Opinion Piece: Ottawa’s leadership on resource projects in doubt

by Ken Kobly, Alberta Chamber of Commerce
Ken Kobly is president and CEO of the Alberta Chambers of Commerce.

Ken Kobly is president and CEO of the Alberta Chambers of Commerce. — Photo courtesy Alberta Chambers/Ken Kobly

“Canada’s elected leaders represent Team Canada with excellence.”

That is not a current headline of political leadership in advancing the national interest. But it could be.

To the contrary, Canadians are subjected to reading the recent opinion piece penned by Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr and Environment Minister Catherine McKenna titled: Benefits and impact of Trans Mountain transcend any one province.

The headline is bang on. That’s where the leadership stops. This is not a work of inspired commitment to advance the national interest. It’s about a political agenda. It glosses over the bigger issues and distorts the opportunities which should be the focus – and inspiration – for our elected representatives.

So, ministers, let us be clear: getting Trans Mountain built is like an aspiring Olympian winning a regional qualifying competition. Crucial to Canadian prosperity? Yes. But let’s not delude ourselves.

The estimated discount Canadians have paid – lost – over the last seven years is $147 billion. If we’re going to point fingers, that makes this federal government responsible for $33 billion of those losses, with more to come. Trans Mountain alone won’t solve the bleed.

So, what are we doing to resolve the bigger issue? More than 30 First Nation governments are trying to build a new pipeline from Alberta to the West Coast to support Canadians’ prosperity. Are we working with them? No. Their biggest obstacle to advance our national interest is a federal moratorium on oil tanker traffic. Energy East, Northern Gateway, LNG plants in B.C. – there is a long list of capacity-building initiatives which lay dead on the doorstep of our current prime minister.

A national climate leadership plan? If it is an ethical imperative and moral responsibility to the future of humankind, just do it. Canadians don’t need to be stroked into believing politicians today are transcending our nation into a new stratum of enlightened leadership.

When our Olympians return from setting new global standards of excellence, what standards of leadership will they return to? The kind which expects medals for using clean energy and childcare funding – our children’s welfare – as cattle prods to mobilize action in the collective interest.

Canadians deserve actions which produces results. Actions that honour our Olympians’ unselfish dedication to be excellent when they wear the Team Canada jersey. No compromise is involved in this level of commitment so a reciprocal standard of public service is simple: get full value for all our resources and invest the wealth so future generations prosper. Until those responsibilities are fulfilled, please keep the politics to yourself.

Canada, B.C. and Alberta all have new governments. Subsequently, some commentators think political self-promotion is acceptable, even necessary, to act in the national interest. To those who think real leadership stems from popularity – we disagree.

As the leader of a new governing party, the Progressive Conservatives, Peter Lougheed won successive elections with increasing support. Not because of populist appeals but because he led in the best interest of citizens.

In the past, Alberta invested our non-renewable wealth superbly. We invested in B.C. and helped build the port at Prince Rupert. It was an investment which contributed $1.6 billion to that province in 2016 alone. We invested in grain cars to ensure our prairie crops could feed the world’s largest populations in Asia. We helped build infrastructure for Canadians in eastern provinces. Medical research funded by the Alberta Heritage Fund continues to benefit Canadians and people around the world each and every day.

It’s a legacy of advancing the public good with class. A model of principled and effective representative leadership that could be applied today. But, right now, Canadian’s inheritance and opportunities for prosperity slip through our fingers with each second that passes.

So, are our political efforts to serve the national interest Olympic-worthy? Canadians, you be the judge: Gold, silver, bronze, or Did Not Qualify.

Source: Alberta Chamber of Commerce website/Edmonton Journal

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