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Why Prime Minister Trudeau won't "take charge" of Energy East

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Response to: "Mulroney urges Trudeau to take personal charge of Energy East project", by Robert Fife, published September 13, 2016

In yesterday's Globe and Mail, Robert Fife published the plea by former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau "take personal charge" of the Energy East project.

We are of the opinion that Prime Minister Trudeau won't, and really shouldn’t, do any such thing.

Why? If only because the Energy East project is hugely controversial in Quebec, where the liberals have won 40 of the 78 seats during the last election (when was the last time that happened?). And because more than 300 municipalities have come out against it, as well as the two major unions (you did read this right; the two largest trade unions in Quebec are opposed to Energy East). And that the Union des producteurs agricoles (the provincial farmers union) also decided to oppose Energy East (making it the first energy project ever opposed by the Union).

Then, there's the debacle of the National Energy Board, which was supposed to help restore "trust in our environmental assessment processes". Well, that plan came crashing down last week when, under pressure from First Nations, municipalities, citizens, environmental group and even the federal government, the panel that was going to evaluate the project had to recuse itself (as well as the Chair and Vice Chair of the NEB).

When reading Mr. Mulroney’s comments, one is forced to wonder which "markets" he is he talking about, exactly. Those same markets that have led to 50 000 jobs being lost in Alberta over the last two years? The Asian market that has access to faster and cheaper supplies in its own part of the globe, such as Saudi and Russian oil, letting it skip pricey retrofits that may be needed to process our heavy bitumen? Perhaps someone should have reminded him that Irving Oil eventually admitted that even if Energy East was build, they would continue importing Saudi oil because of its low cost.

The last, and perhaps most important reason why we think that Prime Minister Trudeau shouldn't "take personal charge" of Energy East is his own declaration from last January that his government wouldn't act as "cheerleaders" for pipeline projects.

Wise words indeed.

The previous tried that approach and what a mess they have created.

If the Prime Minister should take charge of something, it should be to ensure that the process for evaluating pipeline projects should be revised completely.

Sidney Ribaux, Executive Director, Equiterre

Steven Guilbeault, Senior Director, Equiterre