What ever happened to hope and hard work? As jobs wither on the vine in Western Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offered little of either to laid-off oilpatch workers. Meeting with Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre this week, the prime minister refused to commit to supporting the Energy East pipeline project. “For the past 10 years, we had a government that was, rather, a cheerleader for these projects rather than being a responsible arbiter to establish a clear, open, rigorous and transparent process, and that is what we are going to do,” he said.
In other words, Ottawa shouldn’t play favourites, no matter how many jobs hang in the balance. On the same day, Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion announced that Canada would be lifting its sanctions against Iran. This would allow struggling aircraft manufacturer Bombardier to export planes, including its troubled C-series offering, to the country.
“If Airbus is able to do it, why (should) Bombardier not be able to do it? In which way (is it) helping Canada, or the Iranian people, or Israel, or anyone, that Canada is hurting its own industry?” Dion asked. According to Reuters, Dion also said Iran had a poor human rights record and was not a friend of Canadian allies such as Israel. But presumably, those are not prime considerations when jobs are on the table.
Quebec-based Bombardier has long been favoured by a succession of governments with loans large and small, and now with a wholesale change in foreign policy. But the interests of Alberta-based TransCanada Corp. don’t appear to be worth lifting a finger. This is an inconsistency set to be repeated when Ottawa decides, as it must shortly do, whether to prop Bombardier up with more public money.
In the case of Energy East, ironically, it’s private money that would be pumped into the economy. Thousands of direct jobs and indirect jobs would be created — without the federal government racking up more debt. For a government that sees infrastructure as our salvation, a pipeline project should be a no-brainer.
But no. According to Trudeau, “The responsibility of the federal government is to establish a clear process whereby people can evaluate the projects in a rigorous and open manner.” Ah, process. It’s not the destination, but the journey, that counts. Especially when that journey is packed with studies, consultations and contracts to keep the Liberal party’s many friends in the policy world employed for years to come.
To be fair, the Conservatives paid too little attention to process. In the name of getting things done, they lowered environmental standards and talked tough. And then, they stopped talking altogether. The result was that they didn’t get things done — i.e., build a major pipeline such as Keystone XL, Northern Gateway or Energy East.
Last I checked, Coderre is the mayor of Montreal, not the leader of the free world
But telling U.S. President Barack Obama that there will be a pipeline is different than telling Denis Coderre that there will be a pipeline. Last I checked, Coderre is the mayor of Montreal, not the leader of the free world. Coderre is also the same mayor who got the OK from Trudeau to dump 8-billion litres of raw sewage into the St. Lawrence. He owes the prime minister, not the other way around — and he certainly isn’t in a position to wax poetic about there being “no plan B to the planet.”
There is a happy medium here. Trudeau could have said: “We need to build this pipeline, now let’s find a way to do so. A way that satisfies environmental standards and safety concerns, but that recognizes the economic importance of this project. We are all in this together. The West is hurting and we must be there for our fellow Canadians.”
That would have been leadership. Instead, Trudeau washed his hands of industry in one part of the country while fast-tracking the interests of another. If anyone is throwing oil on the national unity fire, it’s the prime minister.