Depending on who you listen to, the demise of Energy East – the pipeline that would have shipped western crude oil to eastern Canada – is either a triumph or a disaster.
For politicians in Quebec and environmental groups across the country, it’s a triumph. “An enormous victory,” crowed Denis Coderre, the mayor of Montreal, who claims that he has saved his province from the certain ravages of environmental defilement. (He neglected to mention that Montreal has dumped megalitres of raw sewage into the St. Lawrence River, but never mind that now.)
For Alberta, it’s a disaster – yet more proof that major energy projects just can’t get done any more. It’s even more than that. It’s a double disaster for Premier Rachel Notley, whose opponents are jeering that her plan to buy a social licence with carbon taxes is, so far, an utter failure. But it’s manna for Jason Kenney, who could well be her successor. He thinks Alberta should strike back by stopping equalization payments to Quebec.
The federal Liberals, however, say that politics was simply not an issue. Market conditions were to blame. The price of oil has plunged, so TransCanada pulled the plug. That’s the way the cookie crumbles. Better luck next time.
They are right – up to a point. But the federal government has created a cloud of policy confusion so thick that it is easy to mistake for a frontal assault on the energy industry itself.