There’s a reason why Saskatchewan’s Brad Wall is consistently ranked as one of the country’s most-popular Premiers.
He knows how to communicate. And he aggressively represents his constituents. He does his job, in effect.
That doesn’t mean he is doing the right thing all the time, however. And it certainly doesn’t mean that Saskatchewan’s interests are identical to the national interest. Or, for that matter, the collective interests of Ontario and Quebec.
Wall, who knows his way around a scrum, is lately in high dudgeon. He is angry – or he is pretending to be – at Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard over the Energy East pipeline.
Speaking to the media a few days ago, Wall said he was “surprised,” “concerned” and “very concerned” about what Wynne and Couillard have said about the $12 billion project, which would carry millions of barrels in Alberta and Saskatchewan crude to refineries in Eastern Canada.
What have Wynne and Couillard said that has whipped up Wall’s wrath? The following:
· Ontario and Quebec have said they’d like to see the pipeline follow environmental best-practices.
· They want some consultation with aboriginal people, over whose land the pipeline will traverse.
· They’d like to see effective emergency response, in case something goes wrong.
· They want some kind of benefit for folks in Ontario and Quebec, and particularly natural gas consumers.
· And…that’s it.
Shocking. Reads like a ransom note, doesn’t it? What’s next? Nationalizing the petroleum industry?
Not quite. Wynne and Couillard are raising eminently-sensible questions about the Energy East pipeline. That’s their job, after all.
That hasn’t stopped Wall from attempting to pick a fight with Ontario and Quebec, however. He has said that Wynne and Couillard are imposing “conditions” – even though they’re not, because they can’t. (Approval for the pipeline falls squarely within federal jurisdiction.)
There is a proud and time-tested tradition, of course, of Canada’s Eastern and the Western parts screaming bloody murder about the arrogance and dominance of the Central part. It results in votes, and sometimes it attracts federal largesse. Sometimes, it’s even right.
In this case, it is not. What Brad Wall is doing is disingenuous, and he knows it.
Take, for instance, Wall’s bunkum about how Western oil is being held to a higher standard than, say, Middle Eastern oil. Wynne and Couillard seem “almost ashamed the country has oil,” Wall huffed.
“Interests in Central Canada” – presumably Wall means the duly-elected representatives of two-thirds of Canada’s population – have “never” raised concerns about imports of “oil from Venezuela, Algeria or Iraq,” Saskatchewan’s Premier claims.
Wall isn’t directly stating that Ontario is getting all of its oil from ISIS enclaves in Iraq, but he probably wouldn’t be upset if Ontario voters were left with that impression.
The reality is that crude oil imports to Canada from afar have significantly decreased. In the first eight months of 2014, in fact, imports from overseas dropped – and less-expensive North American sources now represent about half of all crude oil imports into Canada.
And, when one considers that Ontario ultimately gets 99.7 per cent – that is, just shy of 100 per cent – of its oil from Western Canada, Wall is indulging in the sort of sophistry that assists no one. As the Government of Saskatchewan itself admits on one of its shiny web sites: the amount of Saskatchewan oil that is “shipped to Ontario” is, um, “substantial.” No kidding.
Premier Wall, you are aggressively representing your province’s interests. Fine. You are doing your job. Fine.
But reflect on Alberta Premier Jim Prentice’s approach – he was this week in Ontario to meet with Premier Wynne, and he moved the Energy East pipeline towards approval without indulging in histrionics and petty regionalism.
That’s the best way to represent the people who elected you, Premier Wall: you know, by building the country up, not tearing it down.