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Harper right to streamline pipeline regulations
Although this week’s amendment-packed “slumber party” to hold up passage of omnibus Bill C-38 focused on Stephen Harper’s alleged contempt for Parliament, perhaps the most contentious element of a contentious bill related to the streamlining of environmental regulation for new resource infrastructure, in particular pipelines.
This reflects the fact that the petroleum industry is more politicized now than at any time since the 1980 National Energy Program. Then, the issue was a fight between Pierre Trudeau’s Ottawa and Peter Lougheed’s Alberta over the spoils of higher oil and gas prices.
Now, it is a struggle between the Harper government’s aspirations to facilitate and enhance Canada’s status as a petroleum superpower, and an environmental movement that wants to kill the fossil-fuel industry. Meanwhile, old-style interprovincial jealousies have also been stoked by NDP leader Thomas Mulcair’s invoking “Dutch disease:” the suggestion that an oil-boosted Canadian dollar is costing manufacturing jobs.
The heart of opposition to Mr. Harper’s superpower aspirations lies outside the mainstream Canadian political process. Indeed, it lies outside Canada entirely. Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver has pointed to foreign-funded “radical” opponents of resource development, but diplomacy (not to mention necessary political hypocrisy) prevents him from pointing the finger at the most radical element of all: The UN-based thrust to use the environment — or, more specifically, computer models projecting catastrophic man-made climate change — as a justification for more “global governance.”
Working locally to support the UN’s impossible dream are the cadres of “civil society,” those powerful environmental non-governmental organizations that have done a bang-up job of promoting public alarm, shaking down corporations, and bringing politicians to heel. Their most remarkable success was in pressuring U.S. President Barack Obama to give the thumbs-down to TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline, which would ferry diluted oil sands bitumen to the refineries of the Gulf Coast. Given the traditional U.S. obsession with energy security, not to mention its unemployment rate, the fact that Keystone XL’s oil would have displaced insecure sources such as Venezuela should have made it a shoo-in. That it wasn’t confirms that ENGOs had occupied the White House.
Keystone XL has thus also become an issue in the presidential election campaign. Republican candidate Mitt Romney has issued a campaign ad declaring that on “Day One” of his presidency, he will approve Keystone XL. The pipeline is sure to crop up again and again as a shovel-ready project that the president turned down so as not to offend his green supporters.
For the rest of this column, please go to the National Post website: http://opinion.financialpost.com/2012/06/14/peter-foster-pipelines-behind-c-38-battle/