Protesters in the city of Burnaby, British Colombia, hold a banner reading Protesters outside the National Energy Board Hearings on 28 Jan 2016 deliver over 26,000 signatures from SumOfUs and calling on Prime Minister Trudeau to reject the Kinder Morgan tarsands pipeline project. Photo: Zack Embree

He reps for poisonous pipelines whilst claiming climate piety; Trudeau’s slick cynicism springs protest from London to British Colombia, reports John Clarke

Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, came to London on Wednesday (18 April) to visit the Queen and to hold discussions with British government leaders on furthering Western aggression against Syria and Russia. While he was in town, however, he ran into a Greenpeace protest at the Canadian High Commission.

Thirty environmentalists had erected a mock pipeline outside the building to register their condemnation of Trudeau’s commitment to the Trans Mountain pipeline to move dirty oil from Alberta to the Pacific coast.

Trudeau had to make his way past the protest as he left the High Commission. Ever the ‘progressive,’ he was on his way to a women’s rights event, even though he had come to the UK to further endless war and environmental degradation.

Enlightened Climate Vandalism

In an earlier piece I wrote for Counterfire, I tried to show how Justin Trudeau’s progressive credentials are crude forgeries.  In line with this general political quality, he is a particularly shameless faker on environmental issues. No crude and unattractive climate denial for him.

Just this week, he and French President, Emmanuel Macron, got together to pledge their shared commitment to ‘a fresh, fortified attack on climate change.’ He was accompanied by Canada’s Environment and Climate Change Minister, Catherine McKenna, who has said she has ‘no time’ for political rivals who don’t accept that climate change is real.

This all sounds very wonderful but it is all just crocodile climate tears. Trudeau and his government are more than ready to cook the planet for corporate profits.  He made this abundantly clear when he addressed a gathering of Texas oil barons last March. His enlightened side gave way to the role of salesperson for Canadian capitalism when he told the appreciative crowd that “No country would find 173 billion barrels of oil in the ground and just leave them there.”

It’s important to note that this is a reference to the notorious oilsands or tarsands deposits.  In 2013, prominent climate scientist, James Hanson, suggested that “Oil from tar sands makes sense only for a small number of people who are making a lot of money from that product,” but that the exploitation of this reserve would mean that it was ‘game over’ for the earth’s climate.

Conditions of multifaceted political crisis are now emerging in Canada as the Trudeau government makes clear its determination to ensure that the above mentioned Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, courtesy of the Texas based Kinder Morgan company, proceeds.

The federal system here means that the contending perspectives of the governments of Alberta and British Columbia are of considerable significance. With some irony, the social democratic New Democratic Party (NDP) holds power in both places and they are in acrimonious conflict. The BC government governs with the support of Green Party votes and it is opposed to the pipeline. The Alberta government, on the other hand, is a hard line supporter of the project. When BC called for a further review of oil spill risk, the Alberta Premier responded with a ban on the import of BC wines.

Growing and Determined Resistance

It would be a serious misunderstanding, however, to see all this as some three sided intergovernmental spat.

The really explosive element is to be found in the opposition to the pipeline among those who care about the planet and, especially, that which is coming from Indigenous Peoples, whose rights and traditional territories are being violated egregiously. Powerful protests and direct actions with mass arrests have taken place. In this situation, Kinder Morgan has suspended non essential work on the pipeline and said it will seek ‘clarity’ by May 31 on the viability of the project.

Trudeau has made it clear that the pipeline is a major priority for his government. He is offering a massive payout to Kinder Morgan and the passing of legislation to ensure the project is completed. “The Trans Mountain expansion is a vital strategic interest to Canada − it will be built,” he imperiously declared.

The crisis over the Kinder Morgan pipeline has, more than anything else, removed the progressive disguise from the Trudeau regime. In the service of oil profits, he is ready to pursue a course of reckless climate vandalism and any pretences to the contrary are a farce.

He is ready to face the prospects of serious instability within the Canadian federal system of government. He is prepared to enforce pipeline construction in the face of very serious social mobilisation against it. His Natural Resources Minister even speculated before a business audience on the possible use of ‘defence forces’ against pipeline opponents.

More than anything, he is quite ready to shed any pretence of ‘reconcilation’ with Indigenous populations and spit on the ‘free, prior and informed consent’ that is supposed to be guaranteed under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by building the pipeline over any and all objections.

Justin Trudeau, the Prince of Pipelines, is living proof that representatives of ‘enlightened capitalism’ will serve oil profits and fry the planet just as readily as their cruder counterparts. In the period ahead, however, Trudeau will face a strong, relentless and determined movement to defeat his plans.

John Clarke

John Clarke became an organiser with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty when it was formed in 1990 and has been involved in mobilising poor communities under attack ever since.