Ted Morton: Adding downstream emissions to the Energy East review process opens a Pandora’s box of competing scenarios of end-use possibilities
National Post | The National Energy Board’s (NEB) new conditions for TransCanada’s proposed Energy East pipeline are another signal that the federal government is committed to ensuring the completion of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline (KMX). What is the connection? To win a second mandate in 2019, the Trudeau government is prepared to sacrifice Energy East to justify the Trans Mountain expansion.
Adding downstream emissions to the Energy East review process opens a Pandora’s box of competing scenarios of end-use possibilities. The no-more-pipelines-ever coalition will seize this opportunity to clog the NEB process with an endless line-up of studies, “experts” and consultants, all predicting disastrous increases in GHG emissions if Energy East is built. For TransCanada, this translates into more time, more uncertainty and more money, which is why it recently requested an immediate 30-day suspension of the hearings.
Adding upstream emissions to the NEB process for Energy East is also a prima facie violation of provincial jurisdiction over the development of oil and gas reserves. It is an attempt to do indirectly through the NEB what Section 92A of the Constitution explicitly prohibits the federal government from doing directly. Section 92A — which grants to provinces explicit jurisdiction of the management and development of their natural resources — is the concession that then Alberta premier Peter Lougheed extracted from the last prime minister named Trudeau at the conclusion of the energy wars sparked by the 1980 National Energy Program. Be assured that, like before, Western premiers will not let this jurisdictional breach go unchallenged.
Trudeau is allowing the NEB to do his political dirty work for him
Trudeau is allowing the NEB to do his political dirty work for him. Undermining Energy East is a transparently political move to shore up the Liberals’ political support in Quebec, the home of 40 of Trudeau’s 183 MPs and where anti-pipeline sentiment is strong. Sabotaging Energy East will also appease his erstwhile climate-change and aboriginal-activist supporters, who are still unhappy about his earlier approvals of Trans Mountain and the replacement of Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline.
It is a crude but effective political calculus in the run-up to the 2019 federal election. Trudeau will be able to claim a statesman-like balance between his climate-change commitments and the responsible development of Canada’s energy resources. Two pipelines will be built: Trans Mountain and Line 3. And two others will not: Northern Gateway and Energy East. This has been the Liberals’ messaging over the last 12 months — “clean growth” and “balance.” Voters in Alberta and Saskatchewan won’t like it, but — with a combined total of only five Liberal MPs — they are as irrelevant to the Liberals’ next parliamentary majority as they are to the present one.
Critics have suggested that Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr should dismiss the current NEB panel for exceeding its mandate and risking a major constitutional battle between Ottawa and the Prairies. Administrative tribunals like the NEB are supposed to implement policy, not make it. But why would he dismiss a panel that is doing the Liberal government a favour? Or to put the point differently, if Carr does not dismiss this panel, we will all know why.
Ted Morton is a senior fellow at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy and at the Manning Centre for Building Democracy. He was formerly Alberta’s minister of energy and of finance.
Special to Financial Post, September 19, 2017 9:16 AM EDT http://business.financialpost.com/opinion/ted-morton-trudeaus-plan-to-kill-energy-east-without-getting-caught