Civil Society

David Suzuki with Farley Mowat

If David Suzuki’s ‘campaign of calumny’ is such a big deal, the petrostate must be spooked

The backlash surrounding Dr. David Suzuki receiving an honorary doctorate from the University of Alberta is the best evidence yet that the petrostate stranglehold in Alberta is cracking. Albertan elites are apoplectic, accusing Suzuki of somehow betraying Alberta by criticizing its energy policies and demanding that the university drop Suzuki or face a donor boycott.

Prominent Albertan politicians and leaders from the business, academic, and legal sectors indict Suzuki, claiming he has betrayed Alberta, thumbed his nose at ordinary Albertans, and engaged in a campaign of calumny” for critiquing the environmental and human-rights impacts of the oilsands. One hyperbolic critic, unintentionally highlighting the much-ado-about-nothing nature of the backlash, claimed this was “the worst crisis we’ve faced in more than three decades.”

Expect more knee-jerk reactions, and flailing, misguided threats from Albertan elites as they attempt to maintain the Petro State, says @willhorter

This is not to say that Dr. Suzuki should be above criticism. In a democracy, no one should be. I have criticized him for his sometimes wildly inconsistent political positions and for the huge volume of emails about lifestyle choices and non-toxic beauty products I continue to get from his eponymous foundation. What a wasteful use of communication from the “most trusted person in Canada.”

Whatever you may think of him, Dr. Suzuki is revered by Canadians including many Albertans. For millions, he has been an inspiration. In fact, since 2006, Dr. Suzuki has scored at or near the top of the Reader’s Digest Most Trusted Canadian poll. That by itself should be enough to justify an honorary degree.

So, I have some questions. What’s really behind all the inflamed rhetoric? Who’s fuelling the backlash? After all, Dr. Suzuki received an honorary degree from the University of Calgary in 1986 without all the kerfuffle, so something clearly isn’t adding up here.

Has Dr. Suzuki changed in the last 30 years, or has Alberta?

What’s clear is that many in Alberta have had their feelings hurt. They feel that they are being picked on, and have chosen Dr. Suzuki as the poster child of their pain. But weren’t Albertans also feeling attacked in 1986 when the host of The Nature of Things got his last honorary degree from an Albertan university? Wasn’t the mid-1980s the “West Wants In” era that incubated the Reform Party in response to Trudeau-the-dad’s infamous National Energy Plan?

So if Alberta being picked on doesn’t fully explain the backlash, what does?

Perhaps the explanation is the collapsing Alberta petrostate. Andrew Nikiforuk and Kevin Taft have written extensively about the hegemonic role Big Oil has played in Alberta’s politics and policies.

The Suzuki backlash is what happens when Big Oil begins to lose its supremacy. It’s a classic tactic that is employed when the empire is under threat: anyone not 100 per cent with the program is the enemy. The recent Trumpification of the United States could be seen as backlash against Obama’s America. The honorary degree kerfuffle is just further evidence of an oilsands-sized insecurity festering in the Albertan elite.

Suzuki’s attackers are not what you would traditionally think of as extremists. They are a who’s-who of Alberta’s academic, political, business, and legal elite. They include opposition leader Jason Kenney; Fraser Forbes, a professor and engineering dean at the University of Alberta; businessman Dennis Erker; and lawyer Robert Iverach. You can almost feel the spit flying out of their mouths they are so outraged. “How dare he?” is the sentiment underlying their indignation.

Apparently, elites in Alberta expect everyone to toe the line, shut up, and support Big Oil and its dominance over Albertan policy. Critics, if they dare open their mouths, should expect to be denounced, and their accomplishments, however noteworthy, ridiculed.

Or, perhaps we should question whether the fact that Dr. Suzuki is Japanese Canadian has anything to do with the over-the-top vehemence of their attacks? It’s worth noting that all Suzuki’s main attackers are white men.

What happened to that fundamental tenet of democracy: reasonable minds can differ? Isn’t that the “golden rule” of democracy — that while we may disagree about policies, we are all still Canadians?

Are Alberta elites anti-democratic? Do they not value free speech? It seems that voices that deviate from the elite’s orthodoxy are regularly attacked, belittled and threatened. It seems that dissent from the ruling canon of Big Oil means you are tantamount to a traitor, worthy of scorn, or perhaps worse.

Oil’s ‘Deep State’

Kevin Taft, former leader of the Alberta Liberal Party and author of the recent book Oil’s Deep State has warned about how democratic institutions in Canada, particularly Alberta, have fallen under the poisonous sway of Big Oil. The subtitle of his book speaks volumes: How the petroleum industry undermines democracy and stops action on global warming – in Alberta, and in Ottawa. Taft argues that Big Oil has captured and harnessed the institutions of democracy in Alberta — and Canada — for its own uses.

Proof of Big Oil’s attempt to dominate is all around us. The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) recently published a document that lays out their plan to secure “oversight” (their word) of political, civil service, and regulatory institutions in both the Alberta and federal governments.

Jason Kenney, United Conservative leader and front-running candidate to win Alberta’s election next year, inadvertently exposed his belief that the Deep State should extend directly to the Premier’s office. As a matter “economic survival” he has promised, “If elected premier, … he will set up a ‘fully staffed rapid response war room’ and strip protections from ‘bogus charities’ like the David Suzuki Foundation.” As if current Alberta Premier Rachel Notley hasn’t been forceful enough defending Alberta’s Oil Industry or promoting Kinder Morgan.

Clearly, some of Alberta’s elite feels that the University of Alberta somehow belongs to the oil industry. Suzuki’s accusers must think that Notley’s government, Kenney’s opposition, the civil service, universities, and regulators all need to be in lockstep with the oil industry.

Suzuki’s enemies must believe that CAPP’s plan for a whole-of-government lockdown of Alberta’s regulatory and political institutions includes universities and other places of higher learning. As one attacker said, “Hell will freeze over before any oilman makes a personal donation to the U of A after this fiasco.” The threat to withhold millions in donations to an institution of higher learning is just more evidence that Big Oil and their sycophants are willing to sacrifice the broader public interest of Canada to the interests their pet industry.

Only in Alberta?

Contrast the Albertan firestorm over Suzuki with the supposedly rough and tumble politics of its far western neighbour. Imagine, if Daniel Pauly, the world-renowned marine biologist known for criticizing commercial fishing or Alexandra Morton, the citizen scientist known for her opposition to salmon farms were up for honorary degrees from University of British Columbia (UBC). Picture Maureen Bader, former B.C. director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and critic of B.C.’s film tax credit regime, getting honoured. Would elites in the B.C. fishing, salmon farming or film industry be willing, or able, to try to extort UBC to withdraw the degree?

It’s absurd even to contemplate, although these industries generate billions for the B.C. economy. The key difference? None of these industries exerts inappropriate dominance over our law and policy. None is hegemonic or controls a Deep State in British Columbia.

The good news is that the University of Alberta withstood the threats and decided to go ahead and honour Dr. Suzuki. This is evidence that not all institutions in Alberta will kowtow to Big Oil (for now). It proves that at least someone in authority in Alberta, University of Alberta’s President, Dr. David Turpin, realizes that what’s good for Big Oil isn’t necessarily good for Alberta, Canada, or the planet. In fact, they are often in direct conflict.

The Alberta backlash against Suzuki is likely only the beginning. Big Oil and Alberta’s elites should get used to losing. Their empire is in decline. The hard truth — which few in Alberta, Bay Street or Ottawa want to acknowledge — is that in coming decades the oil industry must be phased out in Canada and around the world. Doing so is our only chance to avoid catastrophic global warming.

So, expect more knee-jerk reactions, and flailing, misguided threats from Albertan elites as they attempt to maintain the petrostate. It’s standard operating procedure from those that have benefited from a dying empire.

Meanwhile, I’m sure glad I live in British Columbia — as, I’m sure, is Dr. Suzuki.

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Notley and Trudeau

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

When they walked in front of the cameras with smiles that threatened to crack their faces, my heart fluttered.

As they began talking about a new era of cooperation in British Columbia and their agreement to “use all available tools to stop Kinder Morgan,” Ban Big Money and bring in electoral reform, I almost began to tear up.

The short press conference Andrew Weaver and John Horgan held to announce the details of their historic agreement could change the trajectory of British Columbia history, if not the country, and the world.

But then I remembered the last time I had felt this way.

My mind jumped back to November 13, 2015, the day Trudeau — our newly elected Prime Minister — released his ministerial mandate letters, making public for the first time in Canadian history each minister’s marching orders for the government’s four year term: use fact-based decision making and be transparent.

Among his many promises, most critical to me and many of us in B.C. was this one: “No relationship is more important to me and to Canada than the one with Indigenous peoples. It is time for a renewed, nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous peoples, based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership.”

After 10 years of Harper’s autocratic anti-democratic rule by fiat, the change in tone and form was palpable; it seemed too good to be true — and it was.

The broken promises and betrayals over the last 18 months have confirmed for me that democracy requires eternal vigilance, that politicians are followers not leaders, and that political promises are too easily broken.

All this flashed through my mind as I spent the rest of the day working with colleagues at West Coast Environmental Law to put together a briefing note on the various tools the soon-to-be B.C. government can use to stop Kinder Morgan. Then I went home and turned on CBC’s The National and I started fuming.

The first sound bite was Justin Trudeau in Rome regurgitating his hackneyed talking point of “facts and evidence” This time, he was saying the facts and evidence on Kinder Morgan hadn’t changed despite the change in government, signalling his continued support and intention to push through the pipeline over any British Columbia objections.

Frankly, I almost retched at Trudeau’s hypocrisy. It’s hard to stomach his epic flip-flop on the inadequacy of the NEB’s Kinder Morgan review. The only explanation for his transformation from a hard critic to a cheerleader is political opportunism. There is no other way to reconcile candidate Trudeau’s infamous August 2015 videotaped exchange with my colleague Kai Nagata with his current pipeline stance. The video made clear the future Prime Minister promised the National Energy Board’s (NEB) review of Kinder Morgan would be redone.

The betrayal gets worse. In a detailed follow up letter to Dogwood dated two weeks before Trudeau won a majority government – Liberal Party president Anna Gainey wrote about Kinder Morgan’s project:

“Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party of Canada have serious concerns with the process surrounding the approval of this pipeline. We cannot support the pipeline in its current form because the Conservatives have not ensured environmental, community or stakeholder consent.”

And here comes the kicker:

“We agree with what you, and Canadians across the country, have been saying for a long time: Canada’s environmental assessment process is broken.”

Yet, somehow the “broken”, unsupportable process miraculously repaired itself as Trudeau mounted the steps at 24 Sussex Drive.

The National also had Jim Carr, the Minister of Natural Resources, defending the Kinder Morgan review as the “the most exhaustive in the history of pipelines in Canada.” Candidate Trudeau’s own words and his party’s letter mock Minister Carr’s claim.

In reality, the NEB’s review of Kinder Morgan was about as fair and rigorous as a Trump national security vetting, without the tweets. I guess there is something about Ottawa that makes politicians like Harper and Trudeau think they can transform black into white just because they say so.

As for Trudeau’s promised “redo”? Although deeply flawed itself, Jim Carr’s slap dash “supplemental ministerial review” identified many important issues overlooked in the NEB process. The panel acknowledged they “hadn’t the time, technical expertise or the resources to fill those gaps.” Concluding, “[o]ur role was not to propose solutions, but to identify important questions that, in the circumstances, remain unanswered (emphasis added).”

Despite this, Trudeau went ahead and approved Kinder Morgan without addressing any of the six unanswered questions raised by the panel.

The notorious Frank Underwood from House of Cards would be proud of Justin and Jim, but British Columbians are pissed.

Many Liberal MPs from B.C. tried to warn the PMO about the inevitable backlash, but they have their own agenda and are ignorant of how B.C. ticks. Just like Harper’s fatal mistake of pushing Enbridge, the PMO seems to be banking on the issue dying before 2019. The Green-NDP alliance makes that unlikely.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley’s recent pro-Kinder Morgan proclamations were equally ham fisted. “Mark my words,” she said, “that pipeline will be built, the decisions have been made and it is the best interest of Albertans, Canadians and, in particular, British Columbians.”

Nice try Ms. Notley, but where do you get off thinking you can speak for the best interests of British Columbians? I know you’re working hard to drag your province’s laissez faire energy policies into the twenty-first century, but you’re not going to succeed by linking your political survival to something you have no influence over. How exactly are you going to force the B.C. government to approve the 60+ provincial permits Kinder Morgan still needs for construction? Sorry, but you have no power here.

Let’s get real. British Columbians are tired of eastern politicians and federally appointed bodies trying to to force unwanted projects through our unwilling province. And we won’t sit idly by while Big Oil, Notley, pro-oil publications and, of course, Trudeau’s federal Liberals double down, falsely claiming Kinder Morgan is in the “national interest.”

Expect a chorus of pundits and politicos, mostly located east of the Rockies, claiming B.C. has no power to stop it. But don’t believe them. In fact, remind them they said the same thing about Enbridge’s Northern Gateway.

When are the arrogant elites in Ottawa going to stop underestimating the power of the No Tanker/anti-Kinder Morgan movement?

Stephen Harper underestimated British Columbians and it cost him 19 of 21 tidewater ridings and almost 150,000 votes in B.C. And now it has cost Christy Clark 24 of 34 tidewater ridings and ultimately a majority government.

Trudeau has grossly underestimated the depth of the Kinder Morgan opposition and the resolve of British Columbians. So mark MY words — Ottawa’s broken promises on electoral reform and a Kinder Morgan redo could prevent him from retaining his majority in 2019. Incumbent federal Liberal MP’s should have a few sleepless nights after looking at this map:

And while politicians are meeting with lobbyists and hosting cash-for-access dinners, Dogwood staff, volunteers, allies, partner groups and First Nations are talking to everyday British Columbians and building our army of resistance ready to fight political interests trying to push our country backward instead of forward.

When Green Party leader Andrew Weaver said “If Rachel Notley thinks there’s nothing B.C. can do to stop Kinder Morgan, I suggest she look at section 35 of the Constitution,” he was absolutely right. And he wasn’t just flipping the bird to Big Oil and Alberta’s arrogant view that what’s good for them is good for all Canadians. He was showing British Columbians that we finally have a government willing to fight for us and not for the interests of Big Money.

Like most people, I too carry the scars of disappointment from a long list of broken political promises. My flashbacks of Trudeau’s betrayals while watching CBC’s Kinder Morgan coverage are almost painful.

Hopefully, this time is different. The ultra thin margin between the parties means that the soon-to-be government can’t risk breaking its promises. One MLA abstaining, one MLA crossing the aisle or going rogue could topple the government or defeat an important bill. This gives us enormous leverage and opens new doors for holding a government to its promises.

It won’t be easy, we’ll face unexpected obstacles, but if we commit to connecting people together, and creating a framework for them to collectively exert power, we can start creating the province we dream about for our kids.

This is the moment we have been preparing for. It’s our time.

We are big, we are strong, we are resilient, we are organized, and every day we grow more powerful.

If Ottawa, Texas or Alberta want to go toe-to-toe once again, I’m raring to go.

How about you?

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times Read More »

Thank you. Now, let’s get to work.

It looks like British Columbians may finally get a government ready to fight for what’s right in B.C.

Today, Christy Clark announced her intention to bring back the B.C. legislature as soon as possible in June, face a confidence vote and hand over power to the BC NDP, backed by the BC Greens.

Clark said she would not ask the Lieutenant-Governor for another election, and would be honoured to serve British Columbians as the Leader of the Opposition.

It’s a historic day in B.C.

Coincidentally, today is also the 18th anniversary of me joining Dogwood as its first-ever staff member. All day, the faces of thousands of people I’ve met doing this work have been flashing through my mind like a movie.

Thank you, for everything you’ve done to get us to this moment.

Minutes after Clark spoke, NDP leader John Horgan and Green Leader Andrew Weaver held a ceremony at the B.C. legislature.

Their governing agreement, now signed by a majority of MLAs, declares they will use all legal and political tools available to stop Kinder Morgan’s crude pipeline and oil tanker proposal — and ban corrupting Big Money from politics once and for all.

It also lays the groundwork for B.C. to transition to a more just, sustainable 21st-century economy, move forward with Indigenous reconciliation — and electoral reform. And given Andrew Weaver’s words today about reestablishing B.C. as a climate leader, I can’t see the U.S. thermal coal industry getting a free ride through our province for much longer.

Together we’ve been working toward this opportunity for years. There are many struggles still ahead. But for the first time in a long time, I feel like we have a chance to start building the province most of us want to live in — instead of just fighting the people trying to drag us backwards.

I started working at Dogwood in 1999, helping First Nations and local communities fend off multinational lumber companies that were looting their territories and pillaging peoples’ shared watersheds.

Our mission was to help people organize at a local level, so they could defend their home — while carving out space for the kind of community they wanted to raise their kids and grandkids in.

That work was basically hijacked when a company called Enbridge showed up with plans for a massive oil sands pipeline across Northern B.C., backed by Big Oil, their cheerleaders in Ottawa and the Government of China. They wanted to send supertankers brimming with diluted bitumen through the Great Bear Rainforest. It was a fight we simply couldn’t afford to lose.

After years of working behind the scenes with First Nations, environmental heroes and some of the smartest lawyers I’ve ever had the privilege to meet, in 2007 we dropped everything to launch the No Tankers campaign.

What began with a few people around kitchen tables soon morphed into showdowns in corporate boardrooms, millions of No Tanker loonie decals, thousands marching in the streets, and debates in Parliament.

While we were still fighting Enbridge in the North, Kinder Morgan showed up from Texas with its proposal for an even bigger oil tanker project in the South, opening up a two-front battle.

There were many, many nights over the course of the last 15 years where I was scared we would be overrun.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, backed by the RCMP, the spy agencies and the CRA, launched a relentless campaign on behalf of Big Oil to grind us down and pave the way for diluted bitumen exports. It was only thanks to you that Dogwood survived.

But while we tangled with Harper, the world changed. Oil prices crashed, perhaps permanently, as demand began to plateau and renewable energy started coming online. World leaders signed the Paris Agreement. And First Nations won victory after victory in the courts, greatly enhancing their power and authority as decision-makers over the shared lands and waters we call home.

All the while, Dogwood was busy building grassroots organizing muscle in key places around the province, ensuring local people can maximize their clout at key moments — including elections.

Through the 2014 municipal elections, 2015 federal campaign and 2017 provincial election, Dogwood showed over and over that local people, working outside the party system, can help crank up voter turnout — and elect leaders who share our values and are ready to fight for our home.

But that success didn’t happen overnight.

We started investing in permanent, on-the-ground organizing work in places like Saanich North back in 2008, Courtenay-Comox in 2012 and North Vancouver-Lonsdale in 2014. Many other groups, parties and individuals contributed to the outcome of the most recent B.C. election, but I will always be proud of the Dogwood organizers who worked year in, year out to create the conditions for change.

Now’s our chance to seize the moment. With a new government we have the opportunity to lock in structural reforms that remove power from international corporations, lobbyists and party operatives — and put it back in the hands of First Nations and everyday British Columbians where it belongs.

There will be lots of sabre-rattling in the days to come from the oil industry, the Alberta government, pro-oil publications and of course Justin Trudeau’s federal Liberal administration, which is sticking to its guns on Kinder Morgan. But B.C. has faced worse before. If we stick together and focus on helping local people build grassroots power, I know we can win. Thanks for being part of it.

It’s been a wild ride. I look forward to what comes next.

Thank you. Now, let’s get to work. Read More »

Justin Trudeau

Justin Trudeau dangerously underestimates British Columbians

Surprises are becoming the norm in recent elections. Last year Rachel Notley swept the NDP to an unprecedented majority in Alberta, then Justin Trudeau vaulted from third place to win a majority government in Ottawa. This year UK voters stunned pundits by voting to leave the EU, then Donald Trump defied the polls to win in the United States.

Is there a common thread in these upset victories (or losses, depending who you were rooting for)?

Columnists and historians will write volumes on why voters in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania abandoned the Democratic Party and voted for Trump, but I think it’s pretty simple. People rebel when they feel ignored or taken for granted. Clinton lost her chance to form government because angry voters in the so-called flyover states, tired of being neglected by business-as-usual politics in the capital, abandoned her party to send a message: screw you.

Trudeau seemed to be tuned into the Canadian version of this alienation during the federal election, and his promises tapped into the zeitgeist. His first few months in power were impressive, but recently he has acted like just another Ottawa politician – especially when it comes to the interests of big banks and Big Oil.

When Trudeau swept to power many First Nation leaders were euphoric, singing the boyish Prime Minister’s praises. A month after being sworn in, Trudeau was honoured at the annual meeting of the Assembly of First Nations with a traditional blanket ceremony in front of hundreds of Aboriginal leaders. Now, less than a year later, Trudeau is being barred from Tla-o-qui-aht territory and Indigenous leaders like Caleb Behn, Chief Stewart Phillip, and Roland Willson have publicly said they feel betrayed.  

First it was the approval of Site C dam permits, then a massive Malaysian gas plant in the heart of the rich Skeena salmon estuary, then the mishandling of what should have been a minor tug accident in Heiltsuk territory – which turned into a nightmare after 100,000 litres of fuel and oil escaped, poisoning a vital food harvesting area.

Now Robert Davidson, the Haida artist whose Raven design Trudeau lifted for his shoulder tattoo, has said publicly how disappointed he is in the Prime Minister. And the whiplash felt by First Nations leaders could soon spill over to B.C. voters, whose support for political parties is notoriously fickle.

Like folks in flyover America, British Columbians and First Nations are fed up with federal politicians who jet in for a few hours, make promises to get elected and then disappear when the going gets tough. The Heiltsuk, grieving the loss of their fishing grounds, have publicly challenged Trudeau to fly to Bella Bella and fulfill his promise of an oil tanker ban, “in the spirit of reconciliation”. Not only has the PM not responded, but his government is backtracking on other election promises.

If Trudeau pushes through a Kinder Morgan approval this fall, voters in B.C. will feel ignored, lied to and taken for granted; and like voters in flyover America the consequences could be far-reaching. For more than a decade, hundreds of thousands of British Columbians have been using every available tool to signal to Ottawa that we don’t want an expansion of oil tankers in our fragile waters. And for more than a decade, Prime Ministers in Ottawa have patted us on the head, muttered a few platitudes and then put their finger on the scale to push unwanted projects like Enbridge and Kinder Morgan on our unwilling province. We are fed up.

A lot of people thought our new telegenic Prime Minister would follow through on his promises: kill Enbridge, legislate an oil tanker ban on the North Coast, replace the first-past-the-post system, restore integrity to the NEB process and subject Kinder Morgan to a rigorous review.  

More than a year later, rumours abound that each promise will be abandoned or significantly watered down. So how badly has this backtracking tarnished Trudeau’s image in B.C.?

A new province-wide online poll by Insights West shows strong opposition to increased oil tanker traffic on British Columbia’s south coast, especially among voters who supported Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party in the 2015 federal election.

The poll, commissioned by Dogwood, found two-in-five voters in Metro Vancouver (where the majority of Liberal seats in B.C. are located), said they would be less likely to vote Liberal next election if the federal government approves Kinder Morgan’s oil tanker and pipeline project. Fully 31 per cent of Liberal voters say they would be less likely to support Trudeau’s party if the project goes ahead. Overall, two out of three British Columbians remain opposed to oil tanker expansion and 64 per cent of respondents who voted Liberal in 2015 also oppose.

Other key findings should send a chill up Trudeau’s spine if he intends, as rumoured, to approve the controversial proposal:

  • 62 per cent of British Columbians polled agree a Kinder Morgan approval would contradict Prime Minister Trudeau’s promises on climate leadership and a “new relationship” with First Nations. Among Liberal voters in B.C., 58 per cent agree with this assessment.
  • 74 per cent of British Columbians (and 78 per cent of Liberal voters) say they are less likely to support oil tanker expansion when considering the impacts on the South Coast’s 80 resident orca whales.
  • A whopping four in five young voters under 35 in B.C. oppose oil tanker expansion. (Trudeau gave himself the position of Minister for Youth.)

Unlike Hillary Clinton, Prime Minister Trudeau still has a shot to get himself straightened out. To do that, he should be very careful not to emulate Stephen Harper’s hamfisted efforts to shove oil pipelines down British Columbia’s throat.

Back in 2014 when Harper’s cabinet approved Enbridge, we heard the same rationale from the governing party we are hearing now on Kinder Morgan: Enbridge was just another “issue”, and there would be three years for Harper to rebuild trust. A good theory, but in practice Conservative candidates lost almost 150,000 votes in British Columbia (they lost 24 percent of their voters in ridings with Dogwood organizing teams worked in while only losing an average of 1.7 per cent elsewhere in Canada).

What Trudeau and his advisors seem to be missing out West is that the central question for British Columbians remains (as it was for Albertans after Pierre Trudeau tried implementing the infamous National Energy Plan in the ‘80s and ’90s): Who gets to decide what’s in our best interest — Ottawa or the people who live here?

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. Trudeau’s father also become intoxicated with his own popularity, blundering into a massive overreach that alienated Prairie voters for a generation. Pierre Elliott Trudeau badly miscalculated the consequences of forcing his controversial National Energy Program on an unwilling Alberta. Ironically, in trying to reboot the historically toxic Trudeau brand in Alberta, Justin Trudeau is poised to mirror his father’s mistake, by forcing a controversial oil tanker-pipeline proposal on unwilling British Columbians.

British Columbia may not be literally a “flyover” province, but many residents still feel ignored as the federal government remains fixated on placating Alberta, Quebec and the population centres in Ontario. While most British Columbians are pleased with the post-Harper tone in Ottawa, we are feeling increasingly apart from our capital, and resentful of decisions being imposed on us from afar. The slapdash Kinder Morgan review process, which failed to meet any objective standard of rigour, didn’t help.

Being lied to and taken for granted hurts, doubly so when your expectations have been raised. The rebellion of the ignored masses in flyover America surprised us all, but now is the time for our leaders to learn from the glaring mistakes that have now been made so clear. If Trudeau doesn’t smarten up and reject Kinder Morgan, or at the very least send it back for a proper review like he promised, his supporters will turn on him.

If that happens, Trudeau could become the thing all Prime Ministers fear the most: a one-term wonder.

Justin Trudeau dangerously underestimates British Columbians Read More »