The Liberal Party in Canada takes a clear stance on pipelines. That stance is: They'll adopt whatever policy gets them the most support.
While the Conservatives and NDP are parties that are constantly trapped in a balancing act between ideology and popularity, the Liberals benefit from being a party completely devoid of principles all together, and as a result, always cling to the most popular, or the easiest to defend, political stance.
This can especially be seen at the provincial level, where different incarnations of the Liberal Party will always oppose nearly every idea put forward by the governing party, sometimes with contradictory logic.
For example, if the NDP are running a province, the Liberals will put on their “responsible economist” hat, and proclaim that we need to foster an environment to attract and grow business.
On the other hand, when the conservatives are in power, all of a sudden there are no problems that government can’t solve.
It’s commonly said that Liberals in Canada campaign to the left but govern from the right, but I don’t think that’s entirely accurate. Being the “middle party” has molded them into opportunists, where they aren’t driven by moral or political ideas, but by the lust for power.
That brings us to the Energy East fiasco, where Trudeau has humorously argued for criteria that this project must meet, but can ultimately ignore it, if it suits his fancy. The benefit of being in his position is that his party has set precedent for whatever decision he makes.
If he rejects the pipeline, then he can play the environmental card. Trudeau can boast that the environment is one of his party's top priorities, and how morally righteous they are for rejecting it.
But if it’s approved, then we get to watch the Liberals take up the same position the Conservatives were arguing from the beginning, which is that our economy relies partly on oil, whether we like it or not.
It would be fantastically ironic to see the Trudeau government push through a pipeline that Harper had championed for years. It would really stick in the craw of certain progressives, who voted for Trudeau hoping he would share their hatred of Alberta oil.
Under most circumstances, my bets would be on the Liberals to ensure the pipeline would never get built, but something is different now. Alberta has become a struggling province, and if there’s anything Liberals love, it’s siding with “the victim." Now that Alberta has begun to falter, they suddenly become more sympathetic.
It’s the old leftist victim pyramid emerging once again, but this time, it may work to Alberta’s advantage.
Whatever decision Gerald Butts -- er, I mean Justin Trudeau -- makes in the end, it will be whichever has the best political upside. Nothing more. That’s because the pipeline itself isn’t the Liberals’ main focus. What’s important are the repercussions. Will denying its construction lead to Western unrest, eerily reminiscent of his father’s time in power? Or will approval lead to a collapse of their progressive credentials?
One thing is for certain: the needs of Albertans have never really mattered to the Liberals, and this long, drawn out decision on Energy East is a perfect example of that.