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The Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion conflict reveals a much larger crisis than the “constitutional” or “investor confidence” crises constructed by the projects’ proponents. The conflict reveals a profound failure of leadership from both levels of government, but most of all, from the prime minister, in response to the true crises facing this country.

The April 15 statement of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirms that he has failed to grasp both the nature of Indigenous movements in this country today as well as the depth of the climate change crisis.

When Trudeau and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley speak of the “national interest” they do not speak about reducing greenhouse gas emissions or decolonization. They do not speak of climate change’s existential threats to communities across the country or the incalculable costs of climate change for future generations. Decolonization is not mentioned as a process that is central to Canadians’ national interest.

Our political leaders appear to be incapable of envisaging alternatives to the current path of dependence on carbon extraction and exports for revenue and employment. In lieu of seeking national cooperation on a plan to help Alberta phase out the oilsands while sustaining the income security and the social services its citizens need, the federal government chooses to entrench the economic and environmental status quo.

The prime minister speaks of oil industry jobs and “national prospects” as if there is no way to provide employment and income security apart from subsidizing the oil industry, putting ecosystems at ever greater risk, provoking deeper conflict with First Nations, and increasing national greenhouse gas emissions. Indigenous leaders, including Grand Chief Stewart Philip and Chief Bob Chamberlin from the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, Protesters gather on April 7, 2018 near an exclusion zone on the site of a proposed terminal in Burnaby, B.C., for Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain expansion. Photo by Dylan S. Waisman False framing of alternatives

We are being presented with a false framing of the possible alternatives. We are being told that “tough decisions have to be made that will not please everyone,” but never in the context of the subordination of private economic interest to he public good—only in the context of the subordination of environmental and democratic objectives to the interests of private investors.

Tough decisions do have to be made to build an ecologically sustainable economy that meets social needs. Our governments have so far proven themselves unwilling to take such decisions.

Instead, the risks of increased carbon extraction and exports are being foisted on local environments, Indigenous communities, citizens of B.C. whose livelihoods could be decimated by oil spills, and other species who are already struggling to reproduce in the ocean and other ecosystems in the path of the pipeline.

The risks are displaced and socialized, while profits are protected.

Growing greenhouse gas emissions from Alberta displace the obligations for emission reductions to other provinces and territories and make it more improbable that Canada will meet even the weak reduction target agreed to at Paris in 2015. Failure to radically reduce greenhouse gas emissions now displaces the costs of climate change to future generations. Alberta Premier Rachel Notley speaks to reporters in Ottawa on April 15, 2018. File photo by Alex Tétreault The rhetoric of “reconciliation” permits Canadian governments to ignore the more radical process of decolonization. The term is employed in the sense of reconciling Indigenous peoples to ongoing colonialism . Prime Minister Trudeau and Premier Notley have referred to the secret, one-on-one agreements made between Kinder Morgan and Indigenous bands located along the route of the pipeline, and to the consultations undertaken by the federal government with First Nations prior to […]

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