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The 2015 federal election campaign may be fading from our memory but we can’t forget that in that pivotal campaign the Liberals painted a balanced and attractive picture of Canada’s future.
Led by the unproven but photogenic Justin Trudeau, the Liberals promised to be more aggressive in protecting the environment and advancing the interests of historically disadvantaged groups. But the primary focus of a Liberal government, he promised, would be to strongly support Canada’s broad middle-class voting majority.
Justin, the son of Pierre Trudeau, went out of his way to convince voters that he’d be a friend to the West. If elected, his government would support responsible resource development, approving pipelines and other energy projects that provide much-needed middle-class jobs in Western Canada.
How quickly things change. It looks like Prime Minister Trudeau is about to make the same mistake as his father.
As prime minister, Pierre Trudeau lost support for the Liberals in the West for decades with his federal interference into provincially-owned resources. His son risks a similar fate if he allows the radical wing of his party to undermine the economy.
Few of us realized during the campaign that Trudeau’s balanced approach would, in two short years, morph into a radicalism.
Consider recent changes to the National Energy Board’s pipeline application process. Now, companies like TransCanada must somehow consider how their pipelines contribute to both upstream and downstream greenhouse gas emissions.
The real carbon culprits aren’t the energy delivery systems, they’re the countless carbon-emitting automobiles and factories of Central Canada. Dumping this carbon responsibility on a pipeline may be politically satisfying to radicals (who can’t or won’t tackle the problem at its source) but it’s just another example of politicians shooting the messenger.
Everyone knows the end of oil is coming. Nevertheless, a recent poll by Abacus Data shows that a large majority of Canadians still support adding pipeline capacity. Canadians are pragmatic enough to know we need reliable access to domestic energy. And yet radicals in the Liberal party seem to be obsessed with poisoning the well for companies wanting to help achieve that goal.
If the 20th century proved anything, it’s that bureaucratic centralization of the economy is the enemy of growth and the middle class. But it seems the Liberals are hell-bent on doing precisely that. If Environment Minister Catherine McKenna has her way, she’ll further burden resource companies with mind-numbing complications by adding new social, health and gender repercussions to the already overburdened project approval process.
Where this obsession ends is anyone’s guess but – like the Liberals’ new small business tax obsession – it’s ideologically driven urban elitism.
The only winners are anti-development groups and central planners in Ottawa.
The losers are also obvious: middle-class Canadians and the West.
Regrettably, history is repeating itself.
Western Canadians are still traumatized by the spectre of Pierre Trudeau and his sidekick Mark Lalonde (then minister of Energy, Mines and Resources) cynically launching their National Energy Program in the early 1980s. This ideologically-driven attempt to federalize and centralize resource development in Canada ended badly for the nation and left the federal Liberals politically radioactive in the West.
Justin Trudeau is not yet unpopular in Western Canada. Many westerners voted for the Liberals in the last election in the hope that a new generation would steer a balanced course between the needs of the environment and economic growth.
However, it’s clear that activists like Finance Minister Bill Morneau and McKenna are gaining the upper hand in cabinet and driving this government off its balanced position.
The backlash has been furious. Thousands of small business owners are rising up in anger at the government’s attempt to paint them as tax cheats. This unwarranted attack on hard-working professionals is darkening the political sky like a giant prairie thunderstorm.
Now resource companies are withdrawing from what they consider a rigged pipeline approval process.
Federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer may be the luckiest politician in the land. Often criticized for being boring and inexperienced, he only has to occupy the recently vacated middle ground to win the next federal election in a landslide.
Robert McGarvey is chief strategist for Troy Media Digital Solutions Ltd., an economic historian and former managing director of Merlin Consulting, a London, U.K.-based consulting firm. Robert’s most recent book is Futuromics: A Guide to Thriving in Capitalism’s Third Wave.
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