EDITORIAL: Is Horgan’s pipeline stance perfect politics?

It would be, in a majority government

The more and more ballistic the hyperbole from Alberta and other Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion supporters gets, the calmer and more reasoned B.C. Premier John Horgan seems.

The man is either wily like a coyote or as oblivious as a fencepost.

That’s because – depending on your point of view – the B.C. government’s steadfast opposition to the pipeline is either a simple assertion of the province’s right to protect its environment or it’s a suicidal attempt to destroy the provincial economy and rip the nation asunder!

Related: B.C. premier denies crisis, says one investment doesn’t make an economy

The spat between John Horgan’s NDP government and the NDP government of Alberta Premier Rachel Notley is approaching hysterical levels – on the east side of the Canadian Rockies and the right side of the B.C. Legislature. Horgan has taken to responding to the hysteria with calm.

Horgan implied on Monday that the Notley government and B.C. Opposition Liberals are overstating the effect of his government’s stance when he said, “One investment project does not an economy make.”

It’s either a deliberate attempt to be seen as the firm but reasonable statesman or it simply is his personality. But it could also be a deliberate attempt to manage the dispute in a way that makes his government come out smelling like roses. Given the B.C. NDP’s traditional power base (labour, soft environmentalists and other ideological leftists), opposition to the expansion of the Kinder Morgan Pipeline can only be a good thing for them politically. It’s less clear what the “traditional NDP power base” in Alberta is. But we digress.

Horgan has said they’re leaving it up to the courts to rule whether B.C. has the power to stop the pipeline expansion. That’s a tactic that can only leave him smelling like roses with his supporters. The court challenge could likely be window dressing. The province launched it knowing it couldn’t win but then it could say, “Look, we did everything we could, but the courts told us we don’t have the authority to do this” and then wash their hands of the pipeline proceeding, securing the fabric of the nation and staving off the destruction of the provincial economy.

Because that’s the credo of B.C.’s opponents right now. Horgan is threatening national unity, usurping the rule of law and in danger of throwing project approval processes into irrelevancy with his ‘reckless approach’ to this issue.

But, maybe, Horgan stands defiant, awaits the court ruling then washes his hands of the situation, able to say to his faithful, “We did what we could.”

Perfect politics – at least in the sense of appeasing his own. It’s a dangerous game to play in a minority government, however.

–Black Press

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