The palaver over pipelines

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In fact, he does looks like the kind of fellow who could tell the nation’s provinces, leading mayors and other assorted high-profile camera moths to, in effect, knock it off – and even get away with it.

On his worst day, New Brunswick MP and Government House Leader Dominic LeBlanc presents and comports himself like Hollywood’s latest incarnation of an emerging mafia Don – though, an uncharacteristically friendly version of the cinematic phenotype.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I quite like his latest declaration to the press about the most recent, and utterly mindless, fracas over pipelines in this increasingly God-forsaken land of ours.

In the aftermath of some 80 mayors from Quebec, and that province’s premier, declaring their opposition to the proposed Energy East pipeline traversing their respective territories en route to tidewater facilities in Saint John, Mr. LeBlanc had this to say to local newspaper reporters this week:

“We’re prepared to deal with the tough issues and recognize that the (federal) government has an important responsibility to help get natural resources to market. The whole country has benefitted from the Alberta resource economy, so I think it would be helpful that everybody lower the tone, allow the regulatory and review process to run its course and then the government will have to make a difficult decision.”

He’s not kidding.

Gosh, what shall we do with all that Alberta oil and gas? Truck it just so that poor roads and driver inattention may slam it into a government-built tourism kiosk somewhere outside of Thunder Bay? Rail it just so that poor tracks and conductor inattention conspire to blow up another small town in the middle of Great White North Country?

Or shall we finally recognize that as long as we need fossil fuels to power our domestic and export economies, the safest, cleanest delivery system is still the lowly pipeline – properly built, scrupulously regulated and strenuously monitored by officials of the Departments of Natural Resources and those of Environment Canada?

Still, even the logical choice is fraught with political peril. And Mr. LeBlanc knows this perhaps better than anyone outside the Prime Minister’s Office.

Any delay in the construction and activation of eastern and western pipelines automatically aggravates the Conservative west, whose political agents in Ottawa are prepared to make hay with their talking points about the hegemony of the Liberal east.

Conversely, anything other than rigorous, proof-providing research showing that pipelines are, indeed, the safest technologies currently available for transporting evidently toxic materials over long distances is sure to inflame the environmental lobby and their confederates at the municipal level of government.

Tough issues, indeed, with which the federal government seems determined to deal. Ultimately, Mr. LeBlanc says, it’s Ottawa’s choice to make. And that choice, he insists, “will be based on the information that comes from the robust independent review (underway). It won’t be based on someone’s news conference. I’ve always thought that the government decision should be based on evidence, on science, on environmental analysis, on expert opinion.”

Of course, I take one issue with this declaration: It already is.

According to a recent piece in the Financial Times, “Moving oil and gas by pipeline was 4.5 times safer than moving the same volume the same distance by rail in the decade ended in 2013 in Canada, according to a new study by the Fraser Institute public policy think-tank.”

By all means, Mr. LeBlanc, complete your analysis, ensure that it is correct and then let’s get this oil flowing in the safest, most economically expedient means possible.

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