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Trudeau’s make it or break it pipeline choice

A government is appreciated, or not, for the choices that it makes. Some choices pack more of a punch than others, and some choices make or break a government. Even choosing not to do something, or delaying a decision, can transform into a pivotal moment for a government.

The pipeline battle is presenting the Trudeau government with such a choice. Over the next days or weeks, three pipelines demand decisions: Enbridge’s Line 3 replacement, Enbridge’s Northern Gateway and Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline. These decisions come on the heels of the Liberal government’s controversial decision to approve Petronas’ Pacific Northwest LNG terminal.

These past weeks, the Trudeau government was hit with Harper-esque international criticism. Canada is being asked to justify how it can purport to be a climate leader while we continue to expand fossil fuel infrastructure.

This line of questioning must hit dangerously close to home for the Trudeau government, which has banked on its image of climate leadership. Trudeau has bragged on the international scene that Canada is back.

But approving a new pipeline would put Trudeau on a path to busting Canada’s carbon budget.

The Liberal government has taken pride in presenting a positive image of change, in sharp contrast with the style of the Harper era, invoking sunny ways, nation-to-nation relationships, climate leadership and environmental protection. And on the style front, things have truly changed for the better. But one year in, the Trudeau government is balking on the substance, and showcasing a dangerous proximity to big business interests, including those of the oil industry, despite championing the middle class.

Any approval of a new pipeline would signal that the Trudeau government is renewing the Harper-era hand-in-hand approach to oil interests, despite the government’s best attempts to assuage environmentalists with much needed but over-hyped “world class” Ocean Protection Plan, the coal phase-out announcement, and the upcoming clean fuel standard.

Doubling down on boom and bust oil economics seems like it is only meant to reassure a struggling oil industry that is hard pressed to preserve high profit margins for its investors, while the government maintains its $3.3 billion in annual subsidies to the fossil fuel industry.

There is a different choice. One where pipelines are rejected. One where climate leadership rhetoric matches the government’s actions. One where Canada develops an economy that is diversified and resilient, not reliant on oil prices or other commodities. One that offers a positive future for Canada.

These coming decisions will show the Trudeau government in a clearer light and pave the way for a 2017 government that will be much different than the one from 2016.

The results of a Trump presidency, more specifically how he won, should have the Liberal’s heads spinning. They should be trying to figure out how he got there, and preventing that from happening here, because that would signal the end of their tenure in the House of Commons.

Thirty people, including the Prime Minister, are part of the Liberal cabinet responsible for making this choice. Ultimately this decision is the responsibility of every single one of those ministers, a decision they will have to live with for the rest of their mandates, and their lives for that matter.

Both choices offer a radically different image for the future of the Trudeau government. But only one fits with the positive branding the government has given itself to date.

It is high time for the Trudeau government to spend some of its political capital on rejecting Line 3 and the Trans Mountain pipeline, or it risks losing itself to the demons of the status quo. Otherwise, as Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and former B.C. Premier Mike Harcourt recently pointed out, it could get ugly.

Note: the Union of BC Indian Chiefs has put out a call for coast protectors to prepare to defend our communities from proposed pipelines and tankers. Everyone is invited to join!