Joe Oliver: Trudeau just doesn’t get Western alienation as he inflicts two more hits to the West’s economy – USA DAILY NEWS

Joe Oliver: Trudeau just doesn’t get Western alienation as he inflicts two more hits to the West’s economy

The prime minister just doesn’t get Western alienation. Either that or he is so obsessed with his green image he doesn’t care. After rejection by two-thirds of voters, with support from less than 22 per cent of the total electorate and only four out of 62 seats in the Prairie provinces, Trudeau is downplaying regional “frustrations,” saying they do not amount to a national unity crisis.

As if to flaunt his indifference, Trudeau reaffirmed Liberal hostility to resource development with two fateful decisions, both of which — paradoxically — undermine his avowed mission to combat climate change. The first relates to the government’s stance at the failed UN Conference on Climate Change (COP25) in Madrid and the second, its commitment to adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

As I recently wrote, selling Canadian oil and gas to Asia will reduce net global emissions by enabling importing countries to decrease their use of higher-emitting coal. Canada can be a big contributor to the international climate effort by exporting oil and gas or it can concentrate on domestic emissions and penalize its economy.

Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Jonathan Wilkinson graciously declared “I’m not saying liquid natural gas (LNG) in the future can’t be part of an overall structure” before adding the killer: “but the focus of the climate plan is on reducing our own domestic emissions.”

Follow his self-defeating reasoning: the government will concentrate on achieving its Paris accord commitments even if doing so precludes reducing worldwide emissions. Because in the end the only number that counts is total global emissions, this approach prioritizes bragging rights over a looming threat to humanity. The Liberal scorecard evidently is more important than whether the planet fries.

Those who oppose sharing carbon reduction credits worry about the possibility of double counting but that technical problem is easily resolved. China quite understandably wants to hoard the credit for reducing its own domestic emissions. But why would the Canadian government support a process that disadvantages its own energy industry for no net environmental advantage?

Wilkinson’s approach should be politically toxic for the Liberal government. The reason it is not pervades the discussion of an alleged climate change crisis: facts and rationality about a technical subject are no match for the stultifying conformity of the environmental bandwagon and its intolerance of dissent.

As for UNDRIP, federal Justice Minister and Attorney General David Lametti promised it would be adopted into law in 2020, against the opposition of his predecessor, Jody Wilson-Raybould.

Much of what the declaration says about the rights of Indigenous peoples and historical wrongs is laudable. But the requirement for “free, prior and informed consent” for resource project approval will create significant uncertainty both for Aboriginal peoples and for Canadians overall (as Dale Swampy, president of the National Coalition of Chiefs, recently argued on this page).

Public commentary and the courts respond almost exclusively to Aboriginal people opposed to resource projects. Yet for many Indigenous communities resource development is a transformative opportunity to create jobs, long-term revenue and lasting economic partnerships. Most First Nations support pipelines that traverse their traditional territories. They resent domestic and foreign NGOs that manipulate Aboriginal rights and denigrate Aboriginal benefits in order to advance their own ideological and commercial agendas.

Hard questions abound. When some nations say no and others say yes, whose voices should be heard and on what basis? What are the implications of proven versus unproven rights and titles? How critical is physical proximity to the project? Does population size matter? Should resource companies consult with hereditary chiefs, band councils or the entire community?

Then there is the Canadian national interest, especially the overarching need to access overseas markets for our oil and gas. In a 2016 discussion paper, a team led by Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci outlined the considerations when consent cannot be obtained, including that rights must be adequately protected and impacts mitigated, which may entail compensation. Otherwise, the infringement must be justified by balancing Indigenous rights with the need to respect other human rights, as well as the public interest in “meeting the just and most compelling requirements of a democratic society.”

We cannot know how UNDRIP will be interpreted by the courts or, crucially, whether First Nations could veto development projects. Inevitably, these complex issues will generate extensive litigation. Regulatory risk, lawfare and political opposition caused project sponsors TransCanada and Kinder Morgan to withdraw from Energy East and Trans Mountain, respectively, at a sunk cost of a billion dollars each. Adding UNDRIP to the new “no pipelines” Impact Assessment Act could seal the fate of new projects, leaving vast energy resources landlocked.

Canadians are left to wonder whether the government considered the full implications of these two decisions for the country or, given its minority situation, whether it even cares.

Joe Oliver was minister of natural resources and minister of finance in the Harper government.