Colleen Collins is vice-president of the Canada West Foundation.
“Imagine if a few decades ago, the federal government in Ottawa said
to Hydro-Québec and the Quebec government that, due to (legitimate)environmental concerns around damming rivers, and (legitimate)concerns about Indigenous
rights of the region’s Cree and Inuit
populations, Ottawa was going to deny Quebec the ability to build
the James Bay project. That alone would have been more than enough
to have pushed Quebec out of Canada.”
If one were to look back to review the biggest political mistakes in Canadian history, the National Energy Program (NEP) imposed in 1980 would rank pretty high on any list. Not only was it disastrous economically for the West – it was disastrous in terms of national unity.
It cemented what had been an already growing distrust of Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto by many in the West. It took the then-government five years, and only after great harm, to realize just how much of a mistake it was before it was dismantled.
Yet here we are, a generation later, and the son of the man behind NEP1 has succeeded in creating NEP2. The reaction in the West is at least as bad as it was the first time. The big question is whether it will take five years for this government to realize its mistake, or whether it might fix the mess sooner. Because fix it, it can – and most certainly should.
The infamous Bill C-69 – now the Impact Assessment Act (IAA) – and Bill C-48, known as the “just one part of just one coast” tanker ban are widely seen, by impartial legal experts as well as the global investment community, as no-more-pipelines legislation.
Whereas the tanker ban is particularly egregious – indefensible – and should be reversed, Bill C-69/IAA is much more complicated. We at the Canada West Foundation have, in fact, supported its stated intentions – including better environmental protections and respect for Indigenous rights when planning and building any new major infrastructure.