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Corbella: Trudeau plain wrong about Harper's pipeline legacy

By Licia Corbella.

Re-printed without permission.

It’s either an untruth or ignorance. Either way, it doesn’t reflect well on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. For two years now, Trudeau keeps saying that “not a single kilometre of pipeline was built” during the almost 10 years that Stephen Harper’s Conservative government was in power.

On Tuesday, even in Alberta, Trudeau uttered that falsehood and it’s time it was exposed.

On Tuesday, following an announcement that he would give $1.5 billion already promised by the former federal Conservative government to expand Calgary’s LRT Green Line, he was asked a question by Postmedia columnist Rick Bell.

Trudeau actually used the phrase, “Let’s be honest about these things, Rick.”

It would be nice if some honesty followed, but it didn’t. Here’s what Trudeau said:

“I don’t think there’s anything that I can say that would reassure some of my critics who have such little faith in my government getting anything done for Alberta, regardless of the $1.5 billion we’re putting into the Green Line, regardless of all of the investments we’ve made into supporting EI in the difficult times …” Without digressing too far, Alberta has been leaving about $21 billion net in Ottawa annually to redistribute to other provinces and firms like Liberal-connected Bombardier for decades. Getting back $1.5 billion is better than nothing but he’s returning crumbs from the loaf.

As for employment insurance, most workers pay into EI for decades and never collect. Until recently, that was true for the many tens of thousands of Albertans. EI is not a gift of benevolence from Trudeau. It’s a benefit that Albertans use less than most other parts of the country and are eligible for much less, despite the hard times here.

Trudeau continued: “I don’t think there’s any magic phrase I can say that will have critics and skeptics put down their criticism and say, ‘You know what, the prime minister reassured me today,’ so I’m not speaking to them today. I’m speaking to the rest of Albertans who have watched for 10 years under the Conservative government where there was a tremendous amount of boosterism for Alberta, there was an oil-sector-first mentality that actually didn’t deliver a single kilometre of new pipeline to market. They weren’t able to get it done for 10 years regardless of all the words they had.”

That statement is factually incorrect by more than 8,000 kilometres!

Stephen Harper was prime minister of Canada from February 2006 until November 2015.

Enbridge’s Alberta Clipper (Line 67) pipeline expansion from Hardisty, Alberta, to Wisconsin was approved in 2006 and construction was completed on April 1, 2010. That pipeline covers 1,081 km and exports an additional 800,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil to Canada’s largest customer.

Also completed in 2010 is Enbridge’s Southern Lights Pipeline from Manhattan, Illinois, up to Edmonton. That pipeline — covering a length of 2,556 km — transports diluent to Edmonton to aid in shipping bitumen through pipelines.

Then there’s the Mount Robson & Jasper Park Expansion, also known as the Anchor Loop Project. Construction on that Kinder Morgan project began in August 2007, adding a 158-km section of pipeline to the existing Trans Mountain pipeline system between Hinton and Hargreaves, B.C., near Mount Robson Provincial Park. It included twinning a part of the pipeline system across Jasper National Park, which won Kinder Morgan an award.

That is exactly what Kinder Morgan wants to do with its existing pipeline to Burnaby — continue twinning its Trans Mountain pipeline. The company has warned that it is prepared to abandon the already-federally approved pipeline owing to the delay tactics by British Columbia’s minority provincial NDP government led by Premier John Horgan.

Also, a portion of TransCanada’s Keystone pipeline was approved in 2006 and was completed in 2010 taking crude from Alberta to Nebraska spanning a whopping 4,324 km. The so-called XL portion of that pipeline has been controversial and long delayed but was approved by President Donald Trump.

So, by my calculations — and I’m not certain I’ve included all of the pipelines that were approved and completed during Harper’s tenure — Trudeau is wrong by 8,119 km.

Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline was also approved under the Harper government, but Trudeau killed that pipeline once he became prime minister. Surely, he can’t blame that on his predecessor?

Instead of focusing so much on Harper, Trudeau should concentrate on something he can change for the better — particularly Bills 68 and 69 — which are adding to the existing regulatory burden spooking capital investment away from Canada’s energy industry.

On Tuesday, Siegfried Kiefer, president and chief strategy officer of ATCO, told the company’s annual general meeting in Calgary that the new laws coming down the pipe by Trudeau’s Liberal government could be crippling.

Kiefer and ATCO’s chair and chief executive officer, Nancy Southern, made it clear that ATCO fully supports a public process for reviewable projects that is complete and thorough. However, they say, unless changes are made, the new legislation will make the review process “all inclusive.”

What that means is you don’t even have to be a Canadian to participate in the review process, so organizations funded by American oil companies who have a vested interest in keeping Alberta oil landlocked in order to continue to buy discounted oil, could fill the public hearing process endlessly. Also, adversaries to any project don’t have to demonstrate any impact from the project either. It’s utter madness. “The Fisheries Act is being amended to protect each fish, not just fish populations, so there’s a lot of language right now that’s being debated that we need to get right,” said Kiefer.

As for Trudeau and his staff, they should now consider themselves informed on just how many kilometres of pipeline got built under the former Conservative government. From now on, the “not a single kilometre” line can safely be described as a lie.

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