In the Chamber -- Grant Mitchell's Blog

The Conservative government has badly fumbled the energy file

Posted 10/19/2012 by Grant Mitchell


The Conservative government has badly fumbled the energy file. Perhaps, the single greatest reason for this is that they have offered no leadership.

The Conservatives have failed to get a pipeline built in energy rich Canada in order to deliver Albertan oil to diversified off-shore markets despite being in government for upwards of 7 years and; despite having this objective as one of their stated priorities.

The Conservatives will barely engage on the issue beyond changing environmental regulations and criticizing environmentalists. It is as though they think that this is not really their problem. Perhaps they have been seduced by their right-wing ideology that says government should really not be involved, or that the federal government should simply leave it all to the provinces. Well, the federal government has to be involved if we are to get a pipeline built.

The Conservatives can blame Premiers Clark and Redford as they bicker over the Gateway pipeline, but these Premiers are representing the interests of their respective provinces, as we would expect them to do and as they are paid to do. The question here is, "who represents the national interest?" Clearly, the Prime Minister has the responsibility to lead in the interest of the national interest and it seems that he won't even meet with Clark and Redford.

He has also refused to meet with the Council of Premiers despite being formally invited to their November meeting where they want to discuss developing a national energy strategy with him.

When asked on a Calgary talk show what Premier Redford means when she talks of a national energy strategy, Harper answered that he has no idea.  If he does not know what the Premier of the energy center of Canada means about energy strategy, why would he not just pick up the phone and ask her?

He talks of Canada becoming an energy superpower. Does he think that will happen by itself without federal - provincial cooperation and with provinces bickering amongst themselves? Does he believe that this will be advanced by his being publicly dismissive of the Premier of AB?

While the Conservatives blame environmentalists, US foundations that may fund them, Aboriginal groups, and now even companies for delays in getting the pipeline built, former Conservative Environment Minister Jim Prentice says that a major impediment to progress on the Gateway is the government's failure to fulfill its constitutional responsibility to consult Aboriginal peoples. Effective leadership means taking responsibility for their own failures and fixing them rather than deflecting blame to others which may be good politics but will not get a pipeline built.

The Conservatives basically made only one case for the Keystone pipeline: that it is a "no brainer" because the US needs to buy our ethical and secure oil to replace their unethical and insecure oil from questionable sources. Well, Prime Minister Harper, where do you think that the Atlantic provinces and Quebec get their oil - from the same insecure and unethical sources that the US does. So, why are you not providing some leadership on that front to at least consider a west-east pipeline to solve the problem?

Minister Oliver says he is not going to subsidize the energy industry to build a pipeline. Might he want to consider that the energy industry does not necessarily have Canadians' interests in mind when it makes its commercial decisions and should not be left entirely to its own devices as the only place where our national interest might be considered? And why does he conclude that it would take subsidies? Maybe it would take only leadership.

And, when it comes to selling energy projects and products, some of the strategic initiatives taken by the Conservatives are almost incomprehensible.

The single greatest concern that the people of BC have with the Gateway pipeline is tanker spills.  So, what do the Conservatives do?  They close the Vancouver Environmental Emergencies (Spills Coordination) Office and move it to Quebec. What marketing "genius" inspired that idea?

Why would the government attack wealthy and powerful US foundations for funding environmental groups in Canada when we need these same groups in order to secure the social license to build the Keystone? What marketing "genius" inspired an initiative that will simply give these powerful interests more ammunition for making the case that Canada is not environmentally responsible enough to be trusted to build a pipeline in the US?

It is very likely that the ill-conceived changes to the environmental review process, under the guise of speeding it up, will in fact result in much more opportunity for groups like Aboriginal peoples to hold the process up in the courts. Shawn Atleo made this very clear in his 2012 committee appearance regarding the changes that have been made to environmental assessment legislation.

Furthermore, how could any government of a modern, western, industrialized nation be considered anything but incompetent when it simply will not embrace the overwhelming science of climate change?

It is breathtaking. And not in a good way.

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