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When Justin Trudeau and Jason Kenney agree on something, it’s tempting to pinch yourself to make sure you’re not in some alternate universe.
The Liberal prime minister and the United Conservative Alberta premier, political foes in all other respects, are both calling for a halt to the protests that have tied up transportation all over Canada.
The dispute they refer to, over a pipeline in northern B.C., even got local on Tuesday, as a group of protesters blocked an access road to the Fairview Cove container terminal in north-end Halifax.
They were part of a Canada-wide series of protests trying to stop a natural gas pipeline from British Columbia’s interior, near Dawson Creek, to Kitimat, the site of a proposed natural gas export terminal.
The pipeline is opposed by environmentalists, by a group of hereditary Wet’suwet’en chiefs and by some Indigenous groups. However, elected Wet'suwet'en chiefs and about 20 other First Nations along the pipeline’s 670-kilometre route have signed on to the project, which promises about $1 billion in jobs and other economic benefits during construction.
Proponents point out that exporting gas to India or China could serve to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in those countries by allowing them to convert from dirtier sources of energy like coal. And the project is another effort to get B.C. and Alberta oil and gas to a tidewater export facility.
Opponents say this pipeline is just another greenhouse gas producer that would contribute to global warming. They also argue the project tramples Aboriginal rights by removing Wet’suwet’en protesters from their land on pipeline routes.
RCMP have been breaking up roadblocks in B.C. after an injunction was granted to pipeline owner Coastal GasLink.
Tuesday’s protests targeted transportation links across Canada, most prominently passenger and freight rail lines in central Canada. A blockade that reached its sixth day near Belleville, Ont., prompted CN Rail to warn it would have to cancel large parts of its service. Via Rail has cancelled routes from Montreal to Toronto and from Ottawa to Toronto until Thursday.
An injunction against the Belleville blockade was granted to CN last Friday, though protesters remained in place. A blockade in B.C. also interrupted service between Prince Rupert and Prince George, in the same region the pipeline would be built.
Protesters, pipeline proponents and politicians alike all understand how important rail travel is to Canada’s economy. The protesters in particular picked the rail lines as a target because they knew it would attract attention.
But there’s a time when sympathy for the right of protest can turn into real economic pain for the rest of us. The point has been made. Now it’s time for the demonstrators to respect the injunctions granted by courts and remove their blockades.