Future generations will regard the TMX pipeline as a curious monument

The Trans Mountain pipeline may be redundant. If it remains empty, future generations will wonder why it was built.

It’s a distinct possibility that the TMX pipeline, currently being built a short walk from my house in Kamloops, is unnecessary. At least, not in the near future according to a report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Existing pipelines, and expansion of Enbridge’s Mainline and Line 3, will create “more than enough pipeline export capacity” through to 2040. By then, renewable energy sources will be in place.

image: The Public Library

I’ve often wondered why the Egyptian pyramids were built when they serve no practical purpose. Sure, they were a technical marvel but they seem a bit much for a Pharaoh’s tomb when a simple gravestone would suffice.

It turns out that the pyramids were a vital symbol in Egyptian society. The Pharaoh, regarded as someone human yet divine, was responsible for maintaining prosperity. Therefore it was in everyone’s interest to keep the king’s majesty intact in the elaborate pyramids built after his death.

Generations, centuries from now, will marvel at the technical aspects of the TMX pipeline but wonder why an unused pipeline was built. Did the civilization that built it collapse before it was put to use?

Future generations will learn of the mythical properties oil in the past; how oil played an important role in the prosperity and good fortune of oil-producing provinces such as Alberta. Oil was so important to the national psyche that the federal government financed the pipeline construction. Seeing the talismanic importance of pipelines, future archaeologists will conclude that shamans directed the construction of empty pipelines to attract more oil and maintain prosperity and good fortune.

Even further into the future, archaeologists who live millennia from now will wonder what those curious lines are that span the countryside that once was Canada. Radar imagining will reveal pipes buried below the surface. Now, the burning of fossil fuels will be not only be illegal but unthinkable. Organic solar receptors will provide energy too cheap to meter. The Egyptian sun god, Ra, will be restored to veneration.

These future archaeologists will compare the curious pipe lines with others built long ago, the so-called Nazca Lines. They will see a similarity between the pipe lines and the lines and patterns of animals and plants made in Peru three millennia ago. Both the Nazca Lines and the pipe lines are best viewed from above. Both placed in arid locations, they must symbolize the irrigation system that was so vital to the regions. The gods, viewing them from on high, would be prompted to provide water for irrigation.

This would be a natural conclusion for generations living on a planet heated from the rise in CO2 to 1,000 parts per million; the polar caps now tropical and the oceans 200ft higher than millennial ago. The Prairies parched and lifeless.

And this is the likely destiny of the TMX pipeline. The mountain glaciers in Alberta, B.C. and Yukon that feed the rivers of the Prairies, will be reduced by 80 per cent in 50 years. Eventually the rivers will dwindle to a trickle.

In the not-too-distant future, water will become revered. In a futile effort to combat rising temperatures due to the build-up of CO2, water will flow from the West Coast to Alberta through the TMX pipeline.

Not your father’s minority government

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s minority government is not like his father’s. When Pierre Trudeau won minority government in 1972, he didn’t have the support of opposition parties. The government only lasted 1 year, 221 days. His minority government introduced the unpopular Petro-Canada Crown Corporation that reminded Albertans of the despised National Energy Program. Petro-Canada’s reddish-coloured headquarters in Calgary were tagged “red square.”

P.M. Lester Pearson. Image by Nobel Foundation, Associated Press

Given the bluster from the United Conservative Party of Alberta, you wouldn’t think that the Liberals have any support from the Conservatives until you consider that they both want the Trans Mountain pipeline built.

Consider the following, suggests my Calgary friend:

“I think the conservatives and liberals are not that far apart on the pipeline issue. If the liberals make good on our 4.5 Billion dollar investment in the TMP they will get no support from the NDP or the BLOC but the conservatives would be foolish not to support it.”

Wouldn’t that be something to behold? If the NDP or the Bloc Québécois opposed a pro-pipeline bill, how could the Conservatives not support it without appearing hypocritical? And the NDP and Bloc could then wash their hands of the project that offends environmentalists.

Justin Trudeau has consistently said that he is going to build the Trans Mountain pipeline. He repeated that goal after the October 21, 2109, election.

While reactions to the federal election have focused on a divided country, I see Justin Trudeau’s Liberals offering something for everyone.

The Liberals and the Bloc Québécois can work together on social policy and the environment. The Bloc Québécois has made it clear that they intend to support this Liberal minority government. BQ Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet said that the Liberals should do “what it takes” to make Parliament work. He added there’s a law stating that government mandates are supposed to last four years. I’m not sure that’s true for minority governments but Blanchet’s support is clear.

Who knows, if successful, Trudeau’s minority government could be re-elected as was a minority government in 1965, one before Pierre Trudeau’s.

The NDP and the Liberals have the common goal of implementing Pharmacare. Both parties campaigned on bringing the much-needed plan into reality.

Canada is an anomaly among nations. We are the only industrialized country with a universal public health care system but no Pharmacare. Every study of Canada’s health care has identified the lack of Pharmacare as a major gap in our system. Medicare without drug coverage doesn’t even make sense. What good is a health care system that prescribes drugs but doesn’t cover them?

Justin Trudeau’s minority government should look to the accomplishments of minority governments before his father’s. Lester Pearson’s Liberals implemented universal health care with the cooperation of the NDP. And his minority government was so successful that it was re-elected as a minority government with back-to-back Liberal minority governments following elections in 1963 and 1965.

How fitting is it that this minority government complete the Medicare program started by minority governments, a goal not attempted by his father.

Pipeline approval won’t help the Liberals

If the federal Liberals were as popular as the Trans Mountain pipeline, they would win the upcoming election in a landslide.

image: City News, Edmonton

The problem for the Liberals is that the pipeline is most popular where voters are least likely to vote Liberal and least popular where voters traditionally vote Liberal.

According to an Angus Reid poll, the strongest support for the pipeline is in Alberta and Saskatchewan, 85 and 71 percent respectively (ArmchairMayor.ca, June 21, 2019). That’s where Liberal support is weak. Only a total of five seats were won by the Liberals in the combined provinces. Meanwhile in Quebec, 40 percent disapprove. That’s where the Liberals won 40 seats.

While support for the pipeline in B.C. is 54 per cent, that average doesn’t reflect the difference of opinion between the Lower Mainland and the Interior. People in the Interior generally support the pipeline because of jobs and financial incentives offered by Trans Mountain. An informal poll by Kamloops This Week showed 80 per cent approval. The Lower Mainland opposes the pipeline because of potential spills.

Conservatives are placed in the awkward position of approving of the pipeline while disapproving the Liberals. Cathy McLeod, Conservative MP for Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo, doubted the government’s ability to finish the job:

“I’m not all that optimistic that this government can get it done,” McLeod told Kamloops This Week. Her statement aligns with the Angus Reid poll where 40 percent of respondents didn’t think the pipeline would be built.

Another perceived hurdle is Bill C-69, passed by the Senate last week, which critics say will ensure that the pipeline will never be built.

Bill C-69 imposes more requirements for consulting affected Indigenous communities, widens public participation in the review process and requires climate change to be considered in the building of any development.

The Alberta-based Pembina Institute is cautiously positive of Bill C-69:

“This bill was never about individual projects, but rather a reform of the entire decision-making and assessment process. It is about creating tools and processes to ensure natural resource development decisions, whether about a mine or a dam or a pipeline, are made in a fair way (press release, June 14, 2019) “

If pipelines don’t determine how people vote, what does? Pollster Michael Adams has noticed something new in the way people view immigrants. Twenty years ago, anti-immigrant sentiment was evenly distributed among all three major parties. That’s changed, say Michael Adams, Ron Inglehart, and David Jamison in their article:

“Conservative supporters are more likely to agree with statements strongly hostile to immigration. For example, 50 per cent of Conservatives strongly or somewhat agree that “Overall, there is too much immigration. It threatens the purity of the country.” Fewer than a third of New Democrats (31 per cent) and Liberal supporters (24 per cent) share this belief. This relative concentration of xenophobic sentiment in one party is a new phenomenon in Canada (Globe and Mail, June 14, 2019).”

The researchers are careful to point out that the Conservative Party is not anti-immigrant: they just attract people who are.

Researchers call this the “authoritarian reflex,” a reaction caused by uncertainty and characterized by increased hostility toward “the other,” regardless of whether they are “deviants” in society or foreigners.

The contagion of populism that has been animated by the authoritarian reflex in the U.S. has spilled over into Canada. It will determine the way people vote in way not seen in recent history.