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Gordon Laxer is founding director and former head of Parkland Institute at the University of Alberta.
October always brings shorter days, falling leaves and the bite of frost. This year, frost in Alberta is also coming from politics, as B.C. Premier Christy Clark digs in her heels over the proposed Northern Gateway oil pipeline to take bitumen from the oilsands to China.
In landlocked Alberta, oilsands operators are desperate to get their bitumen to the coast, any coast, to find the sweet spot of much higher international prices. Blocked by U.S. President Barack Obama from getting to the Texas Gulf coast by a temporary hold on the Keystone XL pipeline, corporate hopes quickly shifted to oil pipelines to the B.C. coast.
As B.C. opposition to oil pipelines rises, eyes turn east. Going east to bring sands oil west across the Pacific may seem like a slow boat to China. But Derek Burney and Eddie Goldenberg trumpet its advantages. The bitumen could flow over existing rights of way and have fewer regulatory hurdles.
Burney and Goldenberg mention the pipeline bringing oil security to eastern Canadians by replacing oil imports, some of which come from the “politically uncertain Middle East.” That’s a side benefit. It’s clear that for them, the west-to-east pipeline is mainly an easier route to export Alberta sands oil. Blocked in the south, blocked in the west, go east.
Some were surprised to see Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair jump on the bandwagon of a west-to-east oil pipeline. The NDP joins the likes of Burney, who was chief of staff to Brian Mulroney and on the board of TransCanada PipeLines, and Eddie Goldenberg, who was chief of staff to Jean Chrétien. Why is Mulcair in bed with them?
Before we wax too lyrically about bipartisan agreement on a big economic project that could bring jobs and national unity, let’s look at political obstacles.
If you think B.C. opposition to the Northern Gateway pipeline is fierce, wait until you see Quebecer’s opposition to letting “dirty tarsands oil” into and through their province. Quebec holds the key to such a pipeline. You can’t get through Canada to New Brunswick without passing through Quebec.
For the rest of this article, please go to the Toronto Star website: http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorialopinion/article/1271046–quebec-non-looms-over-west-to-east-pipeline-gambit