Trudeau's Trans Mountain Conundrum

Bruce Carson - May 25, 2016
The National Energy Board delivered its decision approving the pipeline, subject to 157 conditions last Thursday and since that time there have been a series releases and interviews from those who oppose the NEB decision. Most vocal so far is the Mayor of Vancouver Gregor Robertson who continually refers to the NEB process as a “sham”. He also offered that there is “nothing the company could do to make this acceptable to the West Coast”.  First Nations which are opposed have taken the position that while they may not be able to stop the pipeline they can delay its construction. And there is now the added issue of the federal government’s complete endorsement of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Aboriginal People and its possible effect on the approval process. 

Added to this is the four pronged approach of the BC government. BC will be holding its own environmental approval process on the Trans Mountain pipeline, has its five conditions for pipeline access announced in 2012, wants Ottawa to approve at least one LNG proposal and is in negotiations to sell electricity to Alberta. Presumably on the latter, Alberta will only agree to buy BC electricity in return for BC’s support for at least one pipeline to tidewater. And then there are the killer whales that inhabit much of the area and are protected under the Species at Risk Act. 

From now until November the three person panel appointed over a week ago by the federal natural resources minister will be conducting consultations with communities and First Nations as well as determining the effect that the pipeline will have on GHGs emanating from both the pipeline and from the oil sands.  

But at the end of the piece a decision will have to be made by the Trudeau cabinet and it will be a decision that will make some groups unhappy. This is the conundrum for a prime minister who has so far tried to keep everyone happy over the last seven months. Decision making and making tough decisions, decisions which are in the best interest of the country, but not popular in all quarters is the hallmark of leadership. With the decision in December from cabinet on the Trans Mountain line, some will be disappointed and feel betrayed. 

This is one decision by the prime minister which can’t please everyone!

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