Are we witnessing the beginning of the end of Canada? Is this really how the end of the nation state begins?
Will Canada’s current political tensions around Kinder Morgan’s controversial Trans Mountain pipeline become such huge irreconcilable constitutional fractures that eventually the crisis leads to the break-up of the country itself? You are not serious, are you?
Many would see the idea of the break-up of Canada completely and utterly far-fetched.
However, in a powerful op-ed for the Globe and Mail, Thomas Homer-Dixon, a Professor in the faculty of environment at the University of Waterloo and Yonatan Strauch, a doctoral candidate at the University, explore the issue in light of last week’s decision by the Trudeau Government to buy Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline, which will triple the amount of tar sands from Alberta to British Columbia. The battle lines are already drawn.
On the one side stands the oil-corrupted politics of Alberta and Ottawa wrapped in the self-delusion that you can exploit the tar sands and leave your grand-children an inhabitable planet and on the other stands British Columbia, standing up for climate, clean water and indigenous rights.
Homer-Dixon and Strauch write: “Is Canada going to be the first country to break apart over the issue of climate change? … the fissures in our federation over climate and energy policy are now extraordinarily deep, and there’s little sign that they’ll close soon.”
They warn that “Continued investment in the oil sands generally, and in the Trans Mountain pipeline specifically, means Canada is doubling down on a no-win bet … Heads or tails, we lose. That’s the idiocy of it. We can’t have our lucrative oil sands profits and a safe climate, too.”
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They finish by stating “As the planet warms, and as the world’s energy transition accelerates, the gamble at the heart of Canadian oil sands policy will only become harder to sustain. The more some of us try to hide that reality with double-speak and wilful self-delusion, the more the fissures in our federation will deepen, because others will call out the lies. So, the path we’re on – the path we took another huge step down this past week, courtesy of the federal Liberals – only leads to a fractured country. It’s our choice whether to keep going.”
Many people have asked over the last month how a suave, intelligent, professional politician like Trudeau just walked into Kinder Morgan’s trap over the pipeline. Even the Oilprice website notes how the Texan oil boys of Kinder Morgan had “outsmarted” Canada’s prime minister.
The company, we now know, was “desperate to sell”. Denis McConaghy, former Trans Canada executive says: “It is absolutely plausible that Kinder had come to the determination that it just wanted out and that it would test how badly Justin Trudeau wanted to preserve the project”.
As the Motely Crew website adds: “Kinder Morgan will walk away from Trans Mountain with a pile of cash, which is an excellent outcome from what had been a complicated situation.”
Kinder Morgan walks away with cash, whereas Canada could be heading for a constitutional crisis, especially if British Columbia refuses to back down from its legal challenges against the pipeline.
Maybe it is too far fetched to say the Kinder Morgan fall-out will lead to the breakup of Canada. But as Winston Churchill once famously said: “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
There is no doubt that many see the Kinder Morgan decision as the beginning of the end of Trudeau’s political career. Whether his country survives the fall-out over the tar sands pipeline, remains to be seen.