The Pipeline File: NDP’s ‘social license’ approach worked where Conservative shouting failed, it’s that simple

Posted on November 30, 2016, 1:59 am
7 mins

PHOTOS: Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Kananaskis, Alberta, in April 2016 (photo by Chris Schwarz, Government of Alberta). Below: Anti-pipeline demonstrators in British Columbia (Rabble photo by Alyse Kotyk). They may not find it reassuring that Alberta conservatives are praying for their success.

Without the Alberta NDP’s climate strategy, no pipelines would have been approved yesterday. It really is that simple.

When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced approval yesterday afternoon of the controversial expansion of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline to Canada’s West Coast and Enbridge’s Line 3 into Minnesota and beyond, he told reporters in Ottawa: “Let me say this definitively, we could not have approved this project without the leadership of Premier Notley and Alberta’s climate leadership plan.”

kinder_morgan_1As blogger Dave Cournoyer put it, “Mr. Trudeau basically said everything but ‘Hey Alberta, Rachel Notley is the reason you got a pipeline’.”

Ms. Notley, who made it clear almost from the moment she took office as Alberta’s premier that the provincial NDP would fight for access to a seaport for her province’s oil, and that it would do so by building “social license” through positive environmental measures, thanked Mr. Trudeau for his “extraordinary leadership” on the pipeline file.

Indeed, it was extraordinary. It seems clear the prime minister expended a considerable amount of his political capital, especially in British Columbia, to help the economy of Alberta, a part of Canada that historically has had very little good to say about him or his party and done even less to help him.

This demonstrates a level of public spiritedness – even if you believe support for pipelines is deeply wrongheaded – that is unusual in politics, and that seems to be almost completely missing on the other side of the political spectrum in the Canada of the early 21st Century.

So the Alberta right’s nightmare scenario – and so they described it when they were pretty certain it would never happen – has come true.

It would be remarkable if politicians and commentators on the right would now have the grace to admit that a New Democrat premier and a Liberal prime minister have accomplished something valuable for Alberta that no Conservative was able to achieve. We all understand, of course, how unlikely this is.

Count on it, there will be an enormous amount of verbiage in the days to come from the province’s two right-wing political parties and the large number of federal Conservatives that make up their Ottawa auxiliary, not to mention the usual suspects in the think tank sector and their media echo chamber, to the effect that it just ain’t so. Many die-hard conservative supporters will believe it all.

They will say the pipelines aren’t built yet – and pray for the success of the environmentalists opposed to the project on the West Coast. They will say it all would have happened anyway, thanks to the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States. (WRONG!) They will stick with their climate-change denial and their promises to dismantle the very program that made this hopeful development for Alberta’s battered economy possible. And they’ll fume and stomp their feet at Mr. Trudeau’s rejection of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline and his ban on tanker traffic off the North Coast.

All this is writ in stone.

If only you’ll elect us, they’ll promise – although not in these words, of course – we’ll drive Alberta right back into the same old dead end that got no results at all throughout the decade Conservatives ran things in both Ottawa and Edmonton and made pipeline extensions the sine qua non of their leadership.

Well, they’ve dug themselves in so deep, what else could the parties of the right do when Ms. Notley has just proved, as she said yesterday, that we were always bound to get better results by “working constructively with other Canadians instead of just shouting at them.”

Still, it should be clear to all but the most bone-headed ideologues and cynical political liars that Ms. Notley’s social license strategy to sell Alberta’s resources is working – and not just better than the strategy advocated by the Canadian right. It’s the only strategy that’s worked, and the only one that ever will. You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar! … Who knew?

Well, in fairness, Conservatives like the late Jim Prentice did get this, even when the extremists that surrounded former prime minister Stephen Harper never did.

Speaking of Mr. Harper, his former lieutenant Jason Kenney, who is running to lead the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party and then merge it with the even more intractable Wildrose Opposition, has vowed to eliminate the NDP’s carbon tax and other aspects of its climate leadership plan.

“I would start by repealing the NDP’s job-killing carbon tax,” he said in September. (Note: Anything Conservatives don’t want to do for any reason is described as “job killing.” The locution is treated by savvy observers as meaningless.)

Beleaguered Wildrose Leader Brian Jean has said exactly the same thing. “We’re the only party that has actually stood up and said we will repeal the carbon tax immediately upon getting elected,” he said last month.

Something for these gentlemen to think about: What is the chance Mr. Trudeau will continue to spend political capital to accommodate the economic wishes of a province that only elects four Liberals in a good year in the face of heavy opposition on the West Coast if Albertans bring back the climate-change denying petro-bullies of the past?

All things considered, not good.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

25 Comments to: The Pipeline File: NDP’s ‘social license’ approach worked where Conservative shouting failed, it’s that simple

  1. Sue Stroud

    November 30th, 2016

    That was actually fun to read. I’m a westcoaster opposed to pipeline’s but I am in awe of Premier Notley’s negotiating skills. She’s doing what she needs to do for her province with an enviable single-mindedness I can only wish other leaders had. I believe she’ll get us out of fossil fuels altogether in the end.

    Reply
  2. Ron

    November 30th, 2016

    Notley & Trudeau’s greenwashing has NOT purchased social license in BC. We see through it.

    “This demonstrates a level of public spiritedness” ya think?
    rather….
    This demonstrates the superior skills that Notley & Trudeau have to manipulate public opinion.

    All their machinations will not change the facts:
    Sweet crude is cheap and will remain so as the Saudis can foresee the end of ff.
    Dilbit sinks, we will not accept a 7x tanker traffic increase.
    The Arctic is 20 degrees above normal.

    Reply
    • A True Canadian

      December 6th, 2016

      Lets get you educated on the topic.

      1) Saudi does not only produce sweet light crude. They also have heavy oil and are near their maximum that they can produce based on figures currently available. Canada also produces sweet light oil… In fact roughly half of the oil produced is conventional oil and a good portion of that is light oil ! You also know nothing about the Saudi’s market plans, or what goes on in the market, so perhaps just back off the Saudi’s can foresee the end.

      2) Dilbit sinks… Have you paid any attention to the leak in Saskatchewan this year or the massive leak in Michigan several years ago. It seems that the cleanups and actions taken have been very positive for those regions. The impact in PA was much less than it could have been if Husky had not been a strong partner. And the Kalamazoo river is actually better than it was before, and residents and groups there are pleased with the work done by Enbridge. Feel free to look up recent news stories of it.

      3) Tanker traffic increase. Do you feel the same way about the increased container traffic? Because the terminals there have increased the loads into ports for several years. By far more than the 25 tankers that will be added for KM. I also suppose you weren’t aware of the increased traffic going to Seattle either…

      4) The artic is not 20 degrees above normal. This past year El Nino caused a short burp of warmer weather in the north. With this year being El Nina, lets see what happens… There is no trend showing a 20 degree rise in temps Ron but thanks for fear mongering.

      Reply
  3. David

    November 30th, 2016

    The number of pipelines to tidewater that the government Jason Kenney (and Brian Jean) were a part of got approved was ZERO. It really is that simple. Yet, they want to go back to the approach that didn’t work before and actually so poisoned things that it made it extremely difficult to get anything approved after that.

    They can huff and puff all they want (and they probably will keep on doing that, because I think that is all they know how to do), but as any elementary student knows Alberta is landlocked. Therefore, if we want to get any pipelines built to any coast we have to continue to take a co-operative approach with the rest of Canada, not a confrontational one.

    Reply
    • JONO

      November 30th, 2016

      As amazing as it would be for the province to turn their back on the one provincial government that actually achieved tidewater access, I do see it happening. There is simply too much hate for all things NDP in Alberta mainstream media, manipulating public opinion. Welcome to a post-truth society where the mainstream media and many will continue to label the NDP as disastrous for Alberta’s oil industry despite their success in achieving tidewater access where right-wing parties failed. Thank God for bloggers like David Climenhaga and Dave Cournoyer that do their best to shine a light through the fog of Postmedia bias.

      The last 18 months have made it pretty clear to me that Fort McMurray and rural Alberta will vote for a right or far-right party as opposed to the NDP even if it means that they are voting for a monkey.

      Reply
      • David

        December 1st, 2016

        I realize there is some default to voting for right wing or conservative parties, especially in rural Alberta, but I would like to not be always cynical about voters. Hopefully they will make a good choice, not a bad one, in the next election. It is a while away still and many things may still happen that will affect how people may vote, so we shall see.

        I think a lot of the recent anti NDP feeling in some parts of Alberta has as much to do, or perhaps more to do, with economic problems/anxieties than ideology. Fairly or unfairly, governments get some credit when things are going well and blame for when they are not. Of course, the price of oil fluctuates a lot, so by the time of the next election it may improve and the economic problems/anxieties may lessen.

        Reply
        • A True Canadian

          December 6th, 2016

          David,

          There is a urban and rural divide, a east / west divide, and many more factors that fit into voter support theory.

          It seems you think that rural voters made a bad choice while you made a good choice… Perhaps they think the same about you.

          In reality the last election was a protest vote which the NDP won. People were upset with the status quo, with the WR bench crossers, ect. The NDP didn’t so much as gain massive support but were the beneficiaries of a split protest vote.

          The anti NDP feeling is in most of Alberta, with Edmonton being a bit of a safe haven due to their high public servant support. It has to do with most of the public not feeling that the government is listening but rather following their own agenda.

          Bill 6 was rushed and poorly communicated. And still has no regulations after 1 year.
          Budget deficits with no spending cuts or reviews.
          Sustainability fund drained.
          New taxes on business and individuals and then trying to claim that Alberta still has the lowest taxes in Canada.. (thoroughly untrue)
          A CO2 tax which is not revenue neutral, increases costs for most people by more than they estimated, is being used to subsidize others, is going into general funds, farmers, first nations are exempt and even some oil companies receive credits for co gen. Poorly thought out legislation…

          Min wage hike which has only doubled the people making minimum wage, and affected cost of goods and wage growth of others.
          Royalty reviews and “diversification” projects that are anything but diversifying.

          The price of oil is one thing, but the support and actions of the government are totally different.

          The author of the opinion blog makes some partisan points, but makes few ones. His blog castigates the right while trying to make himself look pretentious. As someone who was also a journalist I expect more from the author. Perhaps he should remember a few things from Journalism school. The only saving grace is that its an opinion blog rather than a news story.

          Reply
  4. November 30th, 2016

    Actually, I am truly sorry to see, that our economic/political system has forced the inestimable progressive leader Rachel Notley, and the wealthy scion Justin Trudeau into alliance. I would propose, that to expand the production of fossil fuels to add to our sole planets current burden is heading 180 degrees in the wrong direction. If however, the aforementioned pair of talented and determined individuals were agreeing on ways to have the same amount of impact on the sustainable power industries as will happen if these pipelines are built, I could cheer unreservedly. They are of course, doing what they think is necessary within the existing systems and institutions of authority and control to maintain continuance of those systems. Unfortunately, world events in climate, politics and the military have already given us a good indication of the consequences of maintaining that continuance. The necessary rethink is coming from the bottom as is usual and it behooves us to start seriously considering the positions of those who oppose the continued existence of the oil industry.

    Reply
    • Sub-Boreal

      November 30th, 2016

      Exactly.

      Notley and Trudeau are on the wrong side of history. Measured by the relentless upticking of atmospheric CO2 concentration, their “balanced” softcore denialism is getting us to the same destination as Kenney, Harper, and the Kochs. And it’s such a pity, really, particularly in the case of Notley, who is probably doing the best that she can in Alberta’s weird petro-poisoned political culture.

      So this poses an existential choice for the rest of the NDP, nationally and in the other provinces. Knotting themselves into pretzels and taking weak stands on climate policy in order to keep Notley in the fold is going to weaken them at a time when the bloom is starting to come off Trudeau’s rose.

      Reply
    • PIGL

      December 1st, 2016

      The thing is, the production is already expanded or expanding due to investment decisions already made before the latest crash…the issue at hand is getting the product to market. Meanwhile, production from traditional oil sources continues to decline.

      We need to have a quantitative discussion of 20 – 40 year energy futures that is not predicated on stopping hydrocarbon use today, but that will get is there in the time horizon required to meet our commitments. Making every single pipeline a hill to die on is not going to get us there.

      Reply
      • December 1st, 2016

        Sorry really, to have to put it this way, but those investment decisions were made with full knowledge since the 70’s of the devastation carbon burning was doing to this planet. So here it is for me. I believe that survival of the planet itself, in a condition that allows for a reasonable existence for all existing species, overrides any decisions affecting someones loss of future income. Anyone who does not believe that I am right in my evaluation of the dire straits our sole ecosystem is in, can take comfort in the fact, that I am following the precautionary principle. The oil industry is right now making impressive profits at current levels of production. If all the already discovered deposits are burnt we will have no hope of that reasonable existence. In economic terms what is needed is for all the oil in the ground to be identified as stranded assets and for the power generating industry to admit that they already know this. Quit squeezing the very breath from our lungs in your scrabble for the last dollar. Take what you have now and put it into the future of your children and grandchildren.

        Reply
        • Farmer B

          December 2nd, 2016

          The world consumes roughly 94 million barrels of oil a day. The present Kinder Morgan pipeline has been in place for just over 60 years. The increased capacity is roughly 600000 barrels of oil or .6% of daily world oil consumption and you guys are lighting your hair on fire? I am sure you would be much happier buying solar panels made in China or a windmill made in the USA or Europe. At least the jobs created here are in Canada!

          Reply
          • December 4th, 2016

            Yes, farmer B, my hair is on fire and soon yours will be too unless we can get it across that a whole new non carbon burning economy and all of it’s jobs are now available. No, I do not want to be buying from others, all those things that can be made right here. What needs to be gotten across is that for forty years the oil industry has subjected the whole population to the confusion they wished to cause in order to continue down the profitable (for them) climate change path. All the technologies are now in place, to completely replace the need for that oil right now, and that means jobs and profit for those who are not married to the old thinking. Pumping oil until it is all gone is not inevitable because by that time you will be drowned, burnt up, starved to death, or simply joined the rest of the planet in it’s final demise. So, we are going to stop pumping oil at some point. The question is how much damage we are going to do first. Oh, and by the way someone else recently said “environmentalists” as if it was some esoteric category that arrived from mars. No, we are simply people who see an emergency situation and at the same time the scientific and technical solutions currently available, to avoid oil consequences for the planet and everything on it.

        • political ranger

          December 2nd, 2016

          Well said, William!

          Reply
        • Michael Mombourquette

          December 2nd, 2016

          While I understand the concern of environmentalists and their ideals of reducing carbon output, the realities of business is that the oil will be pumped until it is no longer being bought. as long as there is profit to be made, it will be pumped out of the ground and it will be shipped to market, one way or another. The pipeline will reduce the near total reliance on truck and rail transport for the product currently and will thereby reduce the Carbon emissions involved in transporting the material. A pipeline will reduce if not totally eliminate oil-by-rail as a means of transporting and hopefully will also eliminate tragedies like Lac Magantic from ever happening again.

          Reply
          • political ranger

            December 2nd, 2016

            Lac Magantic was a result of shipping light, sweet crude from Bakken. The bitumen proposed for TMP is a semi solid at room temperature; it’s tar. It’s not explosive, it’s barely flammable.
            The diluent, used to make this tar more fluid, is highly flammable and toxic as hell. Any operation that uses this diluent is a hazard to human health and the environment.
            On the other hand, shipping the bitumen by rail, to anywhere the non-existent buyers want is much safer than by pipe. In the first place, if a rail-car spilled, this bitumen can be cleaned up using bulldozers and excavators and trucked off in the back of a dump truck.
            Secondly, this bitumen material would never be shipped anywhere without the massive royalty and tax subsidies given to it’s development. Your gov’t is spending (actually, not collecting) $billions to destroy your grandchildren’s environment.

  5. St Albertan

    November 30th, 2016

    As an old person, who has seen many in various roles of leadership, I have to tip my hat to our Premier. She has definitely defined balance, in decision making. I only hope we can keep her!

    Reply
  6. Anon You bet

    November 30th, 2016

    I appreciate the simple explanation is the Conservatives are just a collection of thugs whose bully tactics backfired on pipelines. However, sometimes a more byzantine explanation fits the facts better. Perhaps the Alberta and Canadian Conservative leadership actually did not want higher oil prices. After all, their patrons are making huge profits by having a captive supply of crude oil and natural gas in Alberta.

    Reply
  7. Brett

    November 30th, 2016

    Rona Ambrose and Brian Jean are embarrassing themselves. Why can’t they be happy for Albertans instead of desperately trying to criticize the Notley/Trudeau achievement.

    Are they that bitter because after 11 years in office the Harper Conservatives did not even come close to achieving approval for increased pipeline capacity to open sea?

    Are they both do self centred and jealous that they cannot celebrate and enjoy this achievement with the rest of we Albertans? I thought better of Rona Ambrose…now I am not so sure.

    Reply
    • CuJo

      December 1st, 2016

      Short answer: Yes.

      Reply
  8. Nestoe

    November 30th, 2016

    It is time that all MP s get on board and support the pipelines . I really don’t care if the mps are conservative liberal or Ndp. To hear our interim pic leader challenge our prime minister about the pipelines is pure politics. She should be using her political capital to promote the pipeline not try to make some political statement. This pipeline is good for Alberta , Canada bc Please don’t critze just because it’s a liberal announcement

    Reply
  9. Jim

    December 1st, 2016

    Dave you seem to forget the number one rule of being a Harper Conservative, not a real conservative. You have to be angry all the time. Once your rage level drops there is a danger that you might get something done, or heaven forbid work with others.

    Reply
  10. anonymous

    December 1st, 2016

    A ‘social license’ to destroy civilization? I’m up for that. Where do I sign?

    Reply
    • Athabascan

      December 2nd, 2016

      Maybe this is good news for the Alberta economy – for now.

      What good is an economy, if the environment is screwed?

      To me this pipeline decision renders the Paris accord totally worthless.

      Even from a purely political point of view there is no way Trudeau won any additional votes. In point of fact he lost votes.

      Social license indeed! Last time I checked society comprised more than just the oil and gas industry, or it’s redneck cheerleaders in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

      Reply
      • anonymous

        December 3rd, 2016

        I have seen the other thing. Crushing us into a nothing thing. Insane? Sure, but these days, it’s not a bad place to be.

        Reply

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