This has been a bad week for those of us who are terrified about the future of life on this planet. Continue Reading
This has been a bad week for those of us who are terrified about the future of life on this planet. Continue Reading
It’s early days yet, but already it looks as though the great debate over pipelines will be one of the defining issues of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s time in office.
The pipeline issue is hot right now. Opposition to pipelines from the pro-Leap Manifesto faction of the NDP played a significant role in unseating leader Thomas Mulcair earlier this month and may yet lead to a splitting of the party. Enbridge’s Northern Gateway, long presumed dead, is poised for a potential last-minute revival thanks to the campaign-promise-breaking support and behind-the-scenes machinations of several prominent politicians. And pipeline fever won’t be going anywhere soon; with the NEB due to deliver its recommendations on Kinder Morgan’s TransMountain in just under a month, the issue will be widely discussed and debated this summer. Meanwhile, the NEB’s final report on TransCanada’s Energy East isn’t expected until March 2018, with a cabinet decision due three months later, guaranteeing that pipeline politics will feature as prominently in the run-up to the next election as they did in the last one.
This is also an issue on which our Boy Wonder PM just can’t catch a break. He finds himself attacked on all sides for his opaquely unsatisfying position. Pipeline proponents like Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, and Conservative Party interim leader Rona Ambrose have slammed Trudeau for being insufficiently enthusiastic about pushing the issue, despite the seemingly unending litany of statements from senior cabinet ministers that this government is “committed” to “getting Canada’s resources to market” – indeed, that this is “one of the fundamental responsibilities of any Canadian Prime Minister”. Meanwhile, although the government has taken steps to make the pipeline review process at least appear more impartial and thorough, activists and environmentalists have slammed the piecemeal reforms as woefully insufficient, with some charging that they amount to little more than a fig leaf designed to provide cover for pipeline approval.
Pipelines occupy the precise intersection between economic issues and environmental concerns. The issues is therefore a kind of proxy war, a struggle over what kind of future we want to work towards. Concerns about catastrophic climate change clash with worries for the plight of the suddenly impoverished workforce of Alberta and Saskatchewan, who are facing a once-in-a-century economic calamity.
And this really does need to be stressed – things are BAD out west. Continue Reading
Despite widespread public and First Nations opposition, and in clear contradiction of their election promises and repeated public statements on the issue, three major Canadian political leaders are working quietly to allow Enbridge’s dangerous mega-polluting Northern Gateway pipeline to move forward.
While in opposition, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau denounced the Harper government’s contingent approval of the pipeline in 2014, and promised that if he became prime minister, Northern Gateway would not happen. During last year’s federal election campaign, he promised to impose a ban on oil tanker traffic in northern British Columbia, a proposal which would effectively killed the pipeline.
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley also campaigned on opposition to Northern Gateway in last year’s provincial election. One year ago today, in the midst of a contentious campaign, she told the Calgary Herald that “Gateway is not the right decision…I don’t think there’s any point to [pushing for the project’s completion]. I think that the legal and the environmental implications are such that it’s not going to go ahead. I think most people know that.”
And British Columbia Premier Christy Clark has openly opposed Northern Gateway for many years. After the federal government announced its approval of the project in 2014, Clark’s government declared that it would deny necessary provincial permits until its extremely strenuous demands (which some pro-pipeline observers called impossible) were met. Those demands – Clark’s famous “five conditions” – were a key plank in her party’s platform during their surprise victory in the 2013 provincial election.
Given this seemingly unanimous opposition from the three leaders, and the impending expiry of Enbridge’s permit to being construction, many analysts had assumed that Northern Gateway was dead, and pipeline proponents have focussed most of their energy and effort on the still-under-review TransMountain and Energy East pipelines.
But surprising developments in recent weeks have overturned this consensus, and suddenly, Northern Gateway’s demise looks far from certain. Continue Reading
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, the president of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, said something in reaction to the Trudeau government’s new pipeline review policy in late January that has rattled around in my head ever since. “What needs to be demonstrated,” Phillip said, in registering his disappointment with the policy, “is the federal government’s willingness to take no for an answer from First Nations…who are exercising their sovereign decision-making power.”
In many ways, this is the crux of the pipeline debate – at the intersection between Indigenous rights and energy policy, where we need to decide whether our stated principles or our obligations to corporate shareholders should take precedence. It’s vital to be mindful of the fact that the struggle against pipelines, as pivotal and momentous as it is for the climate justice movement, is also the latest front in a centuries-old Aboriginal struggle for the right to say “no” to settlers who want to exploit and despoil their land.
And let’s be clear – by and large, First Nations are saying “no” to pipelines, and they’re saying it firmly and unequivocally. Right across the country, Indigenous folks, both from the grassroots and from the leadership, are speaking out in the strongest possible terms against major proposed projects like Energy East, Northern Gateway, and Trans Mountain.
As these proposals reach their culmination, it’s becoming critical that the Canadian government affirms the right of First Nations to, as the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples puts it, “free, prior, and informed consent” – or, in Phillip’s formulation, their right to say no and have that be the final word on the subject. Continue Reading
In a major win for pipeline resisters, the Supreme Court of Canada has agreed to hear an appeal by the Chippewas of the Thames First Nations which threatens to shut down Enbridge’s Line 9B.
It’s also a case with broad implications for several major pipeline projects currently under review, as well as for resource development on First Nations across (so-called) Canada.
The Chippewas of the Thames allege that they were not properly consulted on the reversal of the pipeline, which was previously transporting light crude oil from east to west. A finding in their favour could mean a cancellation or suspension of Enbridge’s approval to reverse the line, and may have an impact on several ongoing NEB reviews into major tar sands pipelines. Continue Reading
“First Nations and Métis partnership is at the very heart of the Northern Gateway Project,” claims energy giant Enbridge on their website promoting the pipeline project.
In extolling the benefits of the Energy East pipeline, TransCanada boasts that “Fostering strong, long-term relationships with Aboriginal communities is, and will continue to be, an integral part of everything we do here at TransCanada…In fact, many Chiefs have already expressed their appreciation for our engagement process.”
Kinder Morgan, touting the 22 “long-term mutual support and benefit agreements” they’ve signed with First Nations along the route of Trans Mountain, promises to “continue to work with Aboriginal communities along the pipeline to build mutual benefit agreements with all communities along the proposed pipeline corridor.”
These proclamations of mutually beneficial relations with First Nations and of the support of Aboriginal communities for the pipeline process are in many ways fantasies. Each of these projects faces widespread opposition from Indigenous peoples, both at the grassroots level and among many provincial and national leaders. This opposition has in many cases escalated to the extent of constructing blockades and protest camps to prevent pipeline construction. The consultation process of which these titans of industry are so proud has been widely condemned by First Nations across the country, with Aboriginal elders in Manitoba refusing to participate in NEB consultations over Enbridge’s Line 3 due to the absurd restrictions imposed on the process.
To claim that the support of First Nations is “integral” to these companies’ success is therefore somewhat ridiculous on its face, as evidence of this support is in short supply. And yet, in another sense, these claims are absolutely true. These pipeline companies know that without at least the appearance of First Nations support, their chances of ever constructing these behemoth tar-sands tubes are slim. And so they quite reasonably do everything they can to play up the support they have received from some First Nations communities.
But even that support isn’t as simple as it may seem at first glance. Continue Reading
Though it’s hard to believe, it’s now been one hundred days since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took office. The hundred-day mark has held symbolic significance ever since U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt’s first term in office, in which he made a big show out of accomplishing certain campaign promises in his first hundred days.
Since then, the milestone has become an inflection point for new administrations, after which they cease to be new and begin to be judged in earnest on what they have done rather than what they have promised to do. When looking back on the first few months of a new government, one is often able to clearly see the priorities, methods, and style which will come to characterize its entire term in office. (One hundred days is, after all, not a trivial length of time, amounting to around 7% of the government’s term.)
So what can we discern about the Justin Trudeau government, looking back at the events which have transpired since that sunny November day on which he and his cabinet were sworn in with much pomp and celebration? The answer necessarily varies by issue, but one general trend is abundantly clear: in its first hundred days, the Trudeau government has demonstrated a commitment to changing the tone and style of politics in Ottawa, but that change has, with only a few exceptions, not been matched by a corresponding shift in the substance of the government’s policies on most major issues. Continue Reading
The Liberal government’s release of new guidelines for the pipeline review process a few weeks ago was meant to end furious feuding over the future of Canada’s oil and gas sector. The National Energy Board (NEB) reforms came hot on the heels of a nasty debate over Energy East, as the rejection of the pipeline by Montreal-area mayors was absurdly spun as a threat to national unity. The reforms were also delivered in the context of continual pressure on the new government by activists frustrated with Trudeau & Co’s delays in following through on campaign promises to fix what was widely viewed as a broken process.
The reforms, announced at a joint press conference by Minister of Natural Resources Jim Carr and Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna, aimed to “rebuild Canadians’ trust in our environmental assessment processes” and to “take into account the views and concerns of Canadians, respect the rights and interests of indigenous peoples and support our natural resources sector.”
But if the government expected their announced reforms to actually create trust in the NEB process or to do anything to cool down the overheated pipeline debate, they must be sorely disappointed. Two weeks later, it’s now clear that their proposed reforms have satisfied literally nobody, and the squabbling over pipeline proposals looks set to carry on indefinitely.
Just look at the wave of opposition to various proposed pipelines that’s arisen in the days since the government tried to calm everybody down with their (hastily-thrown-together?) reform package: Continue Reading
Earlier this week, the Trudeau government announced that it would be instituting new principles for ongoing reviews of pipeline projects like Energy East and Northern Gateway by the National Energy Board (NEB). These changes, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna said, were required to “rebuild Canadians’ trust in our environmental assessment processes” and to “take into account the views and concerns of Canadians, respect the rights and interests of indigenous peoples and support our natural resources sector.”
Setting aside the worrying implication that the current review process didn’t already perform basic consultative tasks, there was a troubling indication at the heart of the government’s rhetoric which completely undercuts their insistence that they want to build confidence in the NEB’s ability to reach scientifically sound and community-supported decisions:
[National Resources Minister Jim] Carr said the process will provide pipeline proponents greater certainty about the time involved in reaching decisions.
“If we’re going to attract the investments we need to sustainably develop our energy resources, then we have to better engage Canadians, conduct deeper consultations with indigenous peoples and base decisions on science, facts and evidence,” Carr said.
Did you catch it? It’s surrounded by caveats and reassurances, but it’s there – the assumption that the government must somehow find a way to facilitate the development of energy resources. (Note also McKenna’s statement above that the changes to the NEB process will “support our natural resources sector”.)
This is far from a one-off from Trudeau’s ministers. In fact, it’s been somewhat of a refrain for Jim Carr. Continue Reading
Pipelines are having a moment right now.
Even in the darkest depths of the Harper years, I can’t recall a time when tar sands bitumen transportation infrastructure was such a hot-button headline issue. And not in an isolated one-off kind of way, either – barely a day goes by without some prominent national figure making some newsworthy statement about pipelines.
I mean, it’s only Tuesday, and here’s just some of the big news in pipelines so far this week: Continue Reading