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)

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Canada’s dying pipeline industry and its genteel lobbyists

Can you imagine the noise, the rhetoric, the picket lines, the emergency meetings, the petitions and the op-eds if the governments of Canada or Quebec ended the dairy industry’s monopsony or called in their loans to Bombardier Inc.?

Either of these hoary burdens to consumers and taxpayers alike would raise righteous hell, would have under Prime Minister Stephen Harper and will, as surely, under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

So, isn’t it strange that Barack Obama and Canada’s new Prime Minister can kill two regulator-approved, multibillion-dollar oil pipeline projects, blocking recession-racked Alberta’s most economic new pathways to continental and global oil markets, and, consequently, harm profoundly the economic credibility of the only reliable growth region of Canada—and then move on, smilingly, hand in hand, to address other business?

Obama reasons that TransCanada Inc.’s Keystone XL project doesn’t fit with his green, global vision of himself. After seven years of painful gestation, his "legacy" logic spreads gently like you-know-what on troubled waters. While Trudeau, his Cabinet and chief office networker Gerald Butts rush to assure Obama’s White House that their country can take a punch and that he’s already as green as the President.

Trudeau doesn’t openly use his predecessor’s National Energy Board's legislation to disallow the Enbridge Inc.’s Gateway pipeline to the Pacific. He only insists that the oil that gets there by flowing it won’t be able to use the Pacific Ocean to go any farther.

The actions of both politicians fit the logic of their electoral politics.

Powerless Canadians would be embarrassed by a sore loser Prime Minister. Furthermore, they still very much like Obama, personally. While British Columbia’s asset-rich beach-dwellers long ago decided that "their" rain-socked, essentially inhabitable, north Pacific coast belongs to the gods of leave-things-alone.

The only weird part of this smooth economic catastrophe has been the tone and seeming intent of the responses of the immediate victims.

Enbridge’s pipeline spokesman whispers, for example: “We are confident the Government of Canada will be embarking on the required consultations with First Nations and Métis in the region, given the potential economic impact a crude oil tanker ban would have on those communities and Western Canada as a whole.” Also, they’d love to have one of those "re-set" chats with Trudeau.

These are the true sentiments of a company that is laying off skilled employees, that has already wasted tens, if not hundreds of millions, on law firms, negotiators, anthropologists, environmental planners, engineers, media commercials, and, needless to say, in-house and retained, multi-party government relations specialists.

Are they truly confident that the Trudeau government—answering to an absolute majority of green Liberal MPs who have no direct skin in the fate of Alberta’s oil industry—will reverse itself? That Justin Trudeau will exclaim: “Oh my, Enbridge has convinced half a dozen coastal First Nation bands to take a bit more of their money to stop guarding their pristine coast.”

Such fake, Pollyanna, convoluted, supine optimism reminds me of a proposition that ought to be on every boardroom wall in the fossil fuel business:

“When the Fox hears the Rabbit scream he comes a-runnin', but not to help.”

1 comment:

  1. It almost seems ironic how the best thing for Alberta to do now would be to just branch off and join the US. I don't hear as many stories of hurt coming out of Texas as we do from poor Alberta. The pipeline would be approved instantly as would the abundant flow of capital and skilled labour (not to mention full energy independence for the US). I just wonder, how would the rest of Canada fair should such a senario become reality? Something maybe Ottawa should think about in the years to come.