For those who follow Canadian politics closely, all eyes were focused on Ottawa last Sunday for a summit meeting hosted by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with the NDP premiers for Alberta and B.C., Rachel Notley and John Horgan.
The topic of the meeting was the growing dispute between Ottawa, British Columbia and Alberta over the construction of Trans Mountain pipeline.
The media headlines that followed this meeting were candid: “Trudeau has failed to resolve pipeline crises” and more recently “Kinder Morgan project a test of Trudeau’s competency, puts his 18 B.C. seats at risk, say pollsters.”
While this is occurring, Trudeau has remained firm in his statement that the Trans Mountain pipeline will be built.
From my time on the government side of the House of Commons, it is my opinion that media headlines are not always fair to elected officials.
The expectation that Trudeau could resolve this pipeline stand off in a single meeting are overly optimistic, more so when you consider both provincial NDP premiers politically benefit from their respective positions.
From a political perspective, the real challenge for the prime minister, who is in a situation of his own making, is whatever actions he ultimately makes will come at a steep political cost to the Liberals.
The PM is also well aware of this fact, and rather than take any decisive action, he has suggested he may ultimately work with the project proponent, Kinder Morgan, to mitigate investor risk in the Trans Mountain project.
Although no formal announcement has been made, I am already hearing strong opposition from some Canadians at the thought of throwing “public money into the coffers of an oil giant.”
Meanwhile, Alberta continues to move forward a bill in their provincial legislature that could limit the supply of Alberta gasoline to British Columbia, a move that the premier of Saskatchewan has also voiced support for.
For B.C., the NDP government has called Alberta’s threat a “bluff” and remains committed that they will not change their position.
What happens next?
At this point, it is all speculation and rather than engage in ‘what if’ scenarios, I will provide a factual update when more information is available.
While the debate on potentially restricting oil flow between two provinces rages on, one subject that has my full attention is the upcoming decision by our Supreme Court on the Comeau case. This decision should be rendered later this week.
Many will know that for decades provinces have prohibited the inter-provincial direct consumer shipping of alcohol over provincial borders.
In fact, there are many items and even services that face similar restrictions that amount to inter-provincial trade protectionism.
In the last Parliament, I had a bill passed that removed the federal government from some of these restrictions but only a handful of provinces followed suit.
Ultimately this led to the Comeau case that has come before the Supreme Court of Canada.
The Comeau case argues in favour of Section 121 of our Charter of Rights: “All Articles of the Growth, Produce, or Manufacture of any one of the Provinces shall, from and after the Union, be admitted free into each of the other Provinces.”
In the event the SCC rules in favour of this definition, it could potentially create significant new opportunities for many local industries and producers to access important new markets in Canada.
Something I believe most Canadians support.
My question this week:Do you support the idea of open provincial borders and increased inter-provincial trade?
Conservative MP Dan Albas can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll free at 1-800-665-8711.