Whitmer ignores longstanding relationship with Canada to promote Line 5 agenda.
There's so much about the Line 5 saga that has been predictable.
That former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder would make a last minute deal with Enbridge to construct (and pay for) the pipeline in a tunnel to replace the existing Line 5. That Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who campaigned against Line 5, would actually try to shut it down and that Attorney General Dana Nessel would join the fray as Whitmer's de facto team mate.
What I didn't foresee is that Whitmer, Nessel and their supporters would make Canada the bogeyman. That's right, Canada, Michigan's neighbor. The country with whom Michigan shares the Great Lakes. The country that's building a new bridge between Windsor and Detroit. You get the picture, collaborators.
It started in 2019 when Nessel characterized Canada as a foreign country. Michigan "will not rely on a foreign corporation to protect and preserve our state's most precious resource, its Great Lakes," Nessel said as reported in the Detroit News. Enbridge is a Canadian corporation.
Canada is a foreign country in a legal and diplomatic sense. But the U.S. and Canada relationship has been one of cooperation and collaboration seemingly forever. And growing up a mile from the Detroit River which separates the countries, the words "Canada" and "foreign" never entered my mind.
Then came Whitmer, who must have thought it was best to just ignore Canada, like it wasn't there, as she pushed her Line 5 agenda.
As time passed and the shutdown of Line 5 moved closer to being a reality, Canadian officials wanted to have a conversation with Whitmer.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford tried to contact Whitmer to discuss Line 5 but was rebuffed, he said, never being able to get through to her. Sarnia, Ontario has 3,000 jobs that are in jeopardy if Line 5 is shut down.
It's worth noting that Whitmer and Ford represent Michigan and Ontario respectively on two U.S. and Canada intergovernmental organizations that deal with common Great Lakes issues.
Then came a protocol breach by Whitmer.
Canada invoked a 1977 treaty with the U.S. that Canada says would prohibit the shut down of Line 5. That move elevated the discussion with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Joe Biden being the principles.
Whitmer reacted with a direct criticism of Trudeau.
Whitmer said she was "profoundly disappointed" by Canada's decision and called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to reverse the invocation of the treaty, the Detroit News reported in October.
In an instant Whitmer went from not returning a call from a Canadian colleague to publicly criticizing the Prime Minister of Canada.
I'm not sure how the Line 5 saga will end. It's now in a protracted legal process and is being discussed at the highest levels of the U.S. and Canadian governments.
Michigan is losing the legal battles but predict what a court will ultimately do at your own peril. And the Biden administration is caught between two allies, Trudeau and Whitmer.
But I do know that Whitmer, Nessel and their supporters haven't acquitted themselves well in the Line 5 debate. Agree with Canada or not, blatant disrespect of Canada was the tactic of the D.C. administration that left office in January.
For the long term, it's in the best interests of Michigan and Whitmer to mend fences with Canada. Hopefully that happens in a second term, if she's re-elected. If not sooner.
Chicago-based environmental journalist