Pipelines, particularly those running through the United States, have become a major irritant in the corridors of government and decision-making across Canada.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is demanding compensation from the United States for President Joe Biden’s termination of Keystone XL. Premier Kenney wants a reversal of the decision or a recovery of the $1 billion his government directed to the project.
Along with Keystone XL is a second dispute with potentially significant impacts on southwestern Ontario. Enbridge Line 5 transports oil and natural gas liquids from western Canada through the United States to refineries in Quebec and Ontario. Enbridge is replacing a 7 kilometre stretch that runs under the Straits of Mackinac which connects Lakes Huron and Michigan. The pipeline ends in Sarnia where it is the primary supply source for the petrochemical industry.
In November 2020, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer commenced proceedings to revoke a 1953 permit that allows crossing under the straits, providing notice to Enbridge to shut down the pipeline by May 2021.
Opposition to Michigan’s intervention is relatively extensive across Canada however it is heavily focused in Sarnia and Lambton County, where it is estimated that 5,000 jobs will be lost. Farmers across southwestern Ontario have cited concerns with the impact of a pipeline shutdown on local propane supplies manufactured from feedstock transported through Line 5.
Many farmers and agricultural-related business operations cannot access alternatives such as natural gas. Another major component of the current frustration is the impact of a CN Rail strike in November 2019 on local propane supplies. The Michigan decision on Line 5 and a closure could be exponentially worse.
Conservative Party of Canada Leader Erin O’Toole has asked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to attempt some form of resolution with President Biden. O’Toole has claimed that Line 5 is the safest option for meeting energy requirements on both sides of the border.
Jason Kenney recently warned both Canadians and Americans that the Keystone XL decision established a dangerous precedent for cross-border pipelines. He probably had no idea how fast his prediction would be proven accurate. If Line 5 shuts down, there will be issues for Waterloo Region and all neighbouring counties, creating a situation that is not required during a pandemic recovery.
Written by Art Sinclair