The race for the position of Canadian Prime Minister continues as the October 19 elections approach, and candidates continue to spar over the importance of various pipeline projects throughout Canada. National polls last week showed the Conservatives at 31%, the Liberals at 30% and the New Democratic Party (NDP) at 29%, putting the Conservatives, the party of Canada’s current prime minister, Stephen Harper, on track for a minority government.
Keystone XL hotly debated north of the border as well
During a recent debate held amongst the three frontrunners, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper was accused of taking too aggressive of a stance on TransCanada’s (ticker: TRP) Keystone XL pipeline with the American government, reports Toronto Sun. Harper has pressed Washington to approve the pipeline, calling the project a “no brainer,” and saying that he would not “take no for an answer.”
Keystone XL remains the focus of intense scrutiny in the U.S., with presidential hopefuls, including Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, opposing the project as they wind up in advance of the 2016 elections, while Republican candidates including Carly Fiorina, Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz favor building the pipeline.
NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair jabbed Harper during the debates saying, “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar, and you have been dumping vinegar by the gallon on the Americans and it’s not a surprise they were saying no to you.”
Mulcair, the former Quebec environment minister, has also been critical of Harper’s government for changes it made to the National Energy Board’s (NEB) evaluation process, saying the review of Kinder Morgan’s (ticker: KMI) Trans Mountain pipeline expansion was “hopelessly flawed.”
“People who were there at the hearings weren’t even allowed to cross-examine the witnesses from the company. That’s such a basic breach of the rules of natural justice,” Mulcair said in an interview with National Observer.
Mulcair looks to scrap Harper pipeline review process
Mulcair has said he is open to pipeline projects, but that he would put pipelines under much greater scrutiny than Harper’s government has in the past. “We will not approve any project, be it Kinder Morgan or any other, under Stephen Harper’s flawed process,” he said.
“Energy East is the same as Kinder Morgan. You can’t trust Stephen Harper’s flawed process, because there’s nothing that you can trust about it. It’s incomplete, it’s not thorough, it’s not credible.”
Completely redoing the pipeline approval process could mean major delays for projects that have been waiting to hear from the current administration about the status of their projects. Despite his disdain for the current approvals process, Mulcair says he’s not opposed to developing the oil sands, and sees economic positives for Energy East, which will transport approximately 1.1 million barrels of bitumen from Alberta to refineries in eastern Canada—if it is approved under a different set of regulations.
“The principle of adding value to our natural resources here, adding jobs to our natural resources here, is a great one,” he said. “Upgrading, refining, adding value to our products here – that’s a good idea… [But] the local communities don’t have confidence in the process that’s in place.”
While Energy East could be an opportunity for Canada, the NDP leader is opposed to Keystone XL, saying it represents the export of 40,000 Canadian jobs. “This ‘rip and ship’ approach of Stephen Harper’s is not working,” Mulcair said.
Resources need to reach the market
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, son of former PM Pierre Trudeau and Margaret Trudeau, shows more support for the Keystone XL pipeline than his NDP counterpart, but agrees that the process put in place to approve pipelines by the Harper administration is flawed.
“We need to get resources to market, whether it is Energy East, whether it is a western pipeline, whether it is Keystone XL because the alternative is more rail cars carrying oil, which nobody wants across the country,” Trudeau said in an interview with CBC.
Saying that he supports Energy East would be incorrect, however, Trudeau said. “That would be incorrect, because we are going through a process right now. That process that has been torqued and flawed by [Prime Minister Stephen] Harper is really the cause [of why] we can’t get our resources to market right now.”
When asked about the National Energy Board during an interview in August, Trudeau said that the organization should go back to working the way it did before the Conservatives took power.
“We will restore a level of independence and intellectual rigor, if you like, to the processes of boards like the National Energy Board.”
Opposition to the Northern Gateway pipeline
Trudeau said in September that his party would formalize a moratorium on crude oil tanker traffic through B.C.’s northern coast to protect sensitive areas from the impacts of spills, effectively ruling out the Northern Gateway pipeline, a $6.5 billion pipeline put forward by Enbridge (ticker: ENB). The pipeline would run 1,177 kilometers (731 miles) from Alberta to Kitimat in British Columbia.
“Anyone who has been to the Great Bear rainforest knows that that’s not a place for a crude oil pipeline,” Trudeau said, referring to the sensitive ecological areas along the northern B.C. coast. “We need to ensure we are getting our resources to market in responsible, safe ways,” the Liberal Party Leader said.