Donald Trump helps build the case for Rachel Notley’s social license policy on energy exports

Posted on April 26, 2017, 1:28 am
5 mins

PHOTOS: U.S. President Donald Trump – he’s lookin’ at you, Canada. (Photo by Gage Skidmore, Flickr.) Below: Alberta Premier Rachel Notley.

If Alberta’s conservatives imagined U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision immediately after his election last November to push the Keystone XL Pipeline project forward would provide an opening for them to attack the Alberta NDP Government’s policy of building social license for export development, they now need to reexamine their assumptions.

With his recent decision to attack Canadian trade – and his inclusion of energy along with milk, cheese and lumber on his grocery list of grievances – President Trump has risked ruining his Canadian fellow travellers’ strategy.

Both Progressive Conservative Leader Jason Kenney and Wildrose Leader Brian Jean have always been quick to point to any opposition by environmentalists in British Columbia, aging stars in Hollywood or whomever wherever as evidence that trying to earn social license from citizens of other jurisdictions to get Alberta’s oil to world markets is a lost cause.

As an alternative – apparently the only alternative acceptable to conservatives – they always propose going back to the time-honoured Tory strategy of shoving it up the nose of anyone who stands in their way, never mind their notable lack of success trying to do just that through all the years their man Stephen Harper ran things in Ottawa.

A keystone of this argument, as it were, was that it was the mercurial, climate-denying reality TV POTUS that the whole world now has to learn to live with who gave us Albertans the pipeline we wanted – so we don’t need no stinkin’ social license!

Now Mr. Trump has gone and demonstrated just how dangerous it can be to assume you can rely on one single market to sell the product that remains the mainstay of Alberta’s economy. This is true even though it’s completely murky what the heck it is Mr. Trump is complaining about when it comes to energy, massive sales of which are locked in at terms favourable to the United States by the trade agreement the president finds so disagreeable.

We’d better get to work to build some social license if we expect the economy of this place to keep running long enough to manage the transition to a difficult-to-imagine post-carbon future that is assuredly coming whether Messrs. Trump, Kenney and Jean think it is or not.

Premier Rachel Notley did not miss the opportunity to state the obvious, pointing out to reporters during her recent trade mission to China that the president’s ramblings are that much more evidence for the need to expand the Trans Mountain Pipeline to the West Coast so Alberta oil can reach overseas markets through Canada.

And that simply isn’t going to happen without a little more social license than we have right now, as conservatives of various stripes keep pointing out – and as may become even more obvious on May 9, depending on the results of the B.C. provincial election.

I would say this makes Ms. Notley’s point in a way that even die-hard supporters of Mr. Kenney and Mr. Jean should be able to comprehend, although I’m not optimistic.

Meanwhile, Canadian conservatives who have been cheering Mr. Trump since before his election, really need to think carefully about how that is going to look now that the U.S. president appears set to provoke a trade war with Canada because … well, we’re not actually sure why.

In particular, conservative Canadian politicians who crossed the border to campaign for Mr. Trump and other Republicans should probably be thinking about what to say when the issue comes up at all-candidates’ meetings in future election campaigns.

Because, believe me, it’s going to come up! Believe me! Many, many times. So many times!

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5 Comments to: Donald Trump helps build the case for Rachel Notley’s social license policy on energy exports

  1. Farmer B

    April 26th, 2017

    First off, as you pointed out the BC election shows how unsuccessful up to this point Premier Notley has been in convincing opponents of the Transmountain Pipeline to see her point of view. Both the leader of the BC NDP and the BC Green Party are vehemently opposed to the pipeline and your mythical “social licence” has not been obtained. What about the musings of eco-activist Bill McKibben in the U.K.’s Guardian where he said Trudeau has proven himself to be phonier than Donald Trump? Social licence doesn’t exist.

    Now Donald Trump. His protectionist trade policies are not in my mind a policies of the right. In fact I would argue that his trade policies align much better with those on the left side of the political spectrum. As a farmer my ability to export what I sell determines whether or not I can make a living. I would agree that we need to diversify the markets for our energy and for all the goods we export for that matter. But to say that Alberta’s right of center parties are in agreement with Donald Trump on trade policy is in my opinion absolutely false. I would say his trade policy is more closely aligned with the federal NDP. Enjoy your day:-)

    • Gary

      April 26th, 2017

      Good comment Farmer B. I would also ask Climenhaga how will he know when Alberta has reached enough “social license”? For example, is there anything that Alberta (and TransMountain) could do that would satisfy the BC NDP or the other parties that are opposed to Albertan oil reaching tidewater through BC?

    • Expat Albertan

      April 26th, 2017

      Sorry, Farmer, but you missed Dave’s point. Conservatives and their supporters have outwardly supported Donald Trump and some had even gone down south to stump for him. Now he bites his Canadian supporters (and everyone else) in the arse to an extent that has the potential to dwarf the economic damage done by low oil prices, the carbon tax and everything else conservatives rail against. In short, they now have some serious ‘splaining to do. Nice try at deflection, though.

  2. Val

    April 26th, 2017

    “We’d better get to work to build some social license if we expect the economy of this place to keep running long enough”
    what do you mean under “build some social license”?
    additional tax on carbon tax or something else no less nasty?

  3. ronmac

    April 26th, 2017

    Hilary Clinton was also a Keystone supporter so it didn’t matter who won in Novermber,

    Even with approval, Keystone might not be the slam dunk it once was, given current conditions. It may never be built.

    Let’s not loose sight of the fact was the brainchild of a US energy giant to extract Alberta bitumen and turn it into diesel to sell in Europe. It just might not be the profitable venture it once was and may be on the back burner for quite some time.

    Why is Trump picking a trade war with us? Two possible explanations. Trump is like a hockey enforcer. He needs to be seen bashing heads to protect the interests of the people who elected him.

    Or maybe Trump is getting his marching orders from Putin. Kremlin agents have infiltrated the American milk industry and are seeking the dismantling of our supply management system. Once that’s gone our social fabric will be in shambles. Then it’ll be only a matter of time before Russian mob bosses roll up in their fancy cars to enlist us in the Russian porn industry.


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