The Liberals need to take this into consideration

Althia Raj played the long game Wednesday with this one. While talking to the media outside the Trans Mountain pipeline protest in Burnaby Wednesday, Raj shared details of another attempt at building a pipeline…

The Liberals need to take this into consideration

Althia Raj played the long game Wednesday with this one.

While talking to the media outside the Trans Mountain pipeline protest in Burnaby Wednesday, Raj shared details of another attempt at building a pipeline to the West Coast—a venture so obvious it might well be a copyright infringement.

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In addition to “the pipeline,” the 21-year-old boasted of an offer she had made to the Liberals to sing the anthem outside the Prime Minister’s House office and another chance for her to make her feelings known to Justin Trudeau himself.

Those political scenes offer another glimpse into a world of looming threats to major energy projects and pipeline proposals.

The actor Daniel Radcliffe, who had already been roped into campaigning for the Trans Mountain pipeline in Burnaby, made headlines in September when he admitted that he has long felt left out of political discourse. Raj only reinforced the “left out” connotation when she told reporters, “it just seems like people who could help us have no interest in helping us.”

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Raj is under the age of 30, but for her it is a well-lived experience of living under political control and suppression. As an Opposition MP, she had to evade the wrath of the government security agency, CSIS, which watched her the last time she gathered in Ottawa. Raj said in earlier testimony that the leaks and repression made her contemplate taking her life.

Now, faced with the threat of being shut out from an invitation to the wall, she is giving it another shot.

“I’m not the only one who’s not invited this time,” she told the media. “Maybe if we get a really big platform, maybe I’ll convince some Liberals.”

While Raj counts Trudeau among her Liberal friends, it is time the Liberals learned from their mistakes from the day Raj was denied access to the House of Commons. The Prime Minister’s Office publicly apologized, but refused to compensate Raj for her safety expenses incurred as the result of the security service’s intrusion into her private life. The new government has said something to this effect, but why do the Liberals not take such simple steps to ensure their citizens have a voice in the political debate?

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It is true that Liberals like Raj are targeted, or rather targeted by the left, which is increasingly coming to terms with its opposition to economic development. Each week finds another newspaper editorial demanding “socialism” and “no money” from government.

This puts Trudeau in an untenable position, from which it is difficult to determine if he can retreat or resist. According to journalist Naomi Klein, opposition to the Trans Mountain pipeline is the “greatest threat to democracy” in Canada. The real test will come when Canadians look beyond the superficial protectionism, and realize who is really pushing the left.

Former Liberal MP John McCallum says of the protests: “There is something sinister behind them.” However, the big opposition of the new government will come from within the party’s own ranks.

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With two protest rallies planned for Parliament Hill next month, there are two ways forward. Trudeau can ignore both protests and declare that the protests will fail, or he can listen and push back on those who create a personal victimization narrative, instead of taking tough but rational positions on energy pipelines and energy development.

Either way, the Liberals need to take this into consideration. In the midst of this attempt to soften and shift the rhetoric around the pipeline issues, the government must remember that many Liberals feel marginalized and will vote with the protesters.

If Trudeau doesn’t listen and address this self-inflicted discontent, that dissent will spread. The young star of the party will surely be put on a more equal playing field with fellow Liberals now that the MP who wanted to sell tea to Trudeau will be singing the anthem.

Althia Raj is an independent journalist based in Ottawa.

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