Where’s Canada’s energy policy?

0
53

Pontiac Perspective  Peter J. Gauthier

The Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has given approval for the construction of two of three pipelines in western Canada, which has had mixed reactions. The Trans Mountain and Embridge’s Line 3 projects were approved while the Northern Gateway pipeline was rejected.

Pontiac Perspective  Peter J. Gauthier

The Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has given approval for the construction of two of three pipelines in western Canada, which has had mixed reactions. The Trans Mountain and Embridge’s Line 3 projects were approved while the Northern Gateway pipeline was rejected.
The Conservative party and backers of the Northern Gateway pipeline were disappointed it was not approved. Much more serious is the approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline proposed by the American company, Kinder Morgan, which also received approval from the Premier of Alberta, Rachel Notley. Many residents of British Columbia (including Vancouver mayor Gregor Robinson), most of the First Nations affected, and all environmentalists have voiced strong opposition to Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline. This is of particular significance as, in the last
election, these opposition groups were among Trudeau’s strongest supporters. Enbridge’s Line 3 expansion did not generate as much controversy as it is essentially an upgrade to an existing pipeline.
So why is the federal government in such a position? A major reason is that Canada is the only OECD country that does not have a clear energy policy. And why is an energy policy so necessary? First, a policy is a systematic set
of principles that form the basis for rational, valid evaluations and outcomes. Second, a good policy will contain provisions for its review and amendment where changes require re-evaluation of its principles and methods of application.
A specific energy policy should cover all relevant issues including sources (not just gas and oil), all economic impacts, short and long term requirements, effects of new technologies, energy relationships to the environment, the health and
prosperity of individuals, the security requirements of the nation and such political and social concerns that may affect democratic processes – such as subsidizing certain sectors of energy producers and users.
Obviously, such a policy cannot be created and enforced overnight. Thus a case can be made that the government must act without such a policy. This would be reasonable if Trudeau’s political party and government acknowledged the need for a comprehensive energy policy. But, of all the promises made by the Liberal party and all of the actions the government has indicated it wants to take, development of an energy policy is mostly noted for its absence.
Without a comprehensive policy, how are the conflicting claims to be resolved without protest, strife and possible litigation? The disputed issues are many – jobs and new markets, environmental effects and Canada’s GHG reduction targets for 2030, possible oil spills, First Nations claims, and economic risks (the International Energy Agency predicts a reduction in global demand for oil starting in 2018, making oil from tar sand uneconomical). The list of issues could be extended almost ad infinitum without a policy framework. What is the responsibility of the government (and the taxpayer) if Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline fails to meet its economic projections and it ceases to be economically viable?
Without a firm energy policy, Canada faces more than just the pipeline
uncertainties. There is a significant possibility that the country will not be in a position to take advantage of new technologies essential to the future
security of our country. While an energy policy will not protect us from every
possible adversity, it can give us a more certain way of handling inevitable changes. This is preferable to the current ad hoc approach taken by a government that has no definite policy.