The spectacular cynicism behind Trudeau’s pipeline morass

The spectacular cynicism behind Trudeau’s pipeline morass
May 2, 2018 editorial-team
In Staff Picks

“Politically, it lays bare the cynical mechanics behind the Liberal government strategy regarding pipelines.”

The electoral brilliance of Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party approach to pipelines lies in its simplicity: we can at once protect the environment and harvest our landlocked, carbon-heavy oil and pipe it to the coast, to be sold and burned at great profit.

The abject hypocrisy in this approach — claiming environmental stewardship while enabling environmental degradation — is plain. And for the purposes of gaining political power, it is completely inconsequential. Therein lies the brilliance of the approach: it indulges a voter’s cognitive dissonance, convincing him that he can be pro-environment without acknowledging the sacrifices necessary to ensure its long-term survival.

Demonstrably, it worked like blazes. Trudeau and company rode to power on a word cloud of “social license”, “consultation”, “responsibly”, “sustainably” and the like. “Governments grant permits, communities grant permission,” he repeated ad nauseam, a catchphrase so cloyingly Liberal that it’s probably tattooed across Gerald Butts’s … um … shoulder blades.

Having completed phase one of the plan (getting elected as soi disant environmentalists), the Liberals have since pivoted to phase two (get a damned pipeline into the ground at all costs.) For a rather exhaustive and troubling account of how this is going, we turn to a recent report by Mike De Souza of the National Observer.

The National Observer has made its bones by chronicling the relationship between politicians and the oil industry. In these times of heightened environmental awareness, this relationship is all the more crucial in that it gages the space between a politician’s words and actions. And this space is gaping in the case of the Trudeau Liberals.

Let us begin with the central and most damning contention in De Souza’s article: that a high-ranking civil servant charged with overseeing the approval process of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline was in fact the pipeline’s chief cheerleader. “We have to give cabinet a legally-bound basis for saying yes,” said Erin O’Gorman, at the time the associate DM for Major Projects Management Office (MPMO).

This revelation, backed up by eyewitness accounts and documents obtained through access to information legislation, possibly puts the project at risk. By dint of making up its mind in advance, the Trudeau government consulted in bad faith — which could bolster the case of Tsleil-Waututh against the pipeline, currently in front of the Federal Court of Appeals.

Politically, it lays bare the cynical mechanics behind the Liberal government strategy regarding pipelines. Trudeau’s main attack line against the Conservatives during the election was that by failing to consult, Stephen Harper had essentially made the laying of pipelines impossible.

Yet as the National Observer report shows, the Liberals’ own consultation process was little more than window dressing for a fundamentally Conservative position: the pipeline is going in, no matter what. Having served as a handy prop during the campaign, dissenting First Nations are now a hindrance to be pushed aside as gently as possible. It underscores a longstanding conceit in this country: Liberals talk like the NDP but govern like Stephen Harper with a hangover.

Meanwhile, phase two of the government’s pipeline plan lurches on, with key ministers playing a role. Catherine McKenna is Dr. Jekyll, airily tweeting about carbon levies and international commitments. Resources minister Jim Carr, playing the role of Mr. Hyde, grimly reassures Kinder Morgan (and all oil companies by proxy) that the country is open for their business. Together, McKenna and Carr serve the same end: to fluff the government’s environmental bona fides, and to get oil to a coastline despite them.

Yet politically canny as it is, the Trudeau government’s Jekyll & Hyde approach to pipeline development is utterly hamstrung by its own rhetoric. Trudeau has happily glommed onto the environmental movement, making being one with nature an intrinsic part of his brand. He has also devoted a fair bit political capital to extolling the rights of First Nations in both matters of reconciliation and autonomy. He did both for the same reasons: a soupçon of personal conviction and a heap of political expediency.

Read More: https://ipolitics.ca/2018/04/28/881947/

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