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Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna announced Thursday a plan to overhaul the way Ottawa reviews major energy and resource projects. It's an ambitious plan, to say the least.

All the government hopes to do is build a scientifically rigorous, reliably rapid system for approving projects that: takes into account Indigenous rights and Indigenous knowledge; assesses all possible environmental, health, economic and social impacts; includes a gender-based analysis; features plenty of opportunity for public consultation; considers input from the provinces and local communities; respects Canada's obligations under the Paris climate accord; reassures investors that decisions will be delivered on a tight schedule; and, above all, ensures that hundreds of major projects worth an estimated $500-billion over the next 10 years are able to go ahead smoothly and without rancour, creating thousands of much-needed jobs.

How hard could it be?

In a country that can't even expand an existing pipeline without losing its mind, it will be incredibly hard.

The spectacle that Ottawa's approval of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline has created is indicative of the hurdles the government faces. The British Columbia government has suddenly developed a desire for more environmental studies that would delay the expansion, the Alberta government has retaliated by boycotting B.C. wine, lawsuits against the project are piling up, and Kinder Morgan shareholders may be wondering if it's all worth the trouble.

The Trudeau government has always sought the sensible middle ground when dealing with controversial projects. It touts "clean-growth" – where resource development and climate-change mitigation, along with Indigenous rights, are balanced in the country's best economic interests.

To date, that is still only a mythical ideal. The polarization behind the Kinder Morgan fiasco is the reality we face. The government's proposed overhaul dutifully identifies science, evidence and compromise as the way forward. But what good are those things in a fractious country unable to agree on what its best interests actually are?

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