Today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declared U.S. President's decision to allow Trans Canada to re-apply for a permit to build the Keystone XL pipeline was "a great moment for Alberta."
It's unclear what Trudeau thinks of the executive order Trump signed today, approving the construction of a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. Or the order Trump also intends to sign this week, temporarily blocking visas and refugees from seven Muslim countries, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen -- five of which are currently being bombed by the U.S. army.
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley called the announcement "good news" in a press conference Tuesday, but didn't comment on Trump's decision Monday (flanked by seven other men) to cancel abortion funding to NGOs.
Perhaps Trudeau and Notley have no cause to comment on the reactionary, racist and misogynist policies almost immediately introduced by the leader of a foreign country. Give unto Caesar what is Caesar's, etc. Then again, these hateful policies -- which, make no mistake, will certainly lead to misery and death -- are simply the result of Trump fulfilling his campaign promises. And let's be clear: there would be no Keystone XL rebirth without the most offensive, dangerous and inflammatory presidential campaigns in modern history.
A million and a half people, led by a trans-national First Nations coalition, protested fiercely against a pipeline that could ship 800,000 barrels of bitumen a day from Alberta's tar sands to the Gulf coast. It became a symbol of the hypocrisy of both Canadian and U.S. governments as they would sign global climate accords with one hand while approving massive fossil fuel infrastructure projects with the other. Thanks to unbridled popular resistance, Barack Obama vetoed Keystone in February 2015 and Trans Canada eventually withdrew its application nine months later.
It was a landmark victory of the climate movement and buoyed resistance to other pipeline projects, leading to some key victories like Enbridge's Northern Gateway and of course, the Dakota Access pipeline through Standing Rock (which has also been revived by presidential approval).
Then, an inveterate liar with a white supremacist, abusive base -- who boasts of assaulting women, villainizes migrants and mocked a disabled reporter -- became president. Without Trump, and without his despicable campaign that threatens to dissolve what few civil rights protections we've managed to scrape together under neoliberalism, there would be no Keystone.
Trans Canada wasted no time after Trump's surprise election win. While the rest of the world was reeling, Trans Canada was reaching out to the White House within hours to get Keystone back on the table. Those efforts were rewarded Tuesday, while Canada's PM and Alberta's premier applauded their good fortune that the U.S would elect a xenophobic demagogue to its highest office.
Walls and pipelines, pipelines and walls
Trudeau's ludicrous, consistent refrain that Canada can lead the way in stopping climate change by building pipelines has convinced no one. But I suppose if you're already married to the lie that building Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain Expansion project and Enbridge's Line 3 will fund some as-yet-unnamed action that will put Canada in line with its Paris commitments, what's one more oversized bitumen tube?
Trudeau calls himself a feminist while overseeing unprecedented arms sales to Saudi Arabia. He promises to overhaul government transparency and then offers cash-for-access to millionaires and vacations on the private islands of government lobbyists. He promises a renewed relationship with First Nations while he opts out of UNDRIP and leaves reserves languishing with non-potable water.
It's possible that Trudeau believes all of these things, that he feels no strain in placing a foot firmly in two irreconcilable camps. Indeed, that's exactly how he seems to be looking at Trump. Pipelines are one thing, over here. That other stuff? It's unimportant. Invisible. Ignorable. But the line is clear: two giant infrastructure projects -- a wall meant to keep desperate Mexicans from entering America, the other a pipeline cutting a swath through Indigenous land indifferent to climate catastrophe -- are inextricably, undeniably linked.
And they will be linked after Keystone's construction, too. The refugees fleeing American bombs in countries where American visas are no longer available will see more misery heaped upon them as climate change exacerbates their suffering. The link of nationalism to oil production will continue to strengthen and stoke racism towards the Indigenous people whose lands will be further dispossessed, and towards the migrant workers who will continue to be brought in as cheap labour. And as the oil industry inevitably heads towards another collapse in its boom-and-bust cycle, we await to see who the next demagogue will be to scoop up feelings of despair, bitterness and defeat and channel them towards some new horror.
As Notley and Trudeau cheer the rebirth of Keystone XL, don't forget the wave of racism, sexism and hate that delivered this prize.
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Image: PMO/Adam Scotti