Liberal House Leader David McGuinty
Credits: ANDRE FORGET/QMI AGENCY
For the last few years, US oil production has been ramping up, making it increasingly difficult for Canada to get close to world prices for Canadian oil. Then there's the delay in the building of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to Oklahoma and the diminishing hope for additional pipeline capacity through B.C.
Result: We have a lot of oil with no place to go. Add it all up and it and it equals trouble for what is Canada's biggest export and a huge driver of our economy.
Even the big hopes for exports of Canadian liquefied natural gas through places like Kitimat don't seem quite as promising as they did a year ago now that more natural gas is coming into production around the world. All combined, it hurts government revenues and affects investment and jobs.
The federal government's 2012 budget bill was designed in part to make it easier to find new markets for Canadian oil. But the government's critics just couldn't see the urgency.
Opposition members were outraged. They didn't want changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act because how was that about the budget?
Just a few months ago, Liberal MP David McGuinty accused Alberta MPs of being shills for the oil industry. I mean, how could a successful oil industry based in the west actually help all Canadians?
Not to be outdone, NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair still thinks a strong oil and gas sector hurts Canada overall because it drives up the dollar and hurts manufacturing.
The good news is there are many options, all of which are being hotly debated pretty much everywhere except amongst Liberal leadership candidates. Given what's at stake, you'd think "Canada's Natural Governing Party" would be fully engrossed in the discussion. Instead, its almost imperceptible leadership race flits from shadow to shadow.
The front-runner, Justin Trudeau, has been criss-crossing the land speaking to the soul of the country while also capturing its essence. When he does get dragged down to earth by regular people who ask questions, he believes we need pipelines and maybe even a pipeline in B.C., but not necessarily. It kind of depends on how it's done and everything.
In other words, Justin and others want pipelines but they can't affect anything. That's a tall order, but not impossible. I mean, we could try to drill a hole right from the oilsands, right through the middle of the earth where there are fewer land claims, and then go directly through to China. We could even capture some geothermal heat and turn it into a green project. Think of the job creation. What could go wrong?
I'm not saying this idea is perfect. I haven't quite figured out the magma problem. My point, however, is that if the Liberals ever want a shot at governing, they need to get serious about offering real solutions to the country's biggest economic challenges.
They're the third-place party. They don't have the luxury of saying nothing until Canadians ask them to govern again. Those days are over.