such as the Trans Mountain Pipeline.

Although pipelines are not immune to spills or other accidents, they remain one of the most efficient and environmentally safe methods of transporting oil. The fact of the matter is that if the Trans Mountain and the other pipelines are blocked, Alberta oil will still go through B.C. on rail cars or tanker trucks. Realistically, there is no way that the B.C. government could stop the flow of oil without a full-scale trade embargo, which is blatantly unconstitutional. This shows exactly how futile and reckless Horgan’s actions really are. The Trans Mountain Pipeline has already been approved by the federal government and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has voiced his support. It’s a matter of if, not when, we build this pipeline. The longer the project is delayed, the more damage it will do to the economy. An estimate by Scotiabank puts the amount of lost revenue due to the delays at a whopping $15.6 billion. Although this estimate may be an exaggeration, it is evidence of the damage that this dispute is causing.

No two provinces in our federation should engage in this sort of conflict. Canada is a nation of friendship and cooperation, not of bickering and selfishness. This sort of conflict ought to be beneath Canadian leadership. If it takes the intervention of the courts to bring it to an end, they must act swiftly and decisively. However, let’s hope that B.C. comes to its senses before that is necessary. The pipeline project will generate billions in revenue for both provinces and oil will be transported in the safest way possible. It’s a no-brainer

Articles published in the Gauntlet‘s opinion section do not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet editorial board.

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