U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, who was born in Vancouver, was asked this week whether President Joe Biden’s administration had a position “one way or the other” on Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s vow to shut down an oil pipeline that delivers more than half of central Canada’s crude supply.
“Yeah, we don’t weigh in on that – and it’s in court right now, so that’s where it sits,” Ms. Granholm told White House reporters on Tuesday. “It will be decided in court.”
That’s it? Not even a polite shout-out to her Canadian “friends” or a line urging the parties to resolve their differences in the best interests of both countries? Forced to pick sides in a dispute that pits the progressive wing of the Democratic Party against his country’s closest ally, Mr. Biden is once again throwing Canada under the bus.
Mr. Biden already re-revoked the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline that Donald Trump had reinstated. He spurned requests to exempt Canadian companies from the Buy American provisions of his US$2-trillion infrastructure plan. And he refused to allow Pfizer to export COVID-19 vaccines manufactured in Michigan to Canada when this country needed them most. He sent us – several weeks later, mind you – some of the U.S.’s stockpiled AstraZeneca shots after it became clear no U.S. state wanted them.
All of this nose-thumbing has been apparently lost on Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, who this week told the Financial Times: “We have an extremely collaborative relationship with this administration – on everything, including vaccines.”
As if. Canada is bearing the brunt of a progressive takeover of the Democratic Party that has forced Mr. Biden to bow to the will of the likes of Ms. Whitmer, a rising star who is positioning herself to run for president in 2024. The party’s base is now so dominated by uncompromising progressives that anyone thinking of running in the next Democratic presidential primary has no hope without pandering to them.
To be sure, there are legitimate reasons for a Michigan governor to express concerns about Enbridge’s nearly 70-year-old Line 5 pipeline, which runs along the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac between Lake Huron and Lake Michigan toward a terminal in Sarnia, Ont. In 2010, when Ms. Granholm was Michigan’s governor, a separate Enbridge pipeline leaked 3.8 million litres of crude into a tributary of the Kalamazoo River. The Calgary-based company spent US$1.2-billion on a cleanup and paid US$177-million to settle fines and implement additional safety measures. But Enbridge’s name understandably became mud in Michigan.
Still, Line 5′s underwater pipes at the Straits have never leaked, and Ms. Whitmer’s Republican predecessor signed a deal with Enbridge to encase the pipeline in a concrete tunnel, a solution that would all but eliminate the (already slim) risk of a major oil leak. Ms. Whitmer’s refusal to honour that agreement is an act of political grandstanding aimed at impressing climate-change activists who want to choke off the supply of Alberta crude and shut down the oil sands. She is accumulating brownie points on her way to 2024.
Mr. Biden could choose to intervene on the side of reason. Line 5 is covered by a 1977 Canada-U.S. treaty that protects pipelines that run through one country on their way to the other. As a Democratic senator, Mr. Biden voted for the treaty. But his unwillingness to stand up to Ms. Whitmer now is reflection of just how little influence he really has over his own party. Even Democrats see him as a caretaker President. He owes his election to progressives who voted for him even though he was far from their preferred Democratic nominee. Had enough of them stayed home in November, Donald Trump would still be sitting in the White House. Enough said.
Enbridge has filed a suit in U.S. federal court arguing that Ms. Whitmer’s move to revoke its operating permit for the pipeline falls outside state jurisdiction. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government this week filed an amicus brief in support of Enbridge, arguing the “proposed shutdown would cause a massive and potentially permanent disruption to Canada’s economy and energy security.” Unifor president Jerry Dias accused Ms. Whitmer of “recklessly messing with a critical piece of infrastructure that puts thousands of jobs at risk.” U.S. unions came out in support of Line 5.
And all Ms. Granholm had to say was, “Yeah, we don’t weigh in on that”? With friends like these in the White House, Canada might soon start missing Mr. Trump.
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