As expected, Justin Trudeau defied the popular will of Canadians, scientists, environmental groups, municipalities, the province of B.C. and the sovereignty of First Nations by approving the embattled Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline.
The pipeline will run from Edmonton to Burnaby, B.C. carrying 895,000 barrels of diluted bitumen per day to oversea markets. It’s owned by Kinder Morgan, a Texas-based corporation with a well-earned reputation for arrogance and cost-cutting. Since Kinder Morgan purchased Trans Mountain in 2005, there have been four major spills along that route, including Burnaby itself in 2007. The president of Kinder Morgan Canada Ian Anderson said just last month that he wasn’t “smart enough” to know if climate change was real.
Trudeau opted to ignore the fierce and determined resistance to this pipeline (while throwing his Liberal MPs under the bus) and instead side with two ex-Enron executives from Texas who don’t believe in climate change. No wonder opponents have promised a “Standing Rock North” to stop this pipeline.
In the same announcement, Trudeau also approved Enbridge’s Line 3, which was rather like announcing the opening of a new standalone Star Wars movie for environmental activists. Not many know about the $7.5-billion, 790,000 barrel-a-day pipeline from eastern Alberta to the U.S. border, but you can bet they are studying up now.
In what was doubtless supposed to be a sop to his dwindling environmentalist base, Trudeau also announced that he would reject Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline, a project already beleaguered and crippled by court cases and delays. It had the effect of announcing that the Edmund Fitzgerald had just sunk off the shores of the Gitche Gumee. Northern Gateway was already dead, resuscitated only briefly to mitigate the political cost of approving two pipelines after winning an election with promises of climate-friendly policies.
Surely, the shine on Trudeau’s progressivism has faded now. The rhetoric and campaign of change that hamstrung the NDP and humiliated Stephen Harper’s Conservatives has been exposed finally as a mirage. Saudi arms deals, renunciation of UNDRIP, abdication of electoral reform, maintaining Harper’s climate targets and health accord transfer formula — the grocery list of betrayals is too long to track now.
Of course, none of his promises to Bay Street — spoken and unspoken — have been broken. Public-private partnerships, which dismantle public infrastructure, boost costs and reduce service anywhere they are implemented, are about to explode in a huge way.
But cynicism is part and parcel of the Liberal strategy to get elected at any cost — and the disconnect between rhetoric and action is impossible to maintain for any length of time. That impossible balancing act is what always, inevitably, kicks the Liberals out of power — for a right-wing government to step in.
Anyone paying attention could see it coming — what’s remarkable is the sheer audacity of Trudeau’s claims compared to the policies he has enacted. He wants to form a new nation-to-nation relation with Indigenous peoples, but has failed them at every step. He has literally enunciated a strategy to stop climate change by building pipelines.
In November when Trudeau announced the Liberals’ Ocean Protection Plan in Vancouver, he talked about sailing on Jericho Beach as a boy and surfing on Chesterman Beach in Tofino. This personal story, he told the press gallery, shows his compassion and loyalty to the gorgeous Pacific coastline. The Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline will send another 340 tankers a year through Burrard Inlet. When can we stop pretending this man cares one whit about the coast of B.C., save its capacity as a backdrop for shirtless selfies?
The only thing more impressive than the deep cynicism of Trudeau’s politics is the incredible, inspiring opposition to this pipeline. Scientists, environmental organizations, ordinary citizens who have never held a protest sign in their lives have stood up and declared this project a non-starter. Municipalities up and down the province including Vancouver, Victoria and Burnaby have pledged to oppose it and even the right-wing premier of B.C,. Christy Clark, was forced to question Trans Mountain to save her government.
And of course, the brave and unflappable resistance of the Coast Salish First Nations have shown they are willing to put their bodies on the line to make sure this pipeline never gets built.
And it won’t, you know. Shut. It. Down.
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Image: PMO/Adam Scotti