Pipeline Politics have haunted this country since the end of the Second World War. Robin Sears reviews the history:
Every major pipeline we have built in Canada since the Second World War was typically the product of a long and difficult political battle. The first cross-Canada pipe, the project that gave birth to Trans-Canada Pipeline, helped bring down the Liberal government of Louis St. Laurent in 1957.
The infamous Pipeline Debate, ended nearly half a century of Liberal hegemony, and elected John Diefenbaker. It ushered in a period of political instability with six elections in just over a decade, ending only with Pierre Trudeau’s 1968 majority.
Next came the four-year fracas over the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline starting in 1974, which despite several attempts to revive it — the last as recent as the Harper era — remains stillborn. The pipeline inquiry, led by Justice Tom Berger, became a multi-year political crusade in defence of First Nations rights, environmental concerns, and was eventually seen as an attack on the oil and gas sector itself.
New pipeline projects have met the same fate as the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline:
Along the way we then had a series of more short-lived battles over Energy East, Northern Gateway and Keystone XL. Energy East fell victim to politics, most damagingly its poisonous reception by the government of Quebec. Northern Gateway died at the hands of enraged and empowered First Nations, and a series of governments unprepared to take the political risk of defending the transport of heavy oils through the pristine waters surrounding Haida Gwai.
Sears believes all of this pain could have been avoided if a solution -- first proposed in 1951 -- had been adopted:
In the ironies of political life, there is one solution that might have made this collision of interests avoidable. It is to have taken the oil across the Fraser River and through Washington State to an existing offtake port on the U.S. West Coast. This was the earlier planned route that almost killed the first pipeline to move oil from the Leduc oilfields to American markets.
Of course, the solution was no solution for the planet. And the curse of fossil fuels continues.
Image: Oil Price