Seamanship Quotation

“In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed destination.”
— from Michael Oakeshott's
Political Education” (1951)

Monday, July 30, 2012

Canadian energy policy: America’s drama is still Canada’s

Last week was hard on Canadian escapists.

Canada’s 10 premiers failed to shame Stephen Harper into taking on any further federal responsibility for reforming public health services. And, more dramatically, the premier of British Columbia, Christie Clark, shattered the West’s collective determination to shift Canada’s focus to the Pacific and use fossil fuels to drive Canada’s future.

There’s no new way out for the provinces domestically, and now there’s no new way to Asia either. And, incidentally, the US—the giant they’re left with—is finally within 100 days of an extremely important national election.

Harper should accept both failures with good grace. He won on health care and received a valuable warning slap over his recent infatuation with pipelines.

It was pure 40-year-old-Canadian-proof motherhood to talk about “diversifying” to China and becoming an “energy superpower” after Obama delayed the proposed southern oil sands pipeline, the Keystone Project. Harper obviously liked getting along with Barack Obama, the most popular politician in Canada, and was genuinely surprised by his decision to give infinitely greater weight to votes in the US over friends in Canada.

Nevertheless, new pipelines are no longer winning elements of the Canadian dream. Indeed, almost all politicians wisely leave them to regulators to consider and approve. Christie Clark simply confirmed last week that they cannot be sold to the millions of Canadian voters along the Pacific coast.

Clark is being damned for attaching impossible, conceivably unconstitutional conditions to her possible support for the for $5.5 Northern Gateway oil pipeline project that would end-run the US—while threatening the rivers, valleys, fisheries, beaches, tourist businesses, and the peace of mind of retired Californians, Torontonians, and “scenic shed” real estate agents who now guard beautiful BC.

In a hopeless position, Clark was noisy. She wasn’t given any choice.

Alberta’s good-will hunter Premier Allison Redford insisted on securing Clark’s public support for the pipeline. Instead of telling her privately that that would be impossible, Clark was forced to show leadership—and make it impossible, in public.

In the process, she’s made it almost impossible for Harper as well.

Harper cannot keep his base united in the West or stay relevant in the East by continuing to champion pipelines and fossil fuel sales to Asia. During the next 100 days, Harper and pro-growth Canadians generally would be wise to think again about North America.

It sounds peculiar, but: Albertans, British Columbians, and Ontarians could more likely unite around continental energy and trade policies.

North-south energy corridors are more economic and less environmentally explosive than the proposed east-west alternatives. It doesn’t matter which North American ports export Canada’s commodities.

Both countries are diversifying their markets. Why not work at it openly together?

Finally, continental strategies on energy investment and Asian trade expansion would be safer and more effective for Canada than going it alone with China.

No comments:

Post a Comment