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Pipe dreams

December 1, 2016

Canada’s sunny leader, Justin Trudeau, has spoken. This week he gave his government’s decision on three pipeline projects promoted by Alberta to get their fossil fuels to market.

The Northern Gateway project is dead. This pipeline would have led to oil tanker traffic through the narrow Douglas Channel putting at risk the unique ecosystem of the Great Bear Rainforest. Given that sunny Justin had already imposed a moratorium on tanker traffic in this area, that decision came as no surprise.

Sunny Justin has waxed lyrical in the past about the time he’s spent in “super natural” British Columbia, his mother’s home province. He’s praised the population’s keen interest in protecting the environment. So he’s thrown environmentalists a bone: killing off once and for all a controversial pipeline project that everyone, including its proponent Enbridge, already knew was dead.

Sunny Justin wants to be seen to create a concrete plan for tackling climate change. Whatever he comes up with will be an improvement on his predecessor Stephen Harper, who had no plan at all and no interest in formulating a plan. Sunny Justin says whatever happens (or doesn’t happen) on the climate portfolio south of the border come January 20th, Canada must be seen to be doing its bit.

For there to be any sort of climate change plan (effective or not), Sunny Justin needs the buy in of the premiers of all the provinces and territories. But Sunny Justin was told in no uncertain terms by the premier of Alberta that there would be no climate change action plan buy in from her province without pipelines to get their tar sands goop to new markets.

What’s a sunny prime minister to do?  He wants a national climate change plan. Alberta wants pipelines.

He kills off the controversial, deeply unpopular, already dead Northern Gateway pipeline proposal. But all is not lost for Enbridge, because the next thing he does is announce the government’s decision to approve the company’s Line 3 pipeline from Alberta to Wisconsin. Enbridge already has a fine history of pipeline spills in the gas guzzling mid-West, so I’m sure the citizens are eager to see more of the company.

But the prize Alberta has been eyeing for so long isn’t the USA, it’s China. That was the whole point of the Northern Gateway proposal.  Shame about all those pesky environmentalists and First Nations bands standing together to swear that pipeline would never be built.

But what’s this? There is already a pipeline running from the tar sands to coastal BC? If we have to throw those agitators the Northern Gateway bone, why don’t we treble the capacity of the existing Kinder Morgan pipeline so Alberta can move three times the volume of its chemically liquefied goop to China on hundreds of more oil tankers transiting through Burnaby Inlet and Vancouver harbour every year. The pipeline infrastructure is already there, right? Who could object to trebling its capacity. So this week Sunny Justin approved the plan.

Who could object? Well, for a start there are the mayors of Vancouver, Burnaby and Victoria, who have long been on record opposing the proposal. Then there are those pesky environmentalists. Then there’s the Supreme Court ruling last year that major resource and infrastructure plans involving First Nations territories must be approved by those nations, many of which are also already on record as opposing the project. All of which is putting British Columbia’s Liberal Members of Parliament in duck and cover mode, knowing how bad the fallout is going to be for them.

There were some gobsmacking moments during the pipeline announcements, not least  Sunny Justin’s equally sunny Environment and Climate Minister saying: “You don’t transition overnight. We’re not going to be off fossil fuels for a while …We are doing this together and we’re moving to a low carbon future together because it’s the right thing to do. This demonstrates our commitment to both the environment and the economy.”

Does it Catherine? Does it really demonstrate Sunny Justin’s commitment to the environment? When you and he both know that greenhouse gas emissions from oil sands production are projected to double by 2030? It sounds more like you and Justin are saying, “Fossil fuels are going to be around for a while and Canada deserves to get a cut, whatever the environmental consequences.”

I know life would be easier for Alberta if a massive earthquake sank British Columbia into the Pacific Ocean. But that’s not going to happen – at least not in time to remove our objections to facilitating the increased production of your horrible, polluting, dangerous-to-transport goop.

Perhaps that’s what Sunny Justin is relying on. He approves a terrible pipeline project to get on Alberta’s good side, then the good people of British Columbia move heaven and earth to stop that pipeline being built. Then he can just shrug his athletic shoulders and say he tried.

If that is the real plan, it’s not a bad one, because the good people of British Columbia really will move heaven and earth to stop this threat to the environment.

We’ve only just got started.



From → Columns

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