Opinions & Features Workshop (Oct 26th)

Illustration by Tricia Lim

Head-to-Head: What does the Trans Mountain pipeline dilemma mean for Albertans?

TMX needs to go through

By Evan Giles, October 23 2018 —

One of the most divisive topics in Canadian politics is the now-federally owned Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion project. No matter what region of the country you’re from or which political camp you call home, you likely have a strong opinion on the project. How the expansion pans out will likely contribute to the fate of the federal government and Alberta’s provincial government elections near.

However, the unfortunate reality is that a strong oil industry means a strong Canadian economy, which is necessary to continue being a climate leader. 

One argument by critics of the pipeline is that Canada will never be able to meet its commitments to the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement if the pipeline is built. In this accord, Canada’s goal is to reduce carbon emissions by 523 megatonnes per year by 2030. This argument, however, improperly assumes that pipelines will automatically hike up carbon emissions and fails to consider Alberta’s implementation of a carbon levy. The program is supposed to be an Alberta-created project that encourages cleaner energy alternatives. The soon-to-be-implemented federal carbon tax will do the same thing, only on a national scale. 

On the surface, it may seem like Canada investing in a fossil fuel project would automatically disqualify the country from being a climate leader. This would only be looking at the issues from a surface level. When you look at renewable energy on a global scale, there has been constant growth each year. A 2017 BBC report states that renewable energy will continue to grow at 2.6 per cent annually until 2040. Contrasting this with 2016 statistics from the Canadian government that show that 17.4 per cent of Canada’s energy comes from renewable sources like hydroelectricity compared to 13.4 per cent globally demonstrates that Canada will continue to be a clean-energy leader. The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion could, at $7.4 billion in revenue, be used to further grow these renewable energy sources

The toughest issue facing this project is the lands on which it will be built — unceded Indigenous territory. Canada has historically and continuously marginalized Indigenous peoples and has had difficulty finding effective methods of reconciliation. The land rights of these groups need to be respected by the federal and provincial governments.

This doesn’t mean the project can’t be built. But the government must engage in a respectful dialogue with Indigenous leaders about pipelines going through Indigenous land.

We live in a reality where Canada is still very reliant on a strong fossil fuels industry. The industry has spurred economic growth and supported social services across the country. But that’s not to say that we don’t need to make a bigger commitment to shifting to renewable energy sources. It’s time for governments on the provincial and federal level create a bigger incentive for energy companies to figure out ways to go green.

It’s also important for those same companies to take more serious measures to achieve this goal. The oil industry in Alberta is a vital part of Canada’s economy and Canadians must recognize this. That’s why the Trans Mountain project’s halt will likely be the nail in the coffin for Alberta Premier Rachel Notley’s government, which is a shame, as a United Conservative government is unlikely to attempt to promote environmentally friendly solutions to Alberta’s oil dependents.

A completely sustainable energy sector is possible and achievable, but unfortunately, it’ll take a lot longer for Canada to get to that point than most of us would like. Until then, the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is necessary, both in terms of Canada’s economic prosperity and future climate initiatives.

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We don’t need to pursue TMX

By Mateusz Arya Salmassi, October 23 2018 —

Amid the recent economic turmoil, working-class Albertans are suffering. If we’re going to provide well-paying jobs to those who are hurting to feed their families, we have to do away with the political theatre. Asserting that the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion will bring prosperity to Alberta is just that — theatre.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley’s argument in favour of the Trans Mountain Pipeline can be summarized as follows: In order to fight climate change and bring back the economic heyday of Alberta, we need a pipeline to ship Albertan oil to Asian and West Coast markets, which will increase oil production and, directly and indirectly, create countless jobs.

On the surface, it sounds great, especially with reports about projected increases in oil demand, most relevantly in China.

But these reports rely on a few assumptions, namely that subsidies for fossil fuel production and other forms of state intervention on behalf of the industry will continue.

Those assumptions ignore the inconvenient realities about China’s clean energy boom and cheaper sources of oil from neighbouring countries like Russia. Furthermore, pipeline proponent arguments neglect to consider intense grassroots pressure for bold climate policy, the undeniable employment benefits of a green transition, international commitments to greenhouse gas emission reductions and resilient Indigenous rights movements.

TMX’s projected return of $18.5 billion to government coffers by the Conference Board of Canada was based using old oil price forecasts from 2012. The touted creation of 34,000 jobs includes a supposed calculation of every single direct, indirect and induced job resulting from the pipeline itself.

This was your typical PR campaign. The increased budget deficit as a result of the $4.5-billion federal purchase is hardly mentioned, and the huge strides toward automation in Alberta’s industry make it so that innumerable jobs have ceased to exist and wouldn’t come back even if there were another oil boom.

Meanwhile, a Columbia Institute report found that a transition to a net-zero carbon economy would create 3.9 million construction jobs alone and 19.8 million when counting induced and indirect jobs as a result of spending and supply-chain work. The Canadian Labour Council in coalition with environmental groups is pushing for the more modest goal of one million climate jobs.

Why not jump on this wave and employ millions of Canadians while phasing out an industry which has gutted Indigenous economies and ecosystems, contaminated Indigenous peoples’ traditional food sources and poses an existential threat to the survival of organized human life on earth?

What shouldn’t be a debate is hotly contested. We should already be discussing how to intelligently implement this transition to ensure all workers and peoples are thriving. We should be working to spur the growth of worker co-operatives so that the energy industry of the future is democratically accountable and profits, jobs and wealth remain local. We should be looking at precedents for state economic overhauls in times of emergency. We should be engaging in meaningful reconciliation with Indigenous peoples and not creating conditions that leave no choice but to work for corporations decimating their historical land.

Notley should use her position to pressure the federal government to implement Canada’s next clean energy boom instead of playing within a narrow range of policies acceptable to multinational corporations. Only mass popular demand will get our politicians to create policies that are in the interest of individuals — not shareholder return.


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