Former B.C. justice minister says the reality is more people in the province support Trans Mountain pipeline than oppose it
Suzanne Anton, Special to Financial Post
Publishing date: Mar 21, 2018
Thousands of people march together during a protest against the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion in Burnaby, B.C. PHOTO BY THE CANADIAN PRESS/DARRYL DYCK
Is the pipeline debate starting to resolve in favour of pipelines being built and in favour of Canadians receiving full value for our energy exports? I believe it is, in part due to the realization as to just how much of the anti-pipeline campaign is foreign funded. More about that funding in a moment, but there’s a new reason for finding the blatant U.S.-based interference in Canadian energy policy particularly egregious.
The U.S. organization, 350.org, loves spouting opinions about Canadian energy. Its founder and most vocal spokesperson, Bill McKibben, seems to believe we need a lot of his help in deciding how we here in Canada should manage our affairs. He unsurprisingly celebrates Canadian pipeline opposition. But what should concern all Canadians is 350.org celebrating that it helps get Canadian young people arrested. Here’s a boast from its 2016 annual report: “1,000 people were trained in civil disobedience practices, and 99 youths were arrested in Ottawa protesting the pipeline.”
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Canadian teenagers are encouraged by foreign organizations to get arrested in support of foreign interests
Arrest is no laughing matter. Perhaps few if any of the arrests led to charges, but there is no guarantee of that. Criminal convictions can carry lifelong consequences. As a parent, I would have been horrified to think that my teenage children were being encouraged by foreign organizations to get themselves arrested in support of foreign campaigns to suit foreign interests.
And how significant is that foreign interest? The question is now much more in the public debate, due to work by journalists such as the Financial Post’s Claudia Cattaneo; politicians such as Ellis Ross, formerly chief councillor of the Haisla Nation and now a Liberal MLA; researchers such as Vivian Krause; and information organizations such as Resource Works.
After all, pipelines are turned down not because no one knows how to build them, and not even because they don’t get approved, but because of well-funded and highly-active political opposition.
The U.S.-based Tides Foundation, for example, directs funds to Canadian organizations such as Dogwood Initiative and Leadnow, both of whom featured prominently in the anti-pipeline protest on March 10th in Burnaby, and both of whom take an active role in B.C. elections, aiming to get pro-energy politicians out of office and anti-pipeline politicians elected.
Whose money is it that Tides pays out? And whose interests does it serve? What donor requests are being satisfied? This of course is the great unknown. Over the last few years Tides has granted $40 million to 100 Canadian anti-pipeline organizations who, in return, have done a fine job of constraining the Canadian economy and saving money for American buyers of Canadian oil.
The activists have two main goals. They’d like to keep Canadian oil in the ground and, alternatively, they want to keep Canadian oil landlocked. Because we can’t reach overseas markets, our landlocked oil is sold at a huge discount to customers in the U.S. Scotiabank economists estimate that the current cost to the Canadian economy is $15.6 billion a year. We may as well write a cheque today “to our friends in the U.S.” for $43 million. And do it again tomorrow. And the next day. And every day after that. What an incredible campaign. No less oil consumed, but the Canadian economy suffers massive losses.
The cancellation of the Energy East pipeline last year, forced by public opposition, was particularly counterproductive. Instead of using Alberta oil, produced under the world’s most stringent environmental protections and supporting Canadian jobs, eastern Canadian refineries will continue having to buy oil from countries such as Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Azerbaijan and, yes, the U.S.
The media and the public are becoming increasingly aware of the foreign-funding issue. More people in B.C. support the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion than oppose it. I believe the tide is turning. I hope so. Because up until now, the campaign against Canadian energy has been a tremendous success. As producers around the world are upping their production, we in Canada have been watching revenue from Canadian oil flow out of the country, with a massive cost to our economy. It’s a terrible loss.
Suzanne Anton is the former attorney general and minister of justice for British Columbia.