10/13/2016 02:13 EDT | Updated 10/13/2016 02:16 EDT

Pipeline Critics Must Learn To Compromise Or Be Left Behind

denis coderre

Denis Coderre, mayor of Montreal, on April 14, 2014. (Photo: Scott Eells/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

I'm on the record as having been critical of the Denis Coderre-led coalition of Montreal-area mayors who have come out against the Energy East pipeline.

With Quebec being by far the largest recipient under Canada's equalization program, and Alberta being one of the largest net contributors, it's hard to understand just how this group expects to be able to function without the state-level welfare that is enabled by a driving, resource-based Alberta economy.

That they have functioned as long as they have receiving petro dollars while eschewing their own resources being exploited is hypocritical at best. When you consider the amount of foreign oil being tanked in from overseas regimes that have no respect for human rights, environment or equality -- it's borderline immoral and corrupt.

So, unsurprisingly, the Montreal-based National Energy Board hearings recently were a (sad) spectacle. Through years of challenge, through demonstration and the courts, the environmental groups and radical left have pushed the conversation on development and resource exploitation more to the centre.

With some changes in process made by the recently elected Liberal government, there is again a robust review of environmental concerns prior to a pipeline being approved. There is still work to be done on consultation of Indigenous rights, but the courts have been very active in ensuring the Government of Canada is held to task on this.

energy east protest montreal

Energy East protesters in Montreal, Quebec. (Photo: CP)

The Energy East pipeline would repurpose over 3,000 kilometres of existing pipeline infrastructure, with 1,600 kilometres of new pipeline being added through Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick primarily. These jobs would be good, high-paying jobs that would improve the lives of the families working on the project, as well as the tax base for the provinces that this work is done in. Projections are for $55 billion to be added to the economy.

But activists who are present in the east won't settle unless this entire industry is shut down, which makes zero sense. The fact is we don't have enough renewables in Canada at this time to facilitate a full clean energy transition. If we did, there wouldn't be a conversation, and there wouldn't be all that foreign oil flowing into the country on a daily basis.

The conversation goes far beyond transportation and power -- many everyday essentials rely on petroleum. From the car we drive (or bike), to the pillows we sleep on, to the contacts many of us wear. For a lot of eco-activists, that irony is lost on them.

At what point do we say enough is enough and ensure that this nation-building project happens?

The right has been forced to moderate their position and work harder to placate the concerns of the general populace, and the left in their business dealings and resource development. With an NDP government in Alberta that has all but given into every conceivable ideal they hold, short of shutting down the oilsands, where is this social license that has been so fervently pushed on us?

At what point do we say enough is enough and ensure that this nation-building project, based on good science and consultation, happens? How long do we continue to allow dangerous railcars loaded with crude to speed through our urban landscapes just waiting for another Lac Megantic, or worse, to happen?

Either these folks have to learn the spirit of compromise, of which they have done none, or we need to move on and put the interests of our nation first. We're being left behind by other countries and economies while we chase an elusive ideal under some imaginary rainbow. It's time for our leaders to stand up and draw a line in the sand and stop enabling these fanatics, lest they achieve their ultimate goal of completely shutting down our economic engine.

Robbie's blog posts can be found online here.

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