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How Do We Reconcile Trudeau's Pipeline Approval With Paris Commitment?

12/07/2016 12:56 EST | Updated 12/07/2016 12:57 EST
Chris Wattie / Reuters
Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a news conference in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, November 29, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

On the 26th of November, the announcement became public: the government of Mr. Justin Trudeau had decided to approve Kinder Morgan's TransMountain pipeline to the port of Vancouver as well as renovations to Enbridge's old Line 3 toward Wisconsin. But the prime minister rejected the Northern Gateway Project to Kitimat on the coast of the Pacific.

This is the first time that prime minister Trudeau has made such a decision; if implemented, this will change the economic outlook for the next 40 years. The honeymoon of the government based on pretty selfies is over. However, we might ask ourselves if this decision in favour of the oil industry has any link to the fact that his grandfather, Charles, was the founder of an oil company called Champlain Oil during the first half of the twentieth century.

Right off the bat, the Prime Minister has just broken two of the promises that helped him in his electoral campaign of 2O15: that of subjecting pipeline projects like TransMountain to a new environmental consultation and assessment process as well as that of basing such decisions on science. The urgently needed reform of the NEB (National Energy Board) is put off indefinitely! This is not a good start.

In a way, this announcement is a victory for the lobby of the oil industry. According to Raphael Bouvier-Auclair of Radio-Canada, there were some 35 meetings between representatives of Kinder Morgan and political employees or bureaucrats. As for Enbridge, the federal registry of lobbyists makes note of 70 meetings. However, on the other side of the balance of power, my budget, (also true for most environmentalists) does not allow me to have a private meeting with the prime minister when the entrance fee is $1500 a plate! Certainly these meetings are not illegal. But this behaviour leaves a sour taste in the mouth of those who believe that all should be treated equally.

Let's not forget that Northern Gateway had been accepted; but the fierce opposition from the First Nations, and from ordinary citizens forced its cancellation by the courts. As well, the scarcity of economic benefits for British Columbia led Premier Clark to ask herself if the environmental risks incurred were worth the risk.

Even though the federal government just gave its consent, the problems that have plagued Northern Gateway await the TransMountain pipeline project in spades. NDP member of Parliament, Kennedy Stewart and Green Party leader Elizabeth May have sworn to fight alongside the First Nations and regional mayors of Vancouver. Mayor Robertson is as determined to protect the quality of the water of his jurisdiction as Montreal's Denis Coderre.

In granting its blessing so precipitously to TransMountain, the Trudeau government has forgotten that kind of decision should be made in consultation with scientists. In theory, he subscribes to the fifth report of the IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change). Clearly, the objective of TransMountain's construction is to increase the production of the tar sands. According to Enjeux Energie, this pipeline, which will have a capacity of 324.85 million barrels a year will be responsible for world emissions equivalent to 195 million tons of carbon dioxide per year. Greenhouse gases, whether produced in Fort McMurray, Tokyo, New Delhi, or Peking, will accelerate climate change for the whole planet. How do we reconcile this decision with Canada's promises at the Paris Conference?

When Trudeau's grandfather decided to sell oil and promote the car in the early 30s, he was in the full swing of the revolution that sounded the the death knell of the horse and buggy era. The world is now transitioning to renewable energies; 85 years later, building a pipeline is as backward as building a buggy plant back in 1930.

Mr. Trudeau, this is 2016!

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