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Work continues at Kinder Morgan's facility in preparation for the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline, in Burnaby, B.C., on Monday April 9, 2018.

DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

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What is in Canada’s ‘national interest’? We’re divided on that

Repeating phrases turns them into clichés, expressions requiring minimal reflection, often used by leaders to create mindsets and attitudes, easily weaponized.

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Take the Trans Mountain extension. Justin Trudeau and Rachel Notley have weaponized the words “national Interest,” implying that accepting a dirty, high-carbon product, extracted with huge amounts of energy, diluted with toxic chemicals, to create a product with uncertain cleanup properties, shipped over land and pumped into tankers plying Canada’s coast is in the “national interest.” Opposition is unpatriotic.

Yes, the “national interest” produced Canada, including railways/highways, the CBC, social programs, environmental protection … but also the Indian Act, racist immigration policies, internment camps …

Instead of using the “national interest” as a sledgehammer, engage in evidence-based conversations: the actual product (dilbit), the carbon footprint, pollution, job numbers, risks, alternative solutions.

Clarence Bolt, Sidney, B.C.

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From a climate-change perspective, I have to question the focus and value of protests at Kinder Morgan in Burnaby. Emissions from consumer use (“tailpipe emissions”) are greater than those for the extraction, refining and transportation of petroleum, be it conventional or oil sands. The reasonable conclusion is that protests for change should also be more aptly focused on the consumer side of the supply/demand equation and not the supply/pipeline side. If consumer demand for petroleum decreases, so will the need for supply, resulting in fewer pipelines. Protesting for change at the supply side is fundamentally flawed.

Dennis Stefani, Bragg Creek, Alta.

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B.C. Premier John Horgan has no choice but to sing along to the Greens’ score in this three-penny opera. Without their backing, his government will fall. What’s that? Put the national interest and B.C.’s economic interests before political self-interest? How droll.

Angela C. Smith, Regina

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In response to Rachel Notley’s suggestion that Alberta might buy the Trans Mountain pipeline, John Horgan replied with what might be called “NDP economics.” He says he would prefer Ms. Notley to invest in refining capacity, which would lower the price of gas “while we transition to a more sustainable energy commodity that will allow us to meet our climate change objectives.”

So, the next step in moving to a low-carbon economy is to reduce the price of hydrocarbon fuels? It must be comforting for British Columbians to know their environment policy is in such good hands.

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David McGrath, Kingston

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It looks like Kinder Morgan isn’t going to fly with an NDP/Green government in B.C. Whether it does or not isn’t the end of the oil patch in Alberta. Justin Trudeau’s government includes all 32 MPs from Atlantic Canada, also known as the “Silent 32,” yet he didn’t give pushing through Energy East a second thought because of opposition in Quebec – even though the project would have created jobs, utilized refining capacity in the Maritimes and cut our reliance on foreign oil. Isn’t it time we used Canadian resources for Canadian benefit? Don’t Atlantic Canadians count, too?

Peter L. McCreath, Hubbards, N.S.

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If the federal government won’t act in the national interest, what’s the point of having a federal government? Critical infrastructure – Trans Mountain and Energy East – must not be held ransom to regional politics.

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Sarah Ivanov James, Winnipeg

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I found your pro-pipeline editorial calling B.C. out for hypocrisy so lopsided, it would provoke the overturn of a bitumen tanker.

A tanker accident with liquefied natural gas yields escaping gas. A tanker accident with bitumen yields an ungodly mess of bitumen and a wide range of toxic volatile compounds used to dilute it. The two pipelines, gas and bitumen, are not equivalent.

The risk in shipping bitumen is like Russian Roulette. Some days you’re lucky, occasionally you’re not. If Alberta is so intent on Trans Mountain, it should legislate that it will be responsible for all measurable costs in perpetuity and post a bond to that effect.

Raymond St Arnaud, Victoria

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Royalties on Canadian resources are paid to the province of origin, not to the federal government. If royalties on all oil extracted in Canada were to be paid to the federal government, then the movement of that oil would become a national benefit, rather than an irksome source for interprovincial disputes.

Anna Dolan, Ottawa

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In 1951, Canada’s Liberal trade and commerce minister of the day, C.D. Howe, formed a corporate shell to facilitate the construction of the TransCanada Pipeline.

There was a predominance of American involvement, which led Canadians to believe that the pipeline was a sellout to the U.S.

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In May, 1956, when the pipeline issue was being debated in Parliament, the Liberals invoked closure with a time limit on debate. The reason given was that it was a “national necessity.” The pipeline was pushed through. The Canadian Encyclopedia describes it as “one of the most famous confrontations in Canadian parliamentary history,” and it led to the defeat of the Liberals in the 1957 election.

The current federal Liberal government, and the government of B.C.’s sister province, Alberta, tell us that the Trans Mountain extension is “in the national interest.”

The profits will go to the U.S.

The dilbit transported in the pipeline will go to China.

The fallout for B.C. could result in a major marine disaster.

The question is: What nation? And whose interest?

Rosalee van Stelten, Victoria

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An alternative reality: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has voiced his opposition to Minder Korgan’s plans to build a pipeline through the outskirts of Ottawa and construct a massive storage facility on the Ottawa River a few miles from Parliament Hill. He’s emphasized that although Ontario’s Premier claims the facilities are needed to support Ontario’s economy, he will continue to state his concern that increased barge traffic will double or triple the risk of spills that would devastate the environment along the shores of the Ottawa River.

The PM promised to join protesters planning to gather at the proposed storage site on Rue Jacques Cartier next week. Philippe Couillard, Premier of neighbouring Quebec, said he’ll wait to find out which position would be most likely to increase equalization payments to his province before deciding which side he will support in the dispute.

On a related note, Donald Trump weighed in on the debate: “Canada must do everything it can to ensure that Arctic trade routes are used to full advantage and that that great, GREAT company, the Hudson’s Bay Company, can continue to provide Canadians with all the fuel they need to power their snowmobiles and snowplows.”

Ray Arnold, Richmond, B.C.

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