Trudeau’s Pipeline Blockage Continues

Justin Trudeau made a lot of promises to Canadians while campaigning — 226 to be precise, according to TrudeauMeter, a non-partisan website tracking his political performance. 
So far only 55 of them have been achieved.

While the Liberal government’s abandoning of its electoral reform promise came as a blow to many Canadians attracted to the idea of a future without first-past-the-post, Trudeau giving the green light for the Trans Mountain and Line 3 pipeline projects has also been met with considerable backlash by First Nations and environmentalists.

The approval comes long after a ‘town hall’ in 2015 held by APTN National News,  in which Trudeau said the Liberals believe First Nations have veto power over natural resource development in their communities. 

Not only ignoring opposition to the pipelines in the wake of the Dakota Access Pipeline protests, the Liberal government also granted two federal permits for the construction of the Site C dam in B.C., a project that would flood both native and agricultural land.

While the refusal of the Northern Gateway Pipeline shows consistency with Trudeau’s previous stances, the decisions taken regarding the two other pipeline projects and the Site C dam show considerable hypocrisy.

Despite opposition to the pipelines from most First Nations communities, those overseeing petroleum-owning reserves seek a more nuanced discussion regarding pipeline development. 

Last year, nine oil-producing First Nations released a First Nations National Energy Strategy, which seeks to balance the mutual economic benefits of the infrastructure with respect for the communities and the land on which they live. 

Aboriginal people across the country are already employed by the oil industry, and roughly 23,000 live in oil sands regions.

Kinder Morgan (one of the largest energy infrastructure companies in North America) forecasts the creation of 15,000 jobs a year during the Trans Mountain pipeline construction, and a further 37,000 during operation. 

The project, once completed, is expected to bring the government an extra $46.7 billion in revenues during the first 20 years, almost half of which would go to Alberta. 

The two projects should cost an estimated $14.3 billion combined.

The prime minister also faces opposition from B.C’s new govern-ment, with both the NDP and Green Party being fiercely opposed to the Trans Mountain pipeline. 

While the federal government does retain the authority to override provincial governments’ decisions regarding works benefiting the country, it is unlikely Trudeau’s Liberals will use this legality considering its track record. 

The NDP and Greens hold a combined 44 seats in B.C., with the Liberals close behind at 43. 

Despite polarized views on the pipeline projects, John Horgan’s minority government could prove to be unstable should a few ridings side with the pro-pipeline stance.

As well, other than the risk for a potential oil spill affecting both land and water, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency estimates the Trans Mountain pipeline’s greenhouse gas emissions could be between 20 and 26 megatonnes of carbon dioxide per year — putting into question the Liberals’ climate-change commitments.

Trudeau’s options for the pipelines seem few and far between. Pushing for support in B.C would require focused political power, and while some First Nations are open to negotiating with Kinder Morgan and Enbridge, Trudeau’s desire to push for these projects will prove costly considering the public’s strong opposition. 

By trying to appease these many groups and their respective interests, there’s no foreseeable outcome in which Trudeau can unite polarized groups regarding pipelines, whatever the final decision might be.