Unlike an earthquake, Tuesday’s federal government “green light” on the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project (TMX) was entirely predictable.
But like an earthquake in the ocean, it came with the requisite tsunami, this one a wave of press releases washing across newsroom desks across B.C.
As soon as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the approval, in they came. By the time I left the office Tuesday, I counted 19 press releases from political parties, business groups, Indigenous organizations, Trans Mountain itself and, of course, environmental activists. And that’s just as a B.C. journalist. I’m sure I’m not on everyone’s mailing list. Others may have seen many, many more.
Depending on the point of view, the unsurprising announcement from a government that owns the pipeline in question, a decision to approve the twinning of the 1,150-kilometre pipeline, tripling the capacity, was “stunning hypocrisy” (Rain Forest Action Network) or “disgraceful in a climate emergency” (Wilderness Committee or “a violent act against young people” (Sierra Club of BC).
From supporters of the pipeline expansion it was tepid support at best, given the small-c conservative politicization of all things Trudeau and/or federally Liberal. If you hate Trudeau, but are pro-pipeline, the response needed to be a half-empty cup.
Well before approval, before 7 a.m., the federal Conservatives put forth leader Andrew Scheer’s response. Building a pipeline is a decision he would have clearly also made, but one he had to criticize: “Cabinet Decision on TMX Meaningless Without Construction Date: Scheer.”
A political “yes, but” response.
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business was the least passive-aggressive in support of the decision: “We are pleased to see the federal government’s final decision today granting approval of the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion (TMX) Project. After more than seven years of review, it’s time to get shovels in the ground.”
The BC Liberal Caucus naturally used the decision to lambaste the governing NDP: “‘Today’s decision by the federal government sends a clear message to John Horgan and the NDP: The time for obstruction is over – their government needs to get out of the way and support this project.’”
Of those initial 19 press releases, the majority were Indigenous groups and environmental organizations issuing missives written long ago, knowing Trudeau would say yes to TMX.
From the Sierra Club to Greenpeace to Stand.Earth to the David Suzuki Foundation, the messages were clear. From Greenpeace: “For the Trudeau government to approve this pipeline after declaring a climate emergency makes about as much sense as pouring gasoline on a burning fire.”
As for Indigenous leaders, the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs is not impressed. Their headline: “Canada Approves TMX Despite Failing to Achieve Consent: Declaration of Climate Emergency Rings Hollow.”
Tsleil-Waututh Chief Leah George-Wilson called Trudeau’s approval “disappointing” if “not surprising” and vows to fight it in court.
Those who hate Trudeau, hate Trudeau no matter what he does, this file proves it. Those who support environmental responsibility are unsurprised by Scheer’s derision but are left disappointed by a Prime Minister who declared a climate emergency one day and approved the tripling of a pipeline to get diluted bitumen from Alberta to tidewater the next.
Nuanced positions are increasingly tough to hold in politics, division is the order of the day. You are either with us or you are against us. The environment or the economy. Leaders who try to have cake and eat it look greedy.
Political cartoonist Greg Perry drew an unflattering image of Trudeau in a pickle costume musing how it isn’t easy being green. Yes, the PM is in a pickle of his own making. But isn’t that the reality of balancing an economy and an environment?
And as usual, the best cartoonists nail down in one image what a press release writer (or columnist) can lay out in 650-or-so words.