On Wednesday the Energy East pipeline project was canceled by TransCanada.
The project had been forecasted to create the equivalent of 9,000 full-time jobs over the decade of construction and provide $3.8 billion in new tax revenue. This much needed economic benefit was not enough to push Rachel Notley or Justin Trudeau to actually do anything to support the project.
Both Notley and Trudeau simply mouthed platitudes about supporting the pipeline.
This dishonesty is sad and was undermined by their actions. Notley’s opposition to Energy East was symbolized by her appointment of noted pipeline opponent Tzeporah Berman to the Oil Sands Advisory Group of the Alberta Government.
Shortly after taking power Trudeau’s government announced they would add more complexity to the regulatory review of the project and lengthen the timeline of the project. Trans Canada specifically mentioned the new regulatory burden in canceling the project.
The actions of Notley and Trudeau undermined what they said publicly. They publicly pronounced that they were in support of the project while clearly acting in a manner that was destined to undermine the project. This approach was summarized by the Fraser Institute:
‘Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau deployed a strategy, from the beginning of their terms, to say “yes” to pipeline and oilsands development while governing like they said “no.”’
The approach was truly against the national interest. Most of the Canadian provinces impacted by Energy East were on board with the project. However, Quebec was not:
“Ontario had signed off having the pipe run through its province. The Atlantic provinces did the same. But without Quebec there can be no west-east pipeline.Coderre helped to prevent Canadians from being energy self-sufficient.”
As a member of parliament representing a riding from Quebec, Justin Trudeau has to balance national and local issues. Trudeau’s passive opposition to Energy East will help him in Quebec. However, his short-sighted action could ultimately end his career. New Brunswick would have been a significant beneficiary from Energy East.
The province switched political allegiance with its ten members of parliament in the 2015 federal election. In 2011 the Liberals won one of the seats in New Brunswick. In 2015 the Liberals won all ten of Liberal seats in New Brunswick.
Trudeau’s Liberals won a 15-seat majority in the election. New Brunswick is one piece of the puzzle that could stop the Liberals from winning another majority. If the Liberals are held to a minority outcome or worse in 2019, as appears increasingly likely, Justin won’t fight another election. Prime minister in a minority or official leader of the opposition aren’t the sorts of jobs Justin signed up for.
Rachel Notley is undoubtedly finished as Premier of Alberta in 2019. Her party was an accidental government that benefitted from a perfect political storm. Notley will face a united conservative party in 2019 who will most likely be lead by the solid performance of Jason Kenney.
The Alberta NDP only had two chances to win government again in 2019, a divided conservative opposition and a sharp rebound in oil prices. The former will not happen and the potential impact of the latter has been muted by the NDP’s own policies.
The Energy East project could have provided major economic benefit to Canadians. Justin Trudeau and Rachel Notley have gone out of their way to stop that benefit. Notley, like Trudeau, won’t be interested in serving as opposition leader after the 2019 election. She may remain in politics after the next election but that won’t be as leader of the Alberta New Democrats.
The death of Energy East will definitely be seen as contributing to the end of both Notley and Trudeau’s time in their current jobs. It is too bad for Canadians that both have been misled by inexperienced and misguided advisors on the file.
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