Will members of all Canadian political parties soon demand that we halt the TMX pipeline expansion project?
I ask because, with the current great power tension in Ukraine likely to reach some kind of a climax soon, we are already hearing fierce calls in Canada for severe and even warlike sanctions against Russia for any aggression against its neighbour.
More sanctions will probably happen no matter what Russia does, even if the invasion of Ukraine that has been predicted daily in Western media and political circles for weeks does not materialize, as is possible, even likely.
But I wonder if anyone in the Canadian Parliament or the Alberta Legislature has paused to think, even for a moment, what the impact of economic sanctions could be on Canada’s ability to complete the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion project?
After all, way back in 2017 it was decided that 75 per cent of the pipe for the expansion project, which is now well under way, would come from the EVRAZ North America steel plant in Regina.
And EVRAZ, whether or not it is technically a Russian corporation, is substantially Russian owned and potentially could be impacted by any program of sanctions aimed at Russia or Russians by Canada and the United States – something that appears to have been completely forgotten in the stampede by Canadian politicians of all stripes to demand harsh penalties for Russia over what’s going on in Ukraine.
Regardless, though, EVRAZ was founded in Russia in 1992 as Evraz Metall. More than 60 per cent of its shares are owned by three Russian men who probably meet the definition of oligarch as used in Western media. Its operations are principally in Russia, as well as former Soviet republics including Ukraine, plus Czechia, Italy, South Africa, the United States, and Canada.
EVRAZ acquired the former IPSCO Inc. steel plant in Regina in 2008, after IPSCO had been sold the year before by its Canadian owners to a Swedish concern. Instead of closing it down, EVRAZ has operated the plant since as part of its EVRAZ North America unit. The company also has smaller operations in Red Deer, Camrose, Calgary, and Edmonton.
Demand for the company’s tubular product has been low, and the Regina plant experienced major layoffs late in 2020. So even if all the pipe for TMX has been finished, there are still those jobs to think about.
So I wonder if Alberta’s United Conservative Party gave any thought to this before it published a news release Friday that quoted caucus member Jackie Armstrong-Homeniuk saying, “should Russia move to invade Ukraine, whether it be a minor incursion or a full-scale invasion, we support Canada imposing the strongest sanctions possible against Russia and evoking any other actions necessary to blunt Russian force.”
Ms. Armstrong-Homeniuk, the UCP MLA for Fort-Saskatchewan-Vegreville, is also the chair of the Advisory Council on Alberta-Ukraine Relations.
While the next few days may reveal what Russia plans to do in Ukraine, if anything, it’s said here that the famous Pottery Barn Rule – “you break it, you buy it” – enunciated in 2002 by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell as he tried to talk President George W. Bush out of invading Iraq makes a Russian invasion of Ukraine unlikely.
“You are going to be the proud owner of 25 million people,” the New York Times reported that the late Secretary Powell warned Mr. Bush, speaking of Iraq. “You will own all their hopes, aspirations, and problems. You’ll own it all.”
Ukraine is all but a failed state, a fact that cannot be blamed entirely on Russia, and surely the Russian government wants neither the heartache nor the expense of sorting it out.
The Russians most likely think that job is best left to the people they accuse of causing Ukraine’s current problems, principally Canada’s big neighbour to the south.
But if the Americans insist on eventually allowing Ukraine to join NATO, letting the alliance permanently station troops on its territory, and even park nuclear weapons there, a few minutes by rocket from Moscow, or if Ukrainian military formations that have threatened ethnic cleansing invade the Russian-speaking Donbas region now in the hands of rebel governments, it is a fact of geopolitical life that Russia will do something about it – just as the United States was prepared to do something about Soviet nuclear missiles parked in Cuba.
I can recall living through a few fairly tense days as a result of that situation in the fall of 1962, before it was settled, thankfully, through diplomacy. In those days, of course, the United States had a reasonably sensible president, and a capable diplomatic corps.
We need some sensible and mature diplomacy now too, rather than the chest thumping Canadian politicians of all stripes – even New Democrats like Edmonton’s two NDP MPs, sad to say – have been engaging in. This may be good politics, but it’s not good for Canada, or for that matter for Ukraine.
As one of the New York Times’ most conservative voices wrote Saturday: “… in geopolitics good intentions are always downstream from the realities of power.
“Whatever its desires or ours,” said columnist Ross Douthat, “the government in Ukraine has simply never been in a position to fully join the West – it’s too economically weak, too internally divided and simply in the wrong place.”
He concluded: “I would be somewhat relieved – as an American citizen, not just an observer of international politics – to see our leaders acknowledge as much, rather than holding out the idea that someday we might be obliged by treaty to risk a nuclear war over the Donbas.”
Well, at least the UCP isn’t yet calling for nuclear war with Russia. That would be an exchange, one imagines, from which Canada and Alberta would not emerge unscathed, if they emerged at all.
But maybe they’re OK with the idea of showing Russia a thing or two by stopping the TMX expansion!