08/04/2013 10:48 EDT | Updated 10/02/2013 05:12 EDT

Energy East Pipeline: Building a Nation on a Nightmare


TransCanada officially announced on August 1 a $12-billion Energy East tar sands pipeline project. If constructed, the pipeline would run from Alberta to the coast of St. John, New Brunswick, and would carry 1.1 million barrels of crude a day, which would enable a 50 per cent increase tar sands production.

Alberta Premier Alison Redford called Energy East "truly a nation-building project."

What does it say about our leaders and about us when the best dream we can think of is to build a nation on a tar sands pipeline? That extracting the bodies of long lost ancestors -- essentially that's what oil and bitumen are -- and pushing them through a pipe is cause for national platitudes?

But it goes deeper than that.

This project would also greatly increase the ongoing injustices being done to First Nations communities that are at ground zero of the tar sands horror story and bring some of those injustices to other communities right across Canada. The Beaver Lake Cree cite over 20,000 Treaty Rights violations on their traditional territory alone, and that's without a new 1.1 million barrel a day tar sands pipeline.

But it goes deeper than that.

This pipeline would also lead to a rampant increase in the climate pollution coming from the tar sands. It would greatly increase Canada's emissions at a time that the world is seeing more floods, wild fires, super storms, and other climate disasters. This pipeline leads us further into the climate crisis, not out of it.

But it goes deeper than that.

Already approved projects in the tar sands are projected to blow past government-set limits for protecting air, water, and wildlife habitat. This pipeline would facilitate more projects being built, adding to the damage. Future projects would also be mostly in-situ, a pretty worrisome thought given that right now an in-situ project near Cold Lake, Alberta has been spilling tar sands into the environment for months and the government and the company can't seem to stop the spills. They just keep going.

But it goes deeper than that.

We know the problems pipelines cause. We've seen the spills in Little Buffalo, Arkansas, Kalamazoo, and Zama City. We've heard about schools being evacuated, rivers poisoned, and oil companies walking away from spill sites that are still contaminated years later. Alberta, the province pushing the new pipeline, suffers an average of of 2.2 crude oil spills a day. (Yes, a day.) Shouldn't we fix those problems first before bringing these problems to new communities?

But it goes deeper than that.

By building a pipeline that further accelerates climate change, tramples Treaty and First Nation rights, and compounds already severe problems, we are not only building our nation on those injustices, we are also saying that we've lost our imagination, that the scope of our dreams comes from an oil company press release.

I'm not ready to do that. I think we have more in us as a nation. I think our dreams are bigger. That our solutions are ones that address our problems, make our environment healthier, honour our commitments to First Nations peoples, and strengthen all our communities.

What if, instead of building a toxic pipeline, we set a goal of installing solar panels on 100,000 roofs across the country, like Germany did, and that employed over 382,000 people in the process? What if we put forward a national home retrofitting program to employ people in green jobs and that allowed people from coast to coast to save on their energy bills? What if we set a national goal of using our ingenuity and creativity to address the climate crisis rather than to accelerate it?

It's because of that greater dream that I will oppose this tar sands pipeline and encourage you to join me.

It's time to dream again because the oil industry's dream would be a nightmare.

Energy East Pipeline Explained