We need courageous leaders, not empty promises and lies

It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but a great deal more to stand up to your friends.”

-Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Occasionally, a leader has the courage to take controversial action even though there may be enormous political consequences. Unfortunately, most of the time they take the coward’s path.

Legend has it, after President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the historic but highly contentious Civil Rights Act into law on June 2, 1964, he turned to his aide, Bill Moyers (the now famous-PBS TV host), and said, “We have lost the South for a generation.”  Johnson enacted the momentous law despite the inevitable electoral blowback because it was the right thing to do. He knew his simple signature on the transformational law set him on the right side of history. Unfortunately, Johnson’s political prophecy was, if anything, understated. 

Johnson’s civil rights law changed America forever. The law ended segregation in public places and banned employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. The long civil rights struggle we mythologize now — lunch counter sit-ins, boycotts, marches and assassinations – set the stage for Johnson. His signature, along with the one he affixed a year later to the Voting Rights Act, are considered the crowning legislative achievements of the civil rights movement and of his presidency. With the simple swipe of a pen, Johnson set a course that would help improve the lives of millions of people for generations.

Last week, when Prime Minister Trudeau announced his approval of Kinder Morgan’s pipeline expansion, he couldn’t muster President Johnson’s courage to be on the right side of history. Instead, he took the well-traveled coward’s path.

Context is important. The proof of cascading global warming is multiplying daily. Not a week goes by without some new dire announcement showing the scientific modeling has underestimated the pace global warming is happening. Last week it was the news that the Arctic was 31 degrees hotter than normal and sea ice was at an all-time low.  

This is not lost on our boyish Canadian leader. He certainly understands the need for fast and courageous action on climate. You need only look at his statements prior to attending the Paris climate talks last year.

“We’ll demonstrate that we are serious about climate change … This means making decisions based on science…”

Over the last twelve months Trudeau’s modus operandi is becoming clear: he likes to be out front when a few flashy promises will garner headlines, but when the heavy lifting of true leadership is needed, Trudeau caves to the whims of Big Oil, the communist-Chinese government and Big Money donors from Bay Street.

Our “sunny ways” leader has information at his fingertips that shows new pipelines will dramatically increase domestic and global heat-trapping pollution — the math is obvious and unequivocal. Kinder Morgan alone could unlock as much as 162 million tonnes of atmospheric pollution every year, overwhelming many of Trudeau’s much touted climate measures. For instance, phasing out domestic coal-burning power will only drop nation-wide emissions by five million tonnes, and his well-publicized national carbon pricing plan will only reduce our emissions by 18 million tons.  

While the public is understandably confused by misleading press accounts from oil industry executives, lobbyists and lazy politicians claiming a Canadian pipeline bottleneck is hurting our economy, our photogenic leader knows Alberta doesn’t need any new pipelines to ship their bitumen to market. Cabinet documents, independent studies, and academics all prove Canada has enough pipeline capacity to get current and projected oil to market for a decade or more.

Our Prime Minister also knows claims that selling oil into the Asian market will overcome the much-touted Canadian discount are entirely fictitious. Cabinet documents spell out clearly that the so-called Canadian discount doesn’t exist, and that the lower price for Western Canadian Select (e.g. diluted bitumen and heavy oil) comes from its lower quality and higher cost to transport, not its source. In fact, our celebrity leader should know the United States – our current customer – pays more for heavy oil than either the Asian or European markets. If Trudeau is being properly briefed, he knows zero oil tankers and zero barrels of oil are scheduled to be shipped to Asia, while the oil tankers currently transporting from Kinder Morgan’s Burnaby oil tanker port are all going to California.

Finally, Canada’s freshman leader should be well aware the Chinese market can’t handle diluted bitumen. In fact, China has no refineries equipped to refine heavy bitumen.

Given all this information Trudeau knows — or should know — why then did he approve Kinder Morgan? Because he lacks Lyndon Johnson’s courage to do what’s in the best interest of all Canadians and proudly make the inconvenient choices that would put him on the right side of history.

Not only was his Kinder Morgan approval cowardly, it also broke a fundamental promise that helped him win a majority. Perhaps you’ve seen the video from midway through Trudeau’s campaign when he told Dogwood’s Kai Nagata, “That process needs to be redone,” referring to the Harper government’s broken NEB review process. But what most people don’t know is that before we released that video, Dogwood sent a copy and a link to Trudeau’s press spokesman and asked if this change in position was now “official Liberal party policy?” Cameron Ahmad, Trudeau’s spokesperson wrote back confirming it was official policy. We then e-mailed and asked for clarification on what “redo the review” actually meant. We received a four-page letter from Anna Gainey, President of the Liberal Party of Canada, detailing that, if elected, Trudeau’s government would:

(1) launch an immediate, public review of Canada’s environmental assessment processes;

(2) modernize and rebuild trust in the National Energy Board;

(3) ensure that the Crown is fully executing its consultation, accommodation, and consent obligations on project reviews and assessments, in accordance with its constitutional and international human rights obligations [in partnership with First Nations]; 

(4) understand that governments may be able to issue permits, but only communities can grant permission and a Liberal government will undertake broad consultation with stakeholders and civil society on the issues that matter to them.

So much for promises. Each point we now know was either an outright lie or a sign of how easily Trudeau buckled under the pressure of Big Oil’s money and influence, throwing everyday Canadians like you and I straight under the bus.

Perhaps Trudeau signed the Kinder Morgan approval because his confidants told him it would win his party more seats in Alberta than he’ll lose in British Columbia. Hogwash! Trudeau’s insiders have deluded themselves that the approval will only cost them three B.C. MP seats in the next election. But while both Johnson and Trudeau underestimated the negative impact of their actions on their party’s future, only Johnson had the courage to take bold action anyway.  Recent Dogwood polling found 31 per cent of Trudeau’s voters in B.C. are less likely to vote Liberal again because of the Kinder Morgan approval.

Since our fearful national leader lacked the courage to step onto the right side of history, the people of British Columbia will have to do it for ourselves. We need to summon our resolve to take action against the monumentally stupid approval just as we have every time a reckless and unwanted oil tanker and pipeline scheme has been pushed on us over the last 40 years. While the Prime Minister and his minions may not be brave, I know tens of thousands of British Columbians have the gumption to stand up to Big Oil and their toadies in Ottawa and Edmonton.

It won’t be easy, but with hard work and the willingness to step out of our comfort zone, together we’ll beat Kinder Morgan just like we beat Enbridge.

Oh and Justin, British Columbians will see you in 2019.

11 Responses to “We need courageous leaders, not empty promises and lies”

  1. Shy Writer says:

    If Trudeau’s precious plan on climate change hinges on Alberta, I’m wondering what will happen to it when Notley is ousted and replaced by Alberta conservatives, a number of whom think Trump is a great leader?

    • It’s a great question. Notley and Trudeau are saying now that even with massive pipeline expansion, oil sands production with remain under the 100 MT emissions cap (which is, of course, already significant growth above current levels). But what if a new Alberta government removes the cap?

      • And increases the speed of development again?

        • Jaime Bordes says:

          I have held my nose and voted Liberal for ” strategic reasons ” over time.
          Not again after this.
          Liberals & Conservatives belong in the same myopic political realm, and they are bad news for Canada as a whole and for the world at large.

          • Geoff Smith says:

            You were fooled by the Liberal’s promotion of the anti-vote splitting campaign. I wasn’t fooled and voted NDP. Wish you had too. I’ m not sure we have enough time left to fight the deniers of climate change. Luckily I have another 30 years to live. Unfortunately, my children and their children won’t.

  2. Douglas Jackson says:

    The “Big Three” Political parties seem to believe that even in the “information age” we are just to damn busy trying to put food on the table to care. They are dead wrong…people do care….they care more about clean water and air, a healthy environment and sustainable future living conditions for their children than the present condition of the economy.

    What good is a robust short term economy when our lands are being turned into an industrial wasteland? What happens after the glut is over? Who and what will support our economy then…no one will support our economy because nothing will be left to pillage after the feeding frenzy is over…British Columbia will be a “Super Un-Natural” abomination.

    Courageous leaders do more than talk a good game, they walk the walk. All we have in the “Big Three” are unqualified wannabe politicians dying to get a piece for themselves. Maybe it’s time to consider the options…everything that’s Green isn’t always bucks.

  3. In response to climate change, the AB and federal govts decided to support fossil fuel expansion: oilsands, new export pipelines, and LNG plants. Last July the AB Govt introduced two new drilling incentive programs.
    These big infrastructure projects will have to operate for decades for investors to recoup their investments.
    Ramping up fossil fuel emissions flies in the face of climate change science, which mandates swift emissions in reductions now — not after we have filled our pockets with oil money.
    Acknowledging the science but ignoring its implications is the most insidious form of climate change denial.

    Oilsands emissions = 68 Mt (StatsCan, 2014).
    That’s 9.3% of Canada’s total. 25% of AB’s total (274 Mt). More than the entire province of BC (63 Mt). Far more than the Maritimes and the three northern territories combined (46.5 Mt). More than most nations.

    The oil & gas sector is the largest GHG emitter in Canada (26%).
    The oilsands are Canada’s fastest growing source of emissions.
    The oilsands emissions cap is 100 Mt plus exemptions. (I.e., actual emissions are likely to exceed 100 Mt.)
    The oilsands cap of 100 Mt represents nearly one fifth of Canada’s inadequate 2030 target. (And the oilsands is only one subsector of the oil industry. And the oil industry is only one sector of AB’s economy.)
    The cap is temporary. It is unlikely to survive the present govt. So oilsands emissions may go higher still.

    PM Trudeau’s and AB Premier Notley’s climate change plans are a plan to fail.

    • Geoffrey Pounder says:

      Correction: “Far more than the Maritimes and the three northern territories combined (46.5 Mt).” should read
      “Far more than the Maritimes and the three northern territories and Manitoba combined (46.5 Mt).”

  4. Justin Coward Truedough, a great name in history- the guy who smoked the tar sand oil.

  5. ” Occasionally political leaders do what’s right for their country, not their career. Unfortunately, Trudeau is not one of those leaders. ” Interesting that Will had to go all the way back to US President Johnston to find a leader who did the right thing. Excellent opinion piece, Will.

    Finding a leader who did the right thing for we, the people and the planet, is difficult. Harper? Clark? Kotley? Chretien, Campbell?? how far back should we go?

    I think there’s ample evidence that we need to change our system. It’s just not working. And we have Site C coming up? Fracking/LNG? A huge increase of tankers on our coast? Torchered Orcas!!

    What’s it going to take for us to admit that our political system isn’t working?

    Neither Clark nor Trudeau received a majority of votes from ‘ we the people ‘. WE DID NOT GIVE THEM A MANDATE TO APPROVE ANY PIPELINE OR DAM!! Their majority governments are false majorities. The ‘ majority ‘ of Canadians did not vote for Trudeau. And now, due to our flawed voting system, we have to put up with these dictators who only give lip service to fighting climate change. What a mess!!

    They have no shame. We cannot shame them into doing the right thing. That’s evident. So how many will now have to be arrested? How many Elders will it take?? how many marches and protest rallies will have to be held?? how many court cases?? how many SLAPP injunctions?

    People, it’s not working. It’s a broken system.

  6. Norma says:

    At least 5 votes (that I know of) connected to me and mine will not be voting Liberal again.

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