Charlie Smith at the Georgia Straight is the one who pointed this out, and it’s super-interesting. Jim Prentice, banker, former cabinet minister, friend to the oilman, had a piece in the Vancouver Sunon the weekend that starts off much as you’d expect — “The time has come when Canada must diversify beyond its traditional U.S. energy export markets and seek new ones, specifically those in the Asia Pacific” — and then takes a surprising turn:
A key element to achieve that end is a clear public policy framework that provides consistency and transparency. The absence of private and public sector leadership, however, is a serious impediment. …
To begin, however, the constitutional obligation to consult with first nations is not a corporate obligation. It is the federal government’s responsibility.
Second, the obligation to define an ocean management regime for terminals and shipping on the west coast is not a corporate responsibility. It is the federal government’s responsibility.
Finally, these issues cannot be resolved by regulatory fiat – they require negotiation. The real risk is not regulatory rejection but regulatory approval, undermined by subsequent legal challenges and the absence of “social license” to operate.
Prentice isn’t wildly offside the federal government here. I’ve heard nearly identical arguments in Ottawa from a senior member of this government, and to the extent several current and former federal Conservatives in BC are supporting Christy Clark’s Sort Of Liberals over their former caucus colleague John Cummins, it’s precisely because they recognize there’s no way forward for energy exports if the province’s aboriginal leadership doesn’t give the green light.
But Prentice, an extraordinarily reticent man who goes out of his way to avoid saying anything that others might judge excessively noteworthy, sounds mightily concerned here. And on the substance, he’s right: I could push a couple of pipelines through British Columbia for you by next Tuesday, as long as you didn’t mind spending the following 30 years in court. Getting it done in a way that’s actually of any use to anyone is harder.