Once upon a time, there was a narrative. Advanced by Liberal-leaning journalists, this narrative held that the efforts of conservative politicians to promote Canadian pipeline projects weren’t helping get them approved, and that the “softer” diplomacy of left-wing politicians would garner better results.
That narrative was always speculative, politically-self-serving, and just far enough beyond disproof that it was a narrative that left-wing journalists could advance in relative ignorance. Maybe it was true. Maybe it wasn’t. Who knows? Some did try to carry that flag. It was advanced by the Observer‘s Sandy Garrossino. That narrative was advanced by Alberta Oil Magazine‘s Max Fawcett. Now that a Liberal Prime Minister is in power in Ottawa, and an NDP Premier is in power in Edmonton, we can now examine the results of such efforts and see how accurate this narrative is.
The narrative, as it turns out, is false. Shortly after Justin Trudeau became the Prime Minister of Canada, President Barack Obama denied approval to the Keystone XL pipeline. According to the narrative, this wasn’t supposed to happen. British Columbia Premier Christy Clark has declared she intends to oppose the expansion of the TransMountain pipeline. According to the narrative, this wasn’t supposed to happen. More recently, a group of Quebec mayors, led by Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, have announced their intention to oppose the Energy East pipeline. According to the narrative, this wasn’t supposed to happen. It did.
According to this narrative – insisting that the “soft diplomacy” approach of Alberta Premier Rachel Notley (NDP) and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Liberal) would garner better results – none of this is supposed to be happening. Yet all of it is. At the kids’ table of Canadian journalism, they barely seem to have taken notice. This now-disproven narrative was trotted out again by Markham Hislop of American Energy News, wherein he laid the blame for these failures not on the people in charge, but attempted to lay the blame for it at the feet of Wildrose Alliance leader Brian Jean because of the comments he made afterward.
Yes, you read that right. According to Hislop, comments Brian Jean made after the Coderre cabal declared their opposition were to blame for something that the aforementioned Coderre cabal did before he said them. It’s astonishingly backward, in the sense that it has literally inverted the order of actual events, but this is the kind of astonishingly-backward logic Fawcett, Garrossino and Hislop are advancing, and patting each other on the back while they do it.
At the grown-ups’ table of journalism, the crumbling of this narrative is being noticed. “Care Bear diplomacy isn’t working,” notes Don Braid of the Calgary Herald. Fawcett, Garrossino and Hislop will have to forgive him; he has to base his analysis on the things that are actually happening, not on the things he wanted to happen. Fawcett, Garrossino and Hislop would do well to adopt the same approach, not that anyone should be holding their breath.
Perhaps most astonishing is the degree to which the implications of this narrative’s illogic are completely at cross-purposes with the intentions of their authors. The unintended messages effectively defeat the intended partisan message. Sandy Garrossino sought to blame then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper for the stalling of the Keystone XL pipeline, but she only successfully managed to portray US President Barack Obama as a petty partisan autocrat acting not based on the merit of the project, but to spite his political enemies. Max Fawcett insisted prospects for this project would be better under Trudeau, but he published literally only hours before Obama turned it down. In particular, Markham Hislop’s contribution to keeping the reality-shattered narrative on life support reads like the most ironic NDP press release ever. If the leader of the opposition’s future, yet unheard, comments have more influence upon the position Quebec mayors take in regards to pipeline projects, clearly the efficacy of the current government is in severe doubt.
Again, Max Fawcett, Sandy Garrossino and Markham Hislop will have to find it in themselves to be forgiving. This is only based on the things that are actually happening. Unfortunately, the things that are actually happening have killed their narrative, and that’s almost a shame; they did try so very hard.