Ah, the Canadian way. Be polite, be good hosts, and everyone will like us. We teach our children those things. Well, probably some of that; we teach them to be polite but that you can’t please everyone, and that you can’t let bullies take your lunch money. Maybe you don’t challenge the bully to a fight, there’s principle and then there’s stupid, but the lesson should be to find solutions, not acceptance.
It appears maybe that part of Canada’s problem is that it has no idea who the bullies are. Is it the obnoxious guy, yelling at you because he thinks you’re weak and wants to negotiate better trade deals, or are the bullies the ones who, with a handful of unelected and foreign-financed missionaries, have taken charge of Canada’s fate?
Trump of course made all the headlines with his comments at the G7 meetings. Subsequently, his pack of howling hounds was sent out into the media to deliver senseless diatribes in order to make the US look strong before an upcoming meeting with an equally chest-puffing little dictator. A lot of people were agitated by all the nasty comments, and it’s easy to see why because one doesn’t hear such vicious talk in foreign affairs. But there’s nothing new here, and Trump laid out the way he works decades ago in his book The Art of the Deal. No matter what bizarre antics he gets up to, from hosting dumb reality TV shows to making outrageous statements about women, when it comes down to governing, Trump is singular and consistent and painfully obvious. Trump enters everything as a negotiation, opens the negotiation by unsettling his opponents, attacks relentlessly, and inevitably comes away from the table in a better position than he started. That is what he does, each and every time. Trudeau et al should know this by now (and I’m sure they do, which is why Justin has been so quiet). At the risk of sounding like a Trump apologist, would you rather have to deal with Putin? I’m sure there are a good 2 or 3 of you out there who would, but for the rest of humanity that piece of work combines the worst of Trump with a ruthless deviousness and fundamental dishonesty that is quite profound.
But enough about those clowns, because neither Trump nor Putin are to blame for Canada’s woes. And if we are being “pushed around” it is not by Trump. Trump simply uses all the tools in his tool kit to advance the US position, whereas Canada seems ashamed of its tool kit and has hidden it because someone said it contained dangerously pointy objects.
We need to understand this. Canada has a basket of things the world wants, and as an exporting nation we are dependent on trade. If someone doesn’t like the terms of the trade, you’re forced to renegotiate. If they are your biggest customer, the negotiations are quite different than if they are your smallest customer. “Bullies” do not enter this equation. Goofballs might, or obnoxious negotiators, but it’s not a bullying situation. It wasn’t bullying for the US a few years ago, when China had no debt and a pile of money, and the US was borrowing money hand over fist – China had the upper hand. It was no different for decades with the US and OPEC – OPEC had the upper hand. The US may have accused them of being bullies then, but that doesn’t mean it was true.
Canada needs to have a good hard look at its tool kit, and use what it has to its best advantage. For crying out loud, even North Korea does a better job than Canada at that, and they have almost nothing in their kit but those creepy brown uniforms with weird hats and nuclear weapons and bravado. We sit on the world’s largest natural resource pantry, which the world desperately needs, and…let’s talk about bullies again for a second.
I’ve not become obsessed with the Guardian newspaper, but it is a good spot to understand what the climate industry is all about because the site gives full airing to the staunchest fossil fuel opponents. An interesting tidbit appeared a few weeks ago in a column by one of the American climate change superstars, founder of one of the biggest US activist environmental websites (350.org) who said: “I was in Vancouver two weeks ago to help activists raise money for lawyers…” The money being raised was to fight the Trudeau government’s pipeline plans.
These activists now effectively control the construction site. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg, which ironically leads us right back to Trump and “bullying.” Activists are controlling Canada’s ability to export our natural resources, which is forcing us to remain reliant on a single market, the US, and we therefore have no leverage against Mr. Trump when he’s yelling at us across the table. Whose fault is it that we are in a tough spot?
This phenomenon is not limited to petroleum, but it is most obvious with respect to oil and natural gas exports. Also most obvious is the elephant in the room, the oil sands, which are the most controversial. As always, the context of pipeline blocking needs to be addressed, because some people believe that the oil sands must be stopped to prevent climate change, which is at the heart of Bill McKibben’s views (as quoted above). The climate industry has been so successful at the negative ads that the phrase “tar sands” is now globally synonymous with environmental destruction. Canada has stood by and let this happen, despite the fact that the oil sands are no worse than many of the world’s oil deposits; it’s just that they’re larger. But consider the context of what “larger” means with respect to development that would significantly change Canada’s economic fortunes and options.
Two pipelines were killed off in the past number of years, Energy East and Northern Gateway. Energy East would have carried 1.1 million barrels per day, Northern Gateway 525,000 b/d for a combined total of 1.625 million b/d. If they both carried diluted bitumen, which is about 1/3 diluent, the amount of oil sands oil that would have been moved on both would have been about 1.1 million b/d. This would be just over 1 percent of global oil consumption. Over the next 20 years, that volume would have drained about 8 billion barrels from the oil sands region, or less than 5 percent of oil sands reserves, or 0.47 percent of total oil sands volumes (90 percent of which are unrecoverable anyway). Activists use the full 1.8 trillion barrel reserve base in their “tar sands carbon bomb” campaigns, which is as disingenuous as a tactic can possibly be, because no one on earth thinks it possible to access more than ten percent of that volume.
By killing off these pipelines, and delaying vital natural gas export facilities, environmentalists have achieved nothing with respect to global warming, because global oil consumption continues to grow. Neither have they achieved anything with respect to protecting the environment, globally speaking anyway, because those 100 million b/d of oil consumed every day are moved regardless of where they come from. Whatever inherent “pipeline risk” that exists simply by moving oil has just moved to another jurisdiction, and odds are that it will be a lesser jurisdiction, with regards to environmental protection anyway.
All that has been done by blocking all these pipelines and infrastructure is to alleviate the very very small risk that a new pipeline system would suffer a major spill (and remember that tens of millions of barrels move in pipelines without incident, every day), and to not just cost Canada an absolute fortune in discounted oil (and natural gas) sales, but also to hand Trump a hammer with which he will gladly pound on our fingers.
We could devise a strategy that works for Canada, allows proper utilization of all the natural resources tools in our tool kit, and pays the bills for a greener future. But we can’t do that if we don’t maximize what we have, on our own terms.
Canada won’t be pushed around? Now that’s almost funny.