Don Martin: The blockade that killed pipeline investment
This was the week international investment in Canadian energy transportation went palliative following multiple bouts of protracted suffering.
The industry obit will detail how a few chiefs, bestowed with the ceremonial title by their ancestors, finally proved there's no way to move oil, bitumen or natural gas from the ground to the ocean.
TransCanada had the perfect pipeline playbook to connect northern B.C. natural gas fields to the $40 billion coastal LNG plant at Kitimat. There was unanimous agreement by all 20 elected Indigenous bands on the right of way, including the Wet’suwet’en First Nation where this week’s blockade ballooned into international protests.
Almost a billion dollars in economic development was pledged to distressed Indigenous communities along the route. Even the hard-to-please courts were on side with an injunction against any obstructions to the construction site. There was giddy support from the NDP premier and the Liberal prime minister for the largest private sector investment in Canadian history.
But the blockade erected by Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs, now temporarily removed to allow limited site preparation work to continue, underscores that consultation perfection is not enough.
Every clan inside every First Nation must now consent to a pipeline, railway or road or else the backers will face widespread condemnation, eagerly egged on by special interest groups. There's even the threat this B.C. pipeline might still require a comprehensive federal National Energy Board probe before it moves ahead, this at considerable delay and cost to its backers.
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley could be forgiven a wry smile as she watches her B.C. counterpart John Horgan hard-swallow a taste of his own medicine.
A predictable oil pipeline opponent, Horgan was twisted into a muddled pretzel of conflicting positions trying to sound reconciliatory to the protest while cheerleading on a gas project vital to the B.C. economy.
Unfortunately, there no muddling the harsh Canadian reality for the small pool of deep-pocket pipeline investors.
They'll study the casualty list from the last few years - the passing of the Northern Gateway megaproject; the abandonment of the Energy East pipeline extension; the forced government takeover of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion - and conclude the obvious about Canada: Anywhere Else is a better investment.
That's the Last Word.