Is Alberta seeing an impasse arise with regards to pipelines? Will we be able to build those needed conduits for our industry? Currently, there is much speculation and doubt presented in the media, which evokes feelings of resentment and anger, highlighting those fears of a fragile economy based on oil and gas. And the posturing for political gains does not truly help the situation.
Alberta does need to be able to access new markets for its oil and gas, and hope was extended to us when the federal government approved the Trans-Mountain Pipeline. We followed all the steps, all the rules, and there was optimism for the future. But then the uncertainty of the B.C. government has undermined this confidence. And will this extend to all our pipeline needs?
From the B.C. perspective, the pipeline’s approval process seemed fixed or skewed, and its credibility was brought into question. This is because the pipeline is seen to threaten the values and identity of our most western province. And they have vowed to fight this decision tooth and nail. As for Eastern Canada, their position seems less about an environmental identity, and more about something else.
And here is where we find the crux of the problem: the lines of communication are being closed off by threats of “holding back equalization payments,” which is a misrepresentation of how our federal government redistributes funds within Canada; or when we hear of threats by environmental protest groups, both parties become defensive. Either way you look at it, an adversarial approach is just not very helpful, and looking at these issues more collaboratively will probably be more successful.
This is where the premiers meeting can be of an advantage to Alberta right now, as we have an opportunity to truly present the advancements our industry is making on the environmental front. We are de-carbonizing oil and gas through new technologies, we are making progressive headway on our climate plans, and this positive message needs to be out there to allay the fears of the other premiers. All provinces in Canada face similar issues; they are worried for their own economies, and their political futures.
Pipelines could provide a net positive benefit to all of Canada, if we could just draw out the common interests they provide. They could become a unifying factor for our country, as the railroads were in 1871, reaping economic benefits for the whole of Canada. But first, some of our politicians need to stop posturing for the sole purpose of trying to score political points, and get out of the way so that Alberta and Canada can move forward in a progressive fashion.
John Kennair is an international consultant and doctor of laws who lives in St. Albert.