Since the protestors and the British Columbia government aren’t going anywhere soon, why will the federal government be any more successful in building the Trans Mountain pipeline than was Kinder Morgan?
First, under the British North American Act, the federal government has jurisdictional authority for projects crossing provincial borders. B.C. won’t stop engaging in legal battles, but this division of powers and subsequent Supreme Court decisions, gives the federal government more legal strength to complete the project than if it remained in the private sector.
Second, there will continue to be protests and in some cases, civil disobedience.
The saving of planet earth is a very emotional topic and in a democracy citizens have the right to protest. Yes, it can get out of hand and, yes, as with Green Party Leader, Elizabeth May, people can break the law, be arrested and charged. The government has the stomach for this, the private sector does not.
I give full credit to Greenpeace and other environmental groups for being instrumental in bringing climate change to a premier position of concern amongst world political and corporate leaders, with only a few exceptions.
Even though I might not always agree with their tactics, their work has been invaluable.
But I can also see the other side. It’s taken a couple centuries to put our environment on life support and it cannot be reversed overnight.
We have built our economic well-being by exploiting the air, water and natural resources. We cannot turn that off overnight, throw billions of people worldwide out of work, and expect a smooth transition to a carbon-free environment. That strategy would create untold chaos and staggering deaths. It’s all about balance.
Today we are having more difficulty constructing pipelines in Canada because of the previous actions of the Harper government which intentionally or unintentionally built extreme distrust of the federal government.
In Harper’s 2012, 450-page omnibus budget bill he watered down seven important environmental Acts, including the protection of waterways and species at risk.
He de-legitimized the approvals process instituting strict rules on who could speak at National Energy Board hearings and what topics could be discussed.
He excluded the public from the hearings and barred environmental scientists from participating.
The power play by Harper didn’t get the anticipated quick and smooth construction of the Northern Gateway pipeline.
In a democracy, proper process matters and regardless of how much freedom a government gives the private sector to operate, dissenters still have a voice.
In Canada, at least for now, opposition foes aren’t simply jailed or disappear.
For all these reasons, the government’s decision to nationalize the Trans Mountain pipeline through the construction phase appears to be very well thought out and sound.
It may even turn out that our First Nations eventually become the owners of Trans Mountain which would give more First Nations the opportunity for economic freedom and self-reliance. Something the Conservatives have always wanted.
The libertarians in the Conservative Party and corporate elite in Calgary aren’t happy about this situation. But I believe industry leaders generally have realized, a little late albeit, that Harper’s regressive environmental stance and hate for scientists was out of step with reality.
Gary Leach, president of the Explorers and Producers Association of Canada recently said, “In a perfect world, it wouldn’t be the preferred option to have governments step in”.
Well Mr. Leach, I’m here to tell you, there is no such thing as a perfect world, or will there ever be, as free societies will always have competing interests and values.