EDITORIAL – Can someone please explain what ‘national interest’ means?

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (Image: Liberal Party)

An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

CAN SOMEONE please provide a clear definition of “the national interest” when it comes to pipelines?

I ask this in the wake of Sunday’s meeting in Ottawa between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the premiers of B.C. and Alberta, which found no common ground on Trans Mountain.

Trudeau re-iterates that the project is “in the national interest,” Rachel Notley insists it must be built, and John Horgan says it should be decided in the courts.

The only thing new is that Trudeau says the federal government will spend tax dollars along with Notley if necessary to help the project succeed, and will look at legislation as well.

Who knows what this really means, any more than what “the national interest” means. The term is supposed to define a country’s aspirations but these days it means pretty much what any politician wants it to mean.

Trudeau’s definition, no doubt, would be his belief we should continue to rely on fossil fuels until we can come up with something better.

Notley’s would be that what’s good for Alberta is good for Canada. Horgan would say that the ultimate national interest is not letting economic objectives ignore protection of the environment.

Whichever definition you prefer, Canada is as divided today as it was before Sunday’s meeting.

Not only do we have B.C. and Alberta at each other’s throats, but Saskatchewan is in Alberta’s corner. Even Quebec has joined the fight, sounding just a little as though it sides with B.C.

Meanwhile, federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh appears to have thrown in with Horgan by urging Trudeau to let the courts figure things out.

And Kinder Morgan says it will cancel the whole project if the mess isn’t cleared up by the end of May.

It must and will get resolved one way or another, and there will be winners and losers. But, to politicians, I have one request: please don’t tell us your side is the only one that’s in the national interest.

I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.

Mel Rothenburger’s Armchair Mayor editorials appear Mondays through Thursdays on CFJC- TV. His Armchair Mayor column is published Saturdays on and CFJC Today. Contact him at

About Mel Rothenburger (6799 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

5 Comments on EDITORIAL – Can someone please explain what ‘national interest’ means?

  1. No comment.!!!! You guys have got this.

  2. Barbara Liotscos // April 16, 2018 at 10:54 AM // Reply

    Right on!
    Elizabeth May raises the same question in more depth in her article:

  3. While we’re at it… perhaps we should ponder whether the Paris Agreement is in the ‘national interest’ or not. It seems to me the two are at odds. Which is more in our ‘national interest’ I wonder…?

  4. R A George // April 16, 2018 at 8:31 AM // Reply

    Trudeau is of course is his national interest as is Notley’s premiership of alberta her provincial interest.It,s all about hanging on and politics and power.

  5. John Noakes // April 16, 2018 at 7:10 AM // Reply

    “National interest” might mean something like this:
    There is an area of Canada that has a huge reserve of thick, black crude oil named bitumen. It could be extracted and sold outside of Canada. The end products might be used to help fuel massive military machinery and to produce fuel for ICBM’s or produce plastics that will take generations to break down. But, that’s OK because Canada will see jobs and prosperity. Who cares about who gets to clean up the mess in case of a spill?

    Or, something like this:
    The same area of Canada has huge areas of land that could be used to develop solar photovoltaics and wind generators. If refineries are built, Canada could become energy sufficient and also sell refined products to other countries, including our neighbours to the south as part of NAFTA. This too would create jobs and prosperity. There would also be no risk of a spill involving diluted bitumen.

    Here’s an idea. Take a poll of people who live in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario. Focus on Toronto and Ottawa. Ask how many know where Kamloops is, how many people live here and how big a mountain is. Ask what Toronto harbour or the shoreline of the St. Lawrence River would look like if 1,000,000 litres of diluted bitumen was released into the aquatic ecosystem.

    That would be an education in itself.

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