Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Tuesday January 26, 2021
Keystone pipeline decision was Joe Biden’s to make
No question, U.S. President Joe Biden delivered a gut punch to Alberta, and to a lesser extent Saskatchewan, when he used his executive authority to kill the previous president’s executive order allowing construction of the Keystone pipeline, which would have shipped oil from Alberta’s tarsands to refineries south of the border.
In the immediate aftermath, 1,000 construction workers were laid off, and the Calgary-based energy company that had unfronted much of the cost will now have to eat that expenditure.
It’s about the last thing Alberta’s staggered economy and workforce needs, and regardless of what we think about fossil fuels and the tarsands, we should feel some empathy for average Albertans if not their hyperbolic government.
But let’s talk about what the decision is not. First and foremost, it is not a surprise. Keystone has a tortured history. When he was president, Barack Obama was firmly against the controversial project, which was also opposed by climate change activists, environmentalists and Indigenous groups.
Then along came Donald Trump, who promptly reversed that decision and allowed construction to begin. And then along came Biden, who has promised all along to stop the pipeline. He was opposed as Obama’s VP, he was opposed as a Democratic leadership contender, and he ran in the presidential election with his opposition front and centre.
Reacting to Biden’s order, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney blew several gaskets. In a blustery response he lashed out at Biden, the U.S. and at Ottawa, demanding Ottawa impose sanctions in retaliation.
It was an embarrassing display, but under the circumstances not surprising. Kenney has been having a rough ride, having dropped the ball on Alberta’s pandemic response. He had a minister and several MLAs take off for sunny vacations while his government was urging Albertans to stay at home. He wants to reopen coal mining in an environmentally sensitive part of the province and is facing massive opposition. Oh, and he invested $1.5 billion into the pipeline, along with $6 billion more in loan guarantees.
He did that, knowing that Biden was leading in polling and predicted to defeat Trump. In effect, Kenney and his government were betting on a second term for Trump. Not smart.
Not surprisingly, Kenney’s approval ratings have taken a beating, and deservedly so. His bellicose demands for trade sanctions and threats of legal action are empty. Anyone who thinks this action alone will prompt the federal government to start off the new president’s term with sour relations probably also bet on Trump.
The financial impact of the decision is real, and no one should be surprised if some sort of legal action ensues to try and recover some of money lost. But no one can credibly argue Biden acted in bad faith. He didn’t. If Americans voted for Biden knowing his stance on the pipeline and green economics, that means they support the decisions that go along with that change. It’s not up to Canada to tell Americans what they should or should not do with energy projects on sovereign U.S. territory. We couldn’t do that with Trump, and we certainly can’t do it with a new president who has a strong mandate. Can you imagine how Canada would react if the U.S. tried to strong-arm energy policy over our sovereign interests? We wouldn’t stand for it.
Here is the bottom line Kenney doesn’t want to talk about. Even before the pandemic, the world was turning its back on fossil fuel consumption and production. The pandemic just accelerated that reality, and the trend is not likely to change regardless of Kenney’s ranting and raving. (Hamilton Spectator Editorial)