Do Environmental Leaders Support Pipelines? Op Ed #2

19 people were arrested on Monday at a pipeline construction site in Burnaby, BC. Hundreds more have been arrested since demonstrations began including Green Party leader Elizabeth May on Friday, March 23rd. In August 2017 a Carleton student was arrested at the protest of an oil exploration site in Quebec.

On February 1st, 2018 Justin Trudeau stated that Trans Mountain expansion from Burnaby, Bc to Strathcona County, AB will move forward and is in national interest during an interview with CBC Radio. Pipeline projects move forward despite overwhelming cases against gas companies in the supreme court and National Energy Board (NEB) including Chippewas of the Thames First Nation v. Enbridge Pipelines Inc and Clyde River (Hamlet) v. Petroleum Geo‑Services Inc.

The liberals committed in their platform to making scientifically informed decisions that represent public interest for the environment. On February 16th the city of Burnaby filed to appeal the NEB’s decision to approve Trans Mountain construction despite violation of Burnaby PPA and Tree Bylaws. Thousands of people are out impeding pipeline construction including Terry Christenson from Burnaby who was arrested for hanging in a tree hammock near a construction terminal, March 19th.

As of 2018 Canada is the 3rd largest producer and 4th largest exporter of oil in the world. Due to the geographic location of oil refineries, Canada also imports and exports oil in almost every province and territory, across indigenous landscapes, national parks, and UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Indigenous and environmental groups are among Canadians leading the legal battles against oil companies.

It is the decision of publicly elected government workers to approve the investments made in the country. Controversy over pipeline expansion and where to get our energy sources has been causing tension among Canadians for over a hundred years.  In an increasingly energy dependent society Canadians are torn on where to invest. As passion for the environment grows people are encouraged to find more sustainable options.

The issue creates tension among citizens. During a provincial assembly on March 8th Alberta Premier Rachel Notley announced that her government would restrict oil exports from Alberta to British Colombia if B.C continued to impede on the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline. This threat of oil restrictions follow the Alberta government’s 2 week boycott of wine imported from B.C in February. “The wine industry is very important to B.C.,” Notley said at a news conference from the Alberta Legislature. “Not nearly as important as the energy industry is to Alberta and Canada, but important nonetheless.”

During a speech on March 15th, Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna stated that the Trans Mountain expansion will make B.C coasts safer. McKenna argued that pipelines cause high environmental damage, however improvements in marine safety associated with the project including $1.5 billion investment into Ocean Protection Plan would help restore B.C coastline. In response to why the environment minister would support expansion of the fossil fuel industry, McKenna argued that the economy and the environment must go hand in hand.

Do Canadians agree with the actions of politicians who pride themselves on being committed to the environment? Are the commitments to invest in environmental restoration projects enough to compensate for the destruction caused by fossil fuel infrastructure? Would it be more sustainable to divest in fossil fuels and invest in renewable energy? What is the popular opinion of Canadians in a society of increasing environmental awareness as well as increasing dependence on fossil fuels energy services.

In 2015 Canada was ranked 7th in world production of renewable energy. Hydro provided 67 per cent of renewable energy consumption. One example of a growing renewable energy company in Canada is Algonquin Power. Algonquin Power distributes sustainable energy from assets including wind, thermal, and solar power facilities across North America.

Many Canadians support the oil industry, however as public protests grow the government is called to reconsider their pipeline agenda. Despite overwhelming legal battles with oil companies, projects continue to move forward. While exercising their democratic rights through protest, citizens are arrested and left to wait in the court system. How many more people will be criminalized before the government’s actions represent the opinion of the public which elected them?




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