Much As It Pains Him Justin The Nice Tries To Play Heel To His Green Pals
Back in the day, leaders had handles that told you all you needed to now about them. Charles the Bold. Mad King Ludwig. Vlad the Impaler. Now that was branding.
It seems that a little truth in advertising might be in order for today’s political leaders. Take Justin Trudeau. It would seem that Canada’s current prime minister could benefit from a little self promotion as he makes his way through his first term.
How about Justin the Nice? Lord help him, Trudeau seems intent on winning the Mr. Congeniality contest among prime ministers. (If there was one.) The man is one massive empathy exercise. He hugs. He cries. He selfies. He even gets along with Trump.
Which is a nice quality to have if you’re a minister of the church. But Trudeau is a minister of the Crown. His job description requires that, from time to time, he put on his cross face and tell some wayward Canadian to get back in line. So far in his term, Trudeau has been remarkably reluctant to get in the face of anyone who seems the slightest bit vexed with him.
So he abandoned the Energy East pipeline. He told the small army of people crossing illegally into Canada that we’d make up the spare bedroom for them. He stayed in the Paris Accord so that the global community would know we still like to clean up our trash. The only people to whom he spoke harshly were the faith groups who want federal money but don’t believe in abortion.
(But hey, they’re just Christians. No big whoop.)
Now he’s faced with a major bun fight between Alberta and B.C. over building pipelines to get Alberta oil to world markets at world prices. (Currently the Americans hose us when we ship our oil across their territory.) The new B.C. NDP government, in concert with their legislative cousins in the Green Party, says that shipping oil in a pipeline across their province is icky and dangerous and efforts to make them accept the pipeline are unconstitutional.
(This Alberta oil antipathy doesn’t seem to extend to the hundreds of American oil tankers that skirt Tofino on their way to Washington State. These pass without comment from Horgan or his high priest Al Gore.)
The Alberta NDP government, eyeing Jason Kenney and the United Conservative party to its right, is insisting that the Kinder Morgan pipeline has passed all the legal, environmental and ethical hurdles thrown in its path. It states that the constitution permits the trans-provincial shipping of goods. And the spirit of cooperation obliges B.C. to help out a brother/ sister from time to time.
When B.C. became intransigent, Alberta threatened $3/ litre oil, a boycott on B.C. wine and a reassessment of Alberta investment in the province. Trudeau the Nice tried all his charms on the premiers John Horgan (B.C.) and Rachel Notley (Alberta). He insisted the project would be built— even as he mouthed the platitudes of the Suzuki set about a pristine environment.
Polling shows that, even in B.C., the KM project has a majority of support. What it doesn’t have is the support of the kind of people Trudeau wishes he was. Urbane. Global. Wired into the progressive media machine. Who think that oil from such green titans as Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and Venezuela is preferable to oil from Fort MacMurray. Who fervently believe that, in two to three weeks, alternate fuels will take over from the dread petroleum.
Perhaps he was playing for time. Perhaps Justin the Nice was hoping people would forget his fulsome promises about building the pipeline come hell or high water. Maybe was making the calculation that he had plenty of B.C. seats to risk and virtually none in Alberta.
But the time for that kind of nice is up. So Trudeau sent his economic emissary Bill Morneau to Alberta to split the pipeline baby. The federal government will indemnify Kinder Morgan or anyone who wants to build the Trans Mountain pipeline, Morneau proclaimed. Because only a lunatic would invest in Canada if the government can’t guarantee economic stability, Justin the Nice is throwing bunches of billions to get this pipeline built after seeing other such projects scuttled.
How much money, Morneau was asked? Here, the Finance minister got a little foggy. But you can bet that, like Kathleen Wynne, his Liberal sister in Ontario, there will be a tsunami of public dollars if Trudeau’s government is threatened.
Speaking of Kathleen Wynne, her imminent demise is also a portent of where things are going for Justin the Nice. She’s about to reduce her party to non-party status after 15 years of financial legerdemain that’s left the province the highest indebted non-sovereign state in the world. Notley will need a miracle to survive re-election next year in Alberta.
Those economic engines of the country— plus Saskatchewan— will be in the hands of people of who think Nice is for suckers. Who will remind Canadians that the current equalization scoreboard is tilted toward Quebec. That our debts (backstopped by the feds) are a wreck, and Trudeau’s promises to address them were hokum.
That will make for a daunting re-election for Justin the Nice. Except he’ll be facing Andrew the Unknown. And that might be all it takes to get another four years of hugs and kisses.
Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy.is the host of the podcast The Full Count with Bruce Dowbiggin on his website is Not The Public Broadcaster (http://www.notthepublicbroadcaster.com). He’s also a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada's top television sports broadcaster, he is also the best-selling author whose new book Cap In Hand will be available this fall.