Canadian Consul General says Whitmer’s Great Lakes propriety is an “irritant.”
As Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s May 13 shutdown of the Enbridge Line 5 oil pipeline nears, Whitmer’s summary rebuke of Canada and the response from Canadian officials related to it increasingly grabs the spotlight.
Enbridge is a Canadian company and Canada’s politicians including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have made the case that continued operation of Line 5 is critical for its well-being and economy.
Whitmer’s position “certainly strains our relationship and we’ve had a very long history of working closely together,” Joe Comartin, Canada’s Consul General in Detroit recently told the Washington Post.
Comartin said a particular “irritant” is that by shutting down Line 5, Michigan portrays itself as more interested in protecting the Great Lakes than Canada is. “Basically, we reject that completely,” Comartin told the Post.
Sarnia, Ontario is directly across the St. Clair River from Port Huron, Michigan and has an economy heavily-dependent on Line 5’s operation. Its mayor expressed his frustration with Whitmer in the Post article.
“She may be focused on her one issue, but the relationship between Ontario and Michigan has been set back, in my view, for decades,” Mayor Mike Bradley said.
Bradley said he’s written to Whitmer several times about Line 5 and has never received a response. Previously Ontario Premier Doug Ford, Whitmer’s elected equivalent, said he had tried to contact her about Line 5 but wasn’t able to get a response.
Michigan and Ontario in recent times have had a good working relationship on Great Lakes issues, even when leadership came from opposite political philosophies. Whitmer’s predecessor, Gov. Rick Snyder when in a Great Lakes leadership position, always included premiers from Ontario and Quebec when discussing the lakes.
Snyder was also instrumental in forging the deal that led to Canada paying for construction of a new bridge that will traverse the Detroit River. The bridge is critical to trade between the countries and will exemplify the importance of good relations between the U.S. and Canada.
It’s hard to understand Whitmer’s stonewalling of Canada, especially as a progressive Democrat from whom you would expect better.
And it runs counter to the policy of President Joe Biden, a close Whitmer ally, who has emphasized returning to cordial and respectful international relations after the shabby treatment of certain countries, including Canada, by former President Donald Trump.
Perhaps her recalcitrance is a negotiating tactic. Act tough and give up nothing until you have to. More likely it’s to appease part of her political base, environmental groups who have lobbied for a Line 5 shutdown since 2013.
Whatever Whitmer’s motivation for giving Canada the silent treatment on Line 5, it doesn’t serve Michigan’s best interest over the long term.
She’ll leave her successor with a fence to mend with Michigan’s neighbor, Canada. The neighbor with whom Michigan shares the Great Lakes.
Because the lakes don’t belong to Whitmer or Michigan.
Chicago-based environmental journalist