A Pipe Dream Come True, Politically Speaking

When Trudeau announced the federal government would be purchasing Trans Mountain, few were shocked.  After all, Notley had said the provincial government would consider investing after Kinder Morgan ceased non-essential spending back in April.  Conservatives are saying there is no reason to celebrate because private investment was chased away.  Throughout Alberta’s oil-drilling history however, and Canada’s as well, the federal and provincial governments have both invested in natural resource development.

Most notably, Peter Lougheed invested in Suncor in the 70’s and Trudeau Sr. started Petro-Canada.  The Suncor investment paid out not only to the government of Alberta as an investor but continues to do so today through royalties, taxes and job creation.  Petro-Canada was eventually sold for $6 billion.  Even so, the Conservatives are not happy.

Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press

The word “failure” has been thrown around a lot since yesterday morning.  While consistently calling on the federal government to “enforce the rule of law”, Conservative politicians deliberately ignored the court challenges from the B.C. government which also fall under “rule of law”.  Sound bites are better to feed the masses with but you know the old saying “actions speak louder than a grassroots guarantee”.

The federal government opted for their best chance of developing the pipeline; Crown immunity.  A private company is not immune to legal challenges but Crown immunity allows the federal government paramountcy over other levels of government.  As owner of the Trans Mountain Pipeline, the federal government will have the ability to truly exercise its authority where Kinder Morgan could have been held up indefinitely by continuous court challenges from B.C.; or as Jason Kenney so eloquently stated “death by delay”.

There were also accusations of “corporate welfare” but the federal government is currently seeking investors for the project.  The Alberta government has also made a pledge of up to $2 billion dollars in the event of cost overruns but Notley made it clear that if the Alberta government contributes any money to the pipeline, it will be in the form of an equity stake; not a “gift”.

Politically speaking, both Notley and Trudeau can celebrate although the federal Liberals will very likely take a hit both in BC and Quebec.  Though he is often accused of “ignoring” Alberta, Trudeau spent a lot of political capital for Alberta’s economy.  As much as the Conservative opposition at both levels of government know the pipeline needs to be built, for them, it is an unwelcome development.

At the federal level, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer has taken the bold position that Trudeau’s decision “failed B.C.”.   Personally, I’m on pins and needles waiting to see if Alberta’s Conservatives will follow suit.  While Kenney frequently called Trudeau Notley’s “good friend” while the pipeline was being held up it is apparently better to make friends than enemies – politically speaking.

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