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BRIAN LILLEY: Pipeline sanity from courts but not from Trudeau

 United Conservative Leader Jason Kenney on the campaign trail discussing the latest on Alberta jobs numbers released by Statistics Canada on Friday, April 5, 2019. Al Charest/Postmedia
United Conservative Leader Jason Kenney on the campaign trail discussing the latest on Alberta jobs numbers released by Statistics Canada on Friday, April 5, 2019. Al Charest/Postmedia

Finally a bit of sanity on the issue of pipelines.

The B.C. Court of Appeal has ruled that the province cannot block Alberta oil, specifically the thicker diluted bitumen of the northern oil sands, from going into pipelines that run through British Columbia.

Even though the constitution clearly says pipelines that cross provincial boundaries are under federal jurisdiction, the NDP government of Premier John Horgan tried to argue they were simply trying to protect the environment.

The court didn’t buy it and in a unanimous ruling argued the province was trying to usurp federal power and reverse the National Energy Board’s decision.

“At the end of the day, the NEB is the body entrusted with regulating the flow of energy resources across Canada to export markets… The project affects the country as a whole, and falls to be regulated taking into account the interests of the country as a whole,” Justice Mary Newbury wrote in the decision.

The court sided with the federal government’s position that the B.C. law was clearly aimed at the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion and that alone.

“Even if it were not intended to ‘single out’ the TMX pipeline, it has the potential to affect (and indeed ‘stop in its tracks’) the entire operation of Trans Mountain as an interprovincial carrier and exporter of oil,” Justice Newbury wrote.

Somehow over the past few years in this country we have come to hate ourselves and the natural resources we rely on to run our economy, generate the wealth that pays for our way of life, even our generous social programs like health care.

Pipelines carrying Canadian oil and gas have become persona non grata in much of the country.

Nobody wants a pipeline in their neighbourhood even though chances are, there are already pipelines running under your feet.

Natural gas is one of the most common ways Canadians heat their homes. How does it get to those homes?

Pipelines of course.

We have oil pipelines crisscrossing the country as well. I ran into a sign for an oil pipeline in suburban Toronto recently.

It was on the side of the road, alerting people a pipeline was underneath the ground. It had been there for decades with no issue.

To try to build a similar pipeline now would mean non-stop legal and political battles.

No wonder investors have pulled their money from Canada’s energy sector and put their funds elsewhere.

Meanwhile, we have a federal government that has imposed a carbon tax on the nation making Canada the lone major producer of oil and gas to do so.

On top of that we have legislation, currently before the Senate, that could shut down the industry.

“If Bill C-69 is passed in anything like its original form, it will be yet another devastating blow to investor confidence not just in the Alberta but the Canadian economy,” Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said Friday in Toronto.

“What board would responsibly risk their shareholders money by making an application in a process that has an open-ended, potentially endless and heavily politicized environmental impact assessment?” Kenney asked.

This latest court ruling will help a little bit with investor confidence, even if the only investor in TMX is the federal government.

But if we truly want to bring back full support for the oil and gas industry, then Canada’s political and business class will need to get over their squeamishness regarding our natural resources.

Canada has a better environmental record and better human rights record than any other major producer.

We shouldn’t be ashamed of our resources, we should be proud.

blilley@postmedia.com

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019

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