Two Pipelines Approved: The Opposition Reacts (badly)

Do you have a headache?

Are you an Alberta conservative wondering how to react to Trudeau approving the Trans Mountain and Line 3 pipelines and, horrors, singling out Notley’s Climate Leadership Plan as being vital to getting to yes?

If so, your conservative leadership team has prepared a carefully considered, cogent response.

Here’s what it looks like so far:

Demand denunciations   

Brian Jean, the Leader of the Official Opposition, rose in the Legislature the day after Trudeau approved two pipelines Alberta desperately needs and demanded that Premier Notley denounce everyone—Trudeau for not approving Northern Gateway and for confirming the anti-tanker ban of the west coast, “special-interest groups” who intend to challenge the pipelines in court and “anti-Alberta activists” who are speaking against the pipelines.

That makes no sense.


Brian Jean, Leader of the Opposition

Asking Notley to denounce Trudeau for not approving Northern Gateway after he’s approved Trans Mountain and Line 3 is both churlish and politically naïve.

Deputy Premier Sarah Hoffman summed it up nicely when she told Mr Jean to stop being a “barrel half-empty” kind of guy and focus on the barrel being “two-thirds full”.

Denouncing “special-interest groups” and “anti-Alberta activists” (who knew you could be “anti” an entire province) demonstrates Mr Jean does not understand the rule of law (Canadians have the legal right to challenge tribunals’ decisions) and the principles of civil disobedience which state a citizen does not have to “resign his conscience” in the face of government legislation.

The PCs picked up where Mr Jean left off.

Predict failure and chaos  

PC MLA Richard Gotfried said Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline would go down the same black hole as Enbridge’s Northern Gateway.

Energy Minister McCuaig-Boyd disagreed, pointing to a fundamental difference between the Enbridge and Kinder Morgan pipelines.  She said Enbridge had done everything it had been asked to do but the federal Conservative government failed to properly perform its due diligence which led to the Federal Court overturning the approval of Northern Gateway, whereas in the case of Trans Mountain both Kinder Morgan and the government had followed the process correctly.

Undeterred Mr Gotfried pointed to Mayor Robertson’s opposition to Trans Mountain and Elizabeth May’s vow to go to jail if necessary, saying this indicated the NDP’s “magical currency of social licence” failed to bring pipeline opponents on board.

Ms McCuaig-Boyd said while she “respectfully” disagreed with those who opposed the pipeline, she supported their right to do so “all the way to jail if that’s what it takes.”

Mr Gotfried snarked back:  “Always good to have the NDP world view”.

The NDP world view?   

There is no reasonable response to Mr Gotfried’s comment other than to remind him and his fellow conservatives that this is the “world view” of most political parties in the Western hemisphere.

Create a diversion  

The conservatives continue to demand that Notley revoke the Climate Leadership Plan.

Let me rephrase that.

The conservatives want Notley to repeal the very thing that led Trudeau to approve the two pipelines in the first place.

Trudeau was crystal clear that without the Climate Leadership Plan his government would not have approved Trans Mountain or Line 3.  He said the plan had the support of industry and the environmental community.

While some members of the environmental community may be frustrated that the plan being used to justify these pipeline applications, industry support remains solid.

CEOs from Cenovus, CNRL, Suncor, GE Canada, Shell, SNC-Lavalin, Rio Tinto, Tech Resources and the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association (which includes Enbridge, Kinder Morgan and Trans Canada) all support the plan.

So the question becomes:  If the federal government and industry support the Climate Leadership Plan why are the conservatives opposed to it?

The answer became apparent this weekend.

The Rebel Media organized an anti-carbon tax rally at the Legislature.  Speakers included Wildrose Leader Brian Jean, Conservative MP Kerry Diotte and federal Conservative leadership candidates Andrew Saxton and Chris Alexander.

The crowd began to chant “lock her up, lock her up” when Mr Alexander was speaking…

…and the man who hopes to be prime minister one day did not say, “hey guys, I understand your pain, but we’re Canadians, we don’t lock her up.  We vote her out”.  Instead he smiled and gestured and nodded along with the chanters.


Chris Alexander, the wannabe PM

Mr Alexander wasn’t the only conservative leader to enjoy the moment.  None of the conservative leaders at the rally attempted to redirect the crowd’s fear and frustration away from Premier Notley let alone explain how they would force the Liberal government to approve pipeline applications in the absence of a coherent plant to address climate change.

Next up

Premier Notley is going to BC next week to explain her Climate Leadership Plan in greater detail.  She hopes BC-ers will be more receptive to the pipelines when they learn about the 30% carbon tax, the 100 megatonne/year cap on oilsands emissions, the 45% reduction in methane gas emissions by 2025 and the phase-out of coal-fired power plants by 2030.

She’s using quiet diplomacy to demonstrate that Alberta is doing its part to address climate change as Alberta transitions to decarbonized and renewable energy.

The conservatives on the other hand are inflaming the “lock her up” crowd in the hope it will carry them into power in 2019.


Sources: Alberta Hansard Nov 30, 2016, 2177 to 2181

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18 Responses to Two Pipelines Approved: The Opposition Reacts (badly)

  1. Colleen Fuller says:

    “She hopes BC-ers will be more receptive to the pipelines when they learn about the 30% carbon tax, the 100 megatonne/year cap on oilsands emissions, the 45% reduction in methane gas emissions by 2025 and the phase-out of coal-fired power plants by 2030.”

    BCers aren’t going to be receptive. The overwhelming majority are committed to ensuring that the Kinder Morgan pipeline isn’t coming to the coast. Period.


    Colleen Fuller Vancouver,


    • You’re right Colleen, it’s going to be a tough slog. I hope Trudeau’s $1.5 billion Ocean Protection Plan might ease some people’s fears. I couldn’t find any specific information about it other than it will create “a world-leading marine safety system that improves responsible shipping and protects Canada’s waters” and includes building partnerships with Indigenous communities. Seems to me the only way to make this a reality is to set extremely tough spill prevention and recovery regulations, inspect companies facilities (land and marine), and clobber any corporation on a strict liability basis if it is found in breach.

      • Bob Raynard says:

        I think you are correct on the clobbering companies issue.

        People opposed to pipelines base their opposition on 3 very valid concerns: tanker leakage, greenhouse gas production and pipeline failure. Of the three, pipeline leakage seems to be the biggest concern.

        We live in a world so technologically advanced that people can routinely strap themselves into a metal tube which lifts them several kilometres in the air, then blasts them across the country at a third of the speed of sound, yet no one even gives airline safety a second thought, yet we cannot push a fluid through a pipe with confidence.

        I believe we can produce safe pipelines if we choose to, but pipeline companies are lacking the incentive they need, as a result of decades of business friendly governments that have given pipeline companies a free ride when a spill occurs. If a pipeline company faced the same kind of liability an airline does when they have a disaster, I really believe we would start seeing a lot less pipeline disasters. Instead we see the Husky pipeline in Saskatchewan rupture, apparently because heavy rains caused the pipe to shift, and it ruptured. Heavy rains? Seriously? The whole protest at Standing Rock happened because the pipeline architects re-routed the pipe away from the more populated Bismarck area, more or less acknowledging their own lack of confidence in their product. Good grief – did they not learn anything from the Black Hills?

        (Historical side note: Chief Sitting Bull and his band were safely treaty-ed on a reserve in the Black Hills of South Dakota, but then gold was discovered. Rather than let the Sioux reap the rewards of their good fortune, US authorities allowed prospectors on the reserve, the betrayed Sioux left, and the massacre at the Little Bighorn soon followed.)

        Simply put, complicit with friendly government support, pipeline companies have lost the public’s confidence in their product, and are now paying the price. A strict government will be seen as unfriendly (especially by the Wildrose) but really that is what the industry needs for its own success.

      • Carl Hunt says:

        Safe pipelines? We are mostly talking about the safety of a ‘New Line’ but the Kinder Morgan route from Edmonton to Vancouver has existed since 1953 and Trans Mountain claims, ‘still operates safely today’ plus twinning of several sections to increase capacity. How safe is a 60 year old pipeline pumping heavy viscosity bitumen? If the new line was part of a plan to decommission & reclaim the old line, I might be convinced by their commitment to safety. Who wants to make routine daily flights in an overloaded 60 year old aircraft?
        Trans mountain also claims two years of construction benefits for small communities along the route but in reality it will be more like 6 months of frantic activity by transient workers for each section but very few jobs when the line is complete.

  2. Brachina says:

    Rebel media stupidity is going to help boost Rachel’s numbers. Ezra is now accusing the NDP of having a street team holding homophobic slurs during the rally and his offered $500 to know who they were, but I haven’t seen any proof to back the accusations Ezra levelled.

    • G Reed says:

      It was Ezra Levant, where do I collect my $500.00

      • Brachina and G Reed: Now that Jason Kenney and Brian Jean have distanced themselves from the “lock her up” crowd–Jean went so far as to say “I wish people who have a desire to have those chants or have that signage would just stay at home and keep their opinions to themselves.” I really hope he means it and I really really home these nutbars get the message….and if that’s the case Ezra and the Rebel media crowd will be shoved back into the shadows where they belong.

  3. Carl Hunt says:

    Good to see an NDP Climate Plan but have watched political plans & policies come & go since the East Slopes Management Plan 1977, with an endless string of promises, but no actions including the current Land Use Framework and Watershed Plans. Plans are spouted before each election and disappear with a change in economy or politics. Industry plans just wait for a change in government. Once built, pipelines, tar sands expansion, dams & coal mines, stick around for about 50 years and taxpayers often get left with the environmental, public health & social damage; plus clean-up costs.
    I don’t have a headache but political plans/promises, with contrary actions, are a pain-in-the- _ _ _.

    • Carl, I think the ND government has shown it’s prepared to push its policies pretty hard, even when Albertans get their backs up and the opposition has a field day.
      You’re right about industry…it usually just waits for a change in government and expects to carry on the same old way. The severity of this latest downturn may have opened some people’s eyes. They used to believe the PCs who preached “if we take care of the industry it will take care of the people” (trickle down economics). The PCs took really good care of industry, but when oil prices fell industry did what it had to do to survive–it cut back and people were fired.
      The NDs know that governments pandering to industry in the good times won’t make industry nicer to the people in bad times. Hopefully Albertans will get it this time around.

  4. political ranger says:

    Just a follow-on with Carl Hunt’s observations; the Climate Leadership Plan seems pretty good as long as it stays. Except for one glaring exception; that being the so-called cap on GHG emissions.
    This emissions cap is perhaps 60% higher than the current emissions level. Maybe I have my facts wrong – currently producing about 63-66 MT/yr plus another 34-37 MT/yr to get the cap. That’s 50-60% growth in production or at least activity. Either the tar-miners are going to be a whole lot less efficient or they are planning to produce a lot more product. I leave it to you to speculate.
    In either case this part of the plan, the GHG emissions cap, is not designed to reduce or maintain carbon pollution. This cap is an invitation to tarsand producers to increase production, nothing more. That flys in the face of Notley’s promise that Alberta’s energy production will not increase.
    An increase of 5 or 10% might fit in with the transition argument, but 50-60%? This is a free ride for the next 30 years. What gives?

    • Political ranger, you raise a very good point.
      I went back to the Climate Leadership Plan document and found the following explanations: Alberta’s population and economy are growing more quickly than other provinces, its anchor industries are high emissions emitters and rely on long-lived assets (oil sands plants, gas plants, chemical production, refineries, etc.) and Alberta’s electricity generation is driven by fossil fuels.
      The Plan concludes a more stringent policy would damage the economy due to lost competitiveness “with negligible impact on global emissions due to carbon leakage.”
      In other words the Plan tried to strike the right balance between the economy and the environment, whether it succeeded is a matter of opinion.

  5. Carlos Beca says:

    ‘The plan tried to strike the right balance between the economy and the environment, whether it succeeded is a matter of opinion’

    Yes I agree that it is a matter of opinion. I do not disagree but this effort reminds me of the couples that go for another baby to patch up their awful relationship.

    Moving more oil is not going to strike any balance with the environment. It may with the economy but if that is the case then we should admit that we are just again delaying facing a reality that is has clear as it can be. Contrary to what the Scotia bank says ‘we are not richer than we think’.
    It is time to think where we should be investing and what direction we want to go, rather than postponing the tough decisions. Alberta can transition with the production we have.

    We had 30 years to become more resilient. We had 30 years to flow our oil in Canada, but we got so greedy to get all we could get that we became completely dependent of the US. So now we have the tough decisions to make. Why not make them? The reason is always of course because then the NDP looses the next election. Well if the NDP put some effort on democratic renewal and changed the voting system we have to a proportional system, it would no longer be that easy to reverse good decisions. Furthermore, if we continue trying to make progress with the current political behaviour we will slowly march into oblivion,

    Here we go back to the discussion we had a couple of weeks back of ‘how fast realities cab change’. We are definitely in a stuck era and we need all the help from all Albertans and we have very well educated experienced smart people in our province. It is time for some innovation and for example organize some public forums on ideas. We are all stuck on ideology and confrontation and the 21 first century is the opposite. The world is to complex for confrontation. Without flow we will be overwhelmed in the digital world.

    • Carlos, you make a good point about the need for Albertans to lead not just follow the path of least resistance (sadly it’s a dead end). As you point out the challenge is our inability to see beyond ideology in order to truly understand our options. The reaction of the federal and provincial conservatives to the election of Donald Trump demonstrates this very clearly. They see Trump as a climate denier, consequently they want to kill the federal and provincial carbon tax because they say it puts Canadian businesses at a competitive disadvantage. Trump isn’t even in office yet, he needs to get the House of Congress on board with everything he does unless he plans to do it all by presidential fiat. We don’t know how his policies will roll out over the the coming months let alone years, and yet Ezra Levant is busy whipping up the anti-carbon tax brigade because that’s what conservatives do.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        Ezra Levant is just being what he really is – a dinosaur. When one cannot imagine or dream one is dead.
        The conservatives are playing their last hand and judging by what is cooking in Ottawa, we will probably be graced with Kevin O’Leary. Well that is their choice. If that is the case they will have a long dark age ahead of them.

      • Carlos, I just saw a clip in which Kevin O’Leary lambasted Justin Trudeau’s lack of business experience, O’Leary pointed out Trudeau had never run a company or made payroll and consequently was utterly inept. The beauty of Trump being elected in the fall of 2016 is that Canadians will have two whole years to see firsthand whether oil company CEOs and investment bankers really can run a country like a business. It’s going to be fascinating.

  6. Bob Raynard says:

    Carl Hunt:

    Your reply to my post from this afternoonis spot on, and I wish you could cc your response to Kinder Morgan. I especially liked your analogy with the 60 year old plane. Personally I am not against pipelines per se, I just wish the people running the companies would quit giving people legitimate reason to oppose them.

  7. david says:

    Wildrose and Conservatives are torn in more than their opposition to the ND government. But their attacks on each other seem to be subsiding, as they realize the difficulty of replacing them if they remain divided.
    Unfortunately they continue to interpret ‘Opposition’ as ‘opposing everything’ the ND government does, and for those who pay attention, the irrefutable conclusion that politics is a game; actually a zero sum game of winners and losers; not about the longer term wellbeing of this place and people.

  8. David, that was extremely well put–that politics is a game, a zero sum game of winners and losers. It’s no wonder that people stay home on election day or worse yet do crazy things like vote for Trump!

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