Building pipelines on consensus

Prime Minister marks his first 100 days in office

Our new federal government under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has recently marked its first 100 days in office.

The importance attributed to this period in the life of every new government apparently dates back to 1933 when the then US President Franklin D. Roosevelt made a reference to a “!00 days” in a radio address. Although he was referring to a 100-day long session of the US Congress in that speech, the reference was taken out of context by political pundits to judge the level of achievements of every president elected after Roosevelt. And apparently, Canadian political establishment copied the attribution.

As for the first 100 days of the Trudeau government, it will not be wrong to describe it as a period of “consensus building.”

Since he took the oath of office, the prime minister held many meetings with a wide range of stakeholders, from first ministers of provinces and territories in group meetings to First Nations chiefs to representatives of youth in addition to his bilateral meetings with many other stakeholders.

We have yet to receive adequate information to help us conclusively decide what these meetings have achieved so far.

One possible indicator will probably come once we hear the details of the new budget. Not that we should be expecting a collective pat in the back from a wide cross section of the country for the prime minister and his finance minister; on the contrary, we will certainly hear a lot statements of dissatisfaction from a lot of stakeholders who will be unhappy either because of having much less allocation from the budget than they expected or not having the budgetary support in the shape they had planned.

But still, the budget will give us a sense of how much this government is serious about leading our nation in a spirit of unity and harmony; we will be able to detect signals about the priorities set and targets to be achieved in the short, medium and long term.

However, even before the budget details come out, there are some signs that Mr. Trudeau’s consensus-building efforts is laying the groundwork for some major projects to go ahead with all around support from various stakeholders.

Take, for instance, the recent radio interview by Perry Bellegarde, the national Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, in which he said “Yes, we have to look at ways to get things to the international markets, in a meaningful, substantive way,”, referring to the pipelines aimed at carrying Canadian oil to coasts on either side of the country. “We have to find that balance between the economy and the environment. That’s what it’s all about,” he added.

And if one remembers how Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre recently withdrew his outright rejection of the Energy East pipeline after the prime minister had a meeting with him, one can be hopeful that some processes are working slowly but steadily, and most importantly with the acceptance and support of major stakeholders.

We may be very well positioned to make the best use of the next cycle of oil boom, which may come in the next three to five years, if we can have by then all the infrastructure, that is pipelines, in place to carry Canadian oil, produced with environmentally responsible technologies, hopefully developed by Canadian scientists.

That will be a truly an achievement worthy of Canadian name.