Pipeline politics

In November 2016, a common media headline was “Trudeau kills Northern Gateway pipeline” after the PM announced his government would not continue with the project.

The announcement to kill the Northern Gateway project also honoured an election commitment from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who had previously stated that “the Great Bear Rain Forest was no place for a pipeline.”

The decision to kill the Northern Gateway pipeline project was also politically popular with many who had supported the Prime Minister in the 2015 election.

As many will know, the Prime Minister also announced that he would support and approve the Trans-Mountain pipeline project, a decision that outraged many of those who celebrated the demise of Northern Gateway.

Pipeline politics are indeed very much part of our democratic process as evidenced by the opposition to the Trans-Mountain pipeline from B.C. Premier John Horgan and his NDP government, He promised to use “every tool in the tool box “to try and stop it.

Why does this matter?

Because pipeline politics are also popular with certain politicians south of our Canada/United States border.

Many will know that U.S. President Joe Biden, shortly after occupying the Oval Office, used the power of the presidential veto to officially end the Keystone XL pipeline project.

The Keystone XL pipeline was proposed to connect Hardisty, Alta., to Steele City, Neb., over 1,947-kilometres to transport Canadian crude oil to U.S. refineries.

Keystone XL is not the only pipeline being targeted by United States politicians.

The Line 5 pipeline, built in 1953, runs from Superior, Wis., and feeds oil refineries in Sarnia, Ont.

Line 5 also carries natural gas and is considered a critical supply source of oil and gas to the Ontario and Quebec economies.

The challenge is a portion of Line 5 runs underwater where Lake Michigan meets Lake Huron at depths between 100 and 270 feet in the Straits of Mackinac.

The risk for environmental damage related to a potential spill of a pipeline that carries up to 540,000 barrels a day of oil and natural gas liquids has resulted in Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer to order the revocation of the pipeline easement and that it be shut down.

Enbridge, the owner and operator of this pipeline, is exploring legal options as well as mediation to avoid the shut down that is set to come into effect next week.

This possible pipeline shutdown has also created considerable political tension. The Trudeau Liberal government is said to be using all diplomatic channels in Washington and with President Biden to prevent the pipeline from being shut down.

I strongly support pipeline projects, however, this issue raises a question to those who oppose pipelines, that is seldom asked:

  • Considering PM Trudeau politically killed the Northern Gateway pipeline, much as President Biden did for Keystone XL, both citing risk and environmental reasons, why is Governor Gretchen Whitmer not entitled to follow their lead?

I can be reached at [email protected] or call toll free 1-800-665-8711.

Solution bad as problem?

I want to share part of a conversation I once had with a now-retired provincial cabinet minister.

The former minister said one of the challenges in government, when attempting to resolve a problem, is the need to ensure the proposed solution does not create newer, unanticipated problems.

I am reminded of this as the Liberal government has tabled, and recently amended, Bill C-10: “An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.”

Few would dispute that in an age of increased digital steaming, and various online media platforms, that the Broadcasting Act and the oversight regulation with the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) badly needs updating.

The challenge, as the now retired former cabinet minister would remind us, is to make these much-needed updates without inadvertently creating new problems.

Recently, the Liberal government removed a critical exemption to Bill C-10, that, in my view and the view of many other experts and stakeholders, will create serious setbacks to our Charter protected right of free expression.

When Bill C-10 was first proposed it exempted “unique user generated content” from the bill.

For example, if Canadians created and posted their own video on YouTube, Facebook, Tik Tok or any other online social media platforms, their content would be exempted by the changes proposed in Bill C-10.

However, during clause-by-clause examination of Bill C-10 in the Industry, Science and Technology committee, the Liberals removed this exemption.

Removing this exemption means that the unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats at the CRTC could have the power to regulate, remove and censor what Canadians post to their own social media.

This can also limit what Canadians are able to see online in Canada.

Instead of Canadians having the choice, the choices could be limited based on yet-to-be announced-criteria set and enforced by the CRTC.

The Liberals defend this amendment stating that the intent is to limit the broadcast of unlicensed content online to protect copyright holders, who have lobbied for these changes.

That ultimately is the problem with the Liberal approach in Bill C-10.

Rather than resolving the unlicensed content issue through copyright law, the government proposes to cut it off at the broadcasting level, allowing Canadian's content to be sacrificed in the process.

In a statement on the bill’s Charter compliance, justice officials argued that the original exemption, removed by the Liberals, alleviated potential concerns of breaching section 2 (b) of the Charter on free expression.

With the exemption's removal, many are speculating on what impacts this bill will have.

This approach by the Liberals, according to one of Canada’s foremost law professors, who also holds the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, is a “shocking and likely unconstitutional speech regulation.”

Prof. Michael Geist further notes:

“We would never think of subjecting the content of the letters, emails or blog posts to CRTC regulation, yet Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault and the Liberal government believe it is appropriate to regulate a new generation’s form of speech – TikTok videos, Instagram posts, Facebook feeds, and YouTube videos – as if they are the equivalent of broadcast programs.”

For the record, I share the concerns of Prof. Geist.

My question this week:

  • Do you support or oppose this amendment to Bill C-10?

I can be reached at [email protected] or call toll free 1-800-665-8711.

Federal budget overview

This week, the Liberal government tabled its first budget in more than two years.

In her budget speech, the Finance Minister stated that we must build "a more resilient Canada: better, more fair, more prosperous and more innovative.”

This raises the obvious question.

Who has been governing Canada for the past five years and made it so un-resilient, so un-fair, so un-prosperous and lacking in innovation?

This is generally the pattern of Liberal budgets and this one is no exception.

This budget promises a massive level of spending, all told some $143 billion during the next six years.

Where is it all going?

Despite promises not to use omnibus budgets, this Liberal budget comes in at more than 700 pages, so it is only possible to highlight some of the proposed spending areas.

Thirty billion dollars has been earmarked for daycare and early learning during the next five years.

This will require partnerships with the provinces to fully implement.

Ultimately, the goal is to provide $10 a day daycare.

Eighteen billion is promised spending during the next five years in an effort to close the gaps between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

The government promises to spend $17 billion in future years on the promotion of what it has termed the “green recovery effort.”

There is also a $12-billion promise to extend COVID business aid programs as well as other income support measures.

Another $12 billion over five years is slated to increase the OAS benefit that includes a one-time bonus payment of $500 expected at some point later this year.

I should also add this is not a tax-and-spend budget.

Many speculated this budget would include a “wealth tax” or other significant tax increases.

From my read of this budget so far, while there have been some minor increases in places, there are no significant tax increases.

How does all this spending get paid for?

While there is no actual debt-reduction plan, the Liberals indicate that the levels of spending will decrease over time as many support programs will be wound down and that, combined with economic growth, will offset this spending.

What is ignored in this budget?

Surprisingly, there is no significant increase to federal health transfers, compared to what was requested by provincial premiers.

I say surprisingly as this is the most significant priority request from provincial governments with healthcare system under significant pressure right now.

For those hoping for a universal basic income or a national pharmacare program, these items are left out of the budget.

Also given that this budget takes Canada to a debt-to-GDP ratio of roughly 50%, there is limited fiscal capacity to potentially add these programs.

My question this week:

  • Based on what you have read here, and likely heard reported elsewhere, what are your thoughts on this budget?

I can be reached at [email protected] or call toll free 1-800-665-8711.

Boaters heed this

Proposed changes to boating regulations may be costly for boat owners.

Boaters who operate motor-driven boats and are required to hold a Transport Canada Operator Card for Pleasure Craft will be affected by the proposals.

For those of you who hold this Pleasure Craft Operators Card, chances are at some point you wrote an exam administered by a third-party operator and, if you passed, were issued a Pleasure Craft Operator Card.

These cards are required to be carried by skippers at all times when operating a motorized vessel and in the majority of cases have no date of expiry.

The only exception was for those who were renting a powerboat or personal watercraft such as a Sea-Doo or WaveRunner.

This exemption was based on the fact that it was not practical to be able to administer the test in such a short period of time and that boat rental agencies provide safety instructions for operators who are renting the boats in question.

The reason for my report this week is that Transport Canada is considering making significant changes to this program.

How will these changes potentially affect you if you hold this card?

For starters, the cards may no longer become permanent.

There may be a new requirement to take a new course potentially every five years.

The courses themselves may also become considerably more expensive as Transport Canada has proposed that course operators pay a fee of $5,000 for a five-year term.

It is also proposed that there would be an additional fee payable to Transport Canada for each individual who passes the course and receives a new Pleasure Craft Operator Card.

In addition, is a proposed elimination of the exemption for those who would rent a powerboat or personal watercraft.

This proposal has generated significant concern from local boat rental agencies as it is unclear how a test could be administered in a short period of time as well as the economics of the added costs to the boat rental industry, of which we have many here in the Okanagan.

I am not a boater, however, the comments I have heard from boaters are greatly concerned about these proposed changes.

As one boater shared with me: our local lakes are not serviced by the Canadian Coast Guard, and, for the most part, the Okanagan does not have many of the costly to service navigation aids located in other bodies of water, and it is proposed to remove VHS weather services that many boaters do use.

In other words, the concerns can be summarized that the federal government is offering less services to local boaters but wanting to take more money from them in return.

In fairness, Transport Canada they have indicated that the current program, as it exists, generates no revenue for the federal government but does carry costs.

The fees raised by these changes will contribute toward the costs of Transport Canada to administer this program.

My question this week is to boaters

  • Are you supportive of these changes?

Unfortunately, the window of time Transport Canada provided to comment on these proposals has expired, but more information can be found here.

I can be reached at [email protected] or call toll free 1-800-665-8711.

More Dan in Ottawa articles

About the Author

Dan Albas, Conservative member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola, is the Shadow Minister for Environment and Climate Change.

Before entering public life, Dan was the owner of Kick City Martial Arts, responsible for training hundreds of men, women and youth to bring out their best.

Dan  is consistently recognized as one of Canada’s top 10 most active Members of Parliament on Twitter (@danalbas) and also continues to write a weekly column published in many local newspapers and on this website.

MP Dan welcomes comments, questions and concerns from citizens and is often available to speak to groups and organizations on matters of federal concern. 

He can be reached at [email protected] or call toll free at 1-800-665-8711.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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