Globe editorial: The problem isn’t the pipeline, it’s the way it was approved (Globe and Mail – August 31, 2018)

The Federal Court of Appeal decision quashing cabinet’s approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is a huge political setback for the Trudeau government. That it comes on the heels of the government’s reckless decision to buy the existing pipeline for $4.5-billion only complicates matters.

But it would be a mistake to conclude that Ottawa cannot salvage this snake-bitten project. With the proper response, Canada could end up with both a much-needed pipeline expansion and a clearer set of rules for approving projects of this kind.

At the moment, that probably looks like a long shot. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has spent a lot of political capital on Trans Mountain and has little to show for it.

Mr. Trudeau believed he could earn the so-called “social license” to build a major fossil-fuel pipeline in the climate-change era by balancing its political negatives against a long list of more virtuous actions: establishing a national carbon tax, killing the Northern Gateway pipeline, banning tankers along the northern British Columbia coast, launching an expensive effort to protect other coastlines from spills and pushing hard on reconciliation.

It was a reasonable gambit, and to some degree it worked. The most recent polls show that more than half of Canadians support the Trans Mountain expansion.

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