Opinion | Moe and Kenney's rhetoric on C-69, carbon tax is more talk than fact

One needs to stop for a moment to consider what Moe, Kenney and other opponents of C-69 hope to gain.

One needs to consider what Moe, Kenney and other opponents of C-69 hope to gain

A TransCanada Keystone pipeline facility is seen in Hardisty, Alberta. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press via AP)

Premier Scott Moe has been deriding Bill C-69 — federal legislation to overhaul the review process for major resource projects in Canada — as the "no more pipelines bill," joining forces with Alberta's Jason Kenney to have the legislation scrapped or changed wholesale to accommodate industry demands and reduce public input.

A bare-knuckle fight with the feds nearly always makes for good politics in the West, especially when the inevitable fluctuations of an export-driven resource economy hit hard. However, one needs to stop for a moment to consider what Moe, Kenney and other opponents of C-69 hope to gain with their heated rhetoric.

Either they have forgotten, or are choosing to ignore, that the Trans Mountain Pipeline is on hold because of a court-order stipulating that meaningful consultations with Indigenous peoples must occur—something that should have been done long before shovels hit the ground on the pipeline twinning.

The political leaders say the review process outlined in C-69 is too long and that the federal environment minister is given too much say over individual projects. Some analysts note that the proposed legislation doesn't make many changes to the assessment and review processes already in place.

The bill also requires economic considerations — such as job creation — to be considered alongside environmental concerns, despite claims from opponents that it will kill jobs.

Meanwhile, statistics show Saskatchewan created more than 14,000 jobs in April — the very month the carbon tax took effect.- Sarath Peiris

A recent Nanos poll suggests that more than four in 10 Prairie residents say provinces opting out of Canada's national plan to fight climate change is unacceptable or somewhat unacceptable, while 50 per cent oppose provincial governments using their tax money to fight the federal carbon tax. The numbers are even higher on a national scale. 

The public's trust in politicians certainly isn't helped by news that senators considering C-69 were presented with a raft of amendments suggested by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association and asked to adopt the package in its entirety. 

Kudos to Independent Sen. Yuen Pau Woo, who told the committee chair making the request: "We're senators, we're not stenographers. We do not believe we should simply be taking verbiage from interest groups and approving them."

It also doesn't help when Premier Moe's rants against the "job killing" carbon tax are undermined by news reports that his government shelved a study that said the economic impact of the tax would be minimal. 

Meanwhile, statistics show Saskatchewan created more than 14,000 jobs in April — the very month the carbon tax took effect.

A recent report by an international panel of experts for the Council of Canadian Academies calls for a decision-making that engages everyone from governments and rights holders to industry and those with relevant specialized knowledge, to plan on a regional scale how land is to be used. 

Such a process would take longer, but would still be better than the current system, which has projects hung up by protests and years-long litigation, creating uncertainty and driving away investors.

There's no argument that provincial leaders of Saskatchewan Alberta that rely heavily on energy and resource exports to maintain economic growth and preserve jobs should do all they can to promote their citizens' interests. 

This column is part of CBC's Opinion section. For more information about this section, please read this editor's blog and our FAQ.

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Sarath Peiris was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in 1955 and spent his career at the Moose Jaw Times Herald and Saskatoon StarPhoenix. He was the StarPhoenix’s opinions editor and editorial writer.


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