The Politics Of Quid Pro Quo

By Roy L Hales

screen-shot-2014-03-18-at-3-43-47-pmAnyone trying to understand the “why?” of some (seemingly stupid) political actions should read David Mason’s recent column in the Globe and Mail.  His explanation of the Canadian Government’s approval of the $36 billion (CAN) Pacific NorthWest LNG project, on Lelu Island in British Columbia, boils down to the politics of quid pro quo.

The Politics Of Quid Pro Quo

Adapted from Wilderness Committee map by Roy L hales
Adapted from Wilderness Committee map by Roy L Hales

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wants the province’s backing for a national carbon strategy. In return for her support, Trudeau is willing to endorse Premier Christy Clark’s plans for an LNG project that appears to be condemned by every scientist “not funded by the proponent.

The Clark government’s desperate pursuit of this project is rooted in political necessity. They have made very little progress bringing their dream of a “trillion dollar” LNG opportunity to fruition. Now, with an election year looming, they can at least point to one project that has been approved.

If the Pacific NorthWest LNG terminal is actually built on Lelu Island, it could service up to a tanker a day. This amounts to 19.2 million metric tons a year of LNG and would also increase British Columbia’s GHG emissions 14%.

What This Means For Alberta

Premier Rachel Notley by Day Donaldson (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley by Day Donaldson (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

As David Mason points out, Trudeau’s approval of this project also sends a positive signal to the Premier of Alberta.

“Rachel Notley understands how the game is played. She knows it would be untenable for Mr. Trudeau’s government to give British Columbia an energy project it desperately craves and then turn around and stiff Alberta. It won’t happen.

“Mr. Trudeau will now approve a pipeline project (almost certainly Kinder Morgan’s) for two very important reasons: to show up the federal Conservatives by achieving something they weren’t able to do in 10 years in power; and to help Ms. Notley in her fight against right-wing forces in her province.”

Kinder Morgan Canada has agreed to an offset plan, to counter the estimated 1.1 million tons of GHG emissions their pipeline project will create. They will plant trees, or something. (They do not appear to have any tenable plan to combat with a major oil spill off the coast of British Columbia.)

The Fight Against Climate Change

Mason explains, “If nothing else, this week demonstrated that Mr. Trudeau has reached the point in the life of his administration where the scars of power are formed. It’s easy to sound sunny and optimistic on the campaign trail, to talk about reaching kumbaya-like consensus before decisions are made. But now he has to render judgments on projects that many people oppose – judgments that incite accusations of betrayal.”

Trudeau may emerge from all these dealings with provincial backing for a national carbon strategy. But will he make any progress in the fight against climate change?

Top Photo Credit: One Sunny Saturday in Ottawa by Alex Indigo via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

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