The Current

Pipeline debates a sign of polarizing election campaign to come, says columnist

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the approval of the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline, and our weekly national affairs panellists weigh in on this latest twist in the long-running fight, including how it might shape the fall election.

‘The middle is the scariest place to be in Canadian politics’: Susan Delacourt

Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh and Green Party leader Elizabeth May have all responded to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Trans Mountain pipeline expansion approval. (Canadian Press photos)
Listen19:51

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The back-and-forth between federal party leaders about pipelines is setting a problematic tone for the fall election, according to one political columnist.

Tuesday's announcement from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, outlining his cabinet's decision to move forward with the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline project, was followed by responses from the federal opposition leaders. The news comes on the same day that the House of Commons passed a non-binding motion to declare a national climate emergency in Canada.

"It was a little bit like watching a rehearsal or a miniature election campaign yesterday," Susan Delacourt, national columnist and Ottawa bureau chief for the Toronto Star, told The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer shot back after Trudeau's announcement to say that he doesn't trust whether a pipeline will actually be built, calling on the prime minister to "show me the pipeline."

"He failed to tell Canadians on what day construction would actually start," continued Scheer.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer responds to the government's approval of Trans Mountain by saying he doesn't believe Prime Minister Justin Trudeau really wants the pipeline built. 19:44

According to Delacourt, Canadians can expect more heated exchanges like these come the fall federal election.

"It's going to be a symbol of the polarization that's taken place in Canadian politics," she said.

"People are ... absolutely convinced that they're right and everybody else is absolutely wrong. And I'm not sure that's a great thing for politics. We've reached a remarkable time in which the middle is the scariest place to be in Canadian politics."

Singh and May both express their disappointment with the Liberal government for his decision to approve the Trans Mountain pipeline. 8:15

The increasingly black-and-white political landscape of Canada, she said, has left Trudeau in a complicated position of maintaining the grey.

"It was like watching [Trudeau] sort of walking on a trapeze or a wire trying to say that this is where the middle exists in this incredibly emotional high stakes pipeline debate," Delacourt continued.

"He's is damned if he does and he's damned if he doesn't."

To discuss the latest twist in the TMX saga and what it could mean for the upcoming election, Tremonti spoke to:  

  • Kathleen Martens, investigative reporter with the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN).
  • Graham Thomson, former political columnist for the Edmonton Journal, who now contributes to CBC, iPolitics, and Alberta Views.
  • Susan Delacourt, national columnist and Ottawa bureau chief for the Toronto Star.

Click 'listen' near the top of this page to hear the full conversation.


Written by Émilie Quesnel with files from CBC News. Produced by Max Paris and Julie Chrysler.

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