Politics

Canada gaining reputation as 'a country that can't get its big projects done,' says Jean Charest

Former Quebec premier Jean Charest says past trouble with the Keystone XL pipeline project and the ongoing standoff between Alberta and B.C. over Trans Mountain are sending a message to business leaders that Canada is a country that struggles to get big projects completed.

Former Quebec premier says federal money should not be used to back Trans Mountain pipeline

Former Quebec Premier Jean Charest weighs in on the ongoing B.C.-Alberta pipeline standoff and the message he says it sends to the world about Canada. 8:53

Former Quebec premier Jean Charest says past trouble with the Keystone XL pipeline project and the ongoing standoff between Alberta and B.C. over Trans Mountain are sending a message to business leaders that Canada is a country that struggles to get big projects completed.

Charest made the remarks in an interview with CBC News Network's Power & Politics. He said that over the last five years, the U.S. business press had linked Canada and Keystone XL in most news reports.

"For Canada there is a bigger message here that isn't just about this pipeline," Charest told host Vassy Kapelos. "The general impression it has left, not just in the United States but elsewhere in the world, is that Canada is a country that can't get its big projects done.

"That's the impression that's out there in the world right now and we need to be conscious of that."

While the previous Conservative government approved the Keystone XL pipeline in 2010 to carry Alberta's oilsands bitumen to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast, former U.S. president Barack Obama rejected the pipeline in 2012, sending TransCanada back through the approval process again.

Those events saw former prime minister Stephen Harper criticized for his handling of the Canada/U.S. relationship.

"Conservative mismanagement of the Keystone XL pipeline is costing Canadians' jobs and damaging our relationship with our most important trading partner," then Liberal natural resources critic Geoff Regan said in 2013.

Federal financial backing

After U.S. President Donald Trump was elected, he moved in late January 2017 to sign a memorandum inviting TransCanada to resubmit its application for Keystone XL. Trump approved the project in March of that same year.

Charest said he believes the federal government is aware that Canada is fast becoming a country with a reputation for struggling to get large natural resource projects off the ground, and said it should work hard to find creative solutions to counter that narrative.

Asked if the federal government should use public money to back the Trans Mountain pipeline somehow, Charest said the project is something the private sector should be able to fund.

"(Federal funding) could be an option but it's not the first option. It should not be the first option to put public money behind this kind of a project because it's not needed, to start with, and it seems like a solution that looks a little extreme for me," he said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced last month that he had tasked Finance Minister Bill Morneau to begin "formal financial discussions with Kinder Morgan" to remove the uncertainty overhanging the project.

In laying out his plan, Trudeau stopped short of saying his government would take a financial stake in the pipeline but said that when he has more details of the financial arrangement he would release them to Canadians.

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