Just when Albertans thought things couldn’t get any worse, Jason Kenney declared the country was broken.
What? Did Trumpism seep across the border while we were sleeping?
Canada survived the FLQ Crisis and the War Measures Act, the bitter negotiations over the repatriation of the Canadian Constitution, and the Quebec referendum on national sovereignty where the “No” vote carried the day with a slim 50.6%; and now we’re being told Canada is broken because a jurisdictional dispute over a pipeline project may not be resolved before an arbitrary deadline set by the pipeline proponent.
Canada is “broken” because…
If the breathless headlines are to be believed this is a relatively recent event.
We weren’t broken 11 weeks ago when Alberta announced a boycott of BC wines. We weren’t broken six and a half weeks ago when BC said it would put a reference question to the BC courts asking whether it could stop the flow of bitumen and diluted bitumen from Alberta into BC. And we weren’t broken on April 6 when Prime Minister Trudeau toured the oil sands and Suncor CEO Steve Williams said he was reassured by Trudeau’s commitment to the pipeline and the environment.
Those events were simply governments doing what governments do.
However, on April 8 Kinder Morgan announced it was suspending discretionary spending on the Trans Mountain expansion so it could consult with stakeholders and reach an agreement by May 31 that would allow the expansion to proceed.
And just like that Canada snapped like a twig!
The Alberta and federal governments responded quickly. Alberta whipped out Bill 12, legislation that would require companies exporting energy out of the province to get an export license (potentially reducing the flow to BC). The Feds promised to enact legislation saying…well…no one is quite sure what it will be saying, presumably something to the effect that an interprovincial pipeline really is an interprovincial pipeline that falls under federal jurisdiction.
Look, we all understand that governments need to be seen to be doing something when the public is demanding that they do something even if there’s not much they can do under the circumstances.
However, there’s a difference between using all the tools in your toolbox (to quote an oft-repeated phrase) to resolve a situation and irresponsibly ratcheting up the rhetoric by telling everyone that the country going to hell in a handbasket.
Get a grip
The OMG (!!!) headlines focus on three things: court decisions, pending legislation, and Kinder Morgan’s May 31 deadline.
The TM expansion has been the subject of numerous court challenges, all of which have failed. The only court case that matters is the one brought by several First Nations who’ve appealed the NEB’s decision on the grounds of inadequate consultation and infringement of existing rights. The Federal Court of Appeal has heard the case and a decision is expected shortly.
If the Federal Court of Appeal agrees with the First Nations or the decision is not out before May 31, Kinder Morgan may abandon the project and the legislation proposed by Alberta and the Feds won’t make any difference, however if Alberta and the Feds put enough money on the table to “de-risk” the project, Kinder Morgan may stick around.
The fact that the First Nations exercised their right to appeal the NEB’s decision and that the BC government wants a court to rule on the limits of its jurisdictional authority may be frustrating to Kinder Morgan and its stakeholders, but this is how things work in a democratic country that supports the rule of law.
The rule of law does not wither in the face of arbitrary deadlines and our democratic institutions are not props to be brushed aside by he who yells loudest.