Home Page News Opinion Foreign Policy Politics Policy Legislation Lobbying Hill Life & People Hill Climbers Heard On The Hill Calendar Archives Classifieds
Hill Times Events Inside Ottawa Directory Hill Times Store Hill Times Careers The Wire Report The Lobby Monitor Parliament Now
Subscribe Free Trial Reuse & Permissions Advertising
Log In
Global

The myths about Energy East, just to clear the air

By Susan Riley      

We shouldn’t let the issue fade without hacking away the false claims and apocalyptic predictions surrounding the massive, now doomed, infrastructure project.

There are conflicting guesses about how long the oilsands will be viable. Suncor’s CEO suggests 100 years, Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr, pictured, says 30 to 40. But once decarbonization takes hold (as it is, in Europe and China and California) the change could come quickly. Energy East will be remembered, if it is remembered at all, as the last twitch of a declining industry.  The Hill Times photograph by Andrew Meade
GATINEAU, QUE.—The decision by TransCanada to mothball its proposed Energy East pipeline some days ago risks becoming flotsam in the all-consuming whirl of daily news—from Harvey Weinstein, to Donald Trump’s threats to dump NAFTA, to second-hand Australian jets. But we shouldn’t let the issue fade without hacking away the false claims and apocalyptic predictions surrounding the massive, now doomed, infrastructure project.
1. False claim No. 1: the cancellation is entirely Justin Trudeau’s fault. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The argument would have more salience if Trudeau hadn’t—as he points out—approved two major energy pipelines in his two years in office, compared to zero for the Harper government. The Hill Times photograph by Andrew Meade

This interpretation has been most stridently embraced, unsurprisingly, by Andrew Scheer’s federal Conservatives and Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall. They accuse Trudeau, in so many words, of being hostile to Western Canada and the oil industry, and draw lazy comparisons to his father’s National Energy Policy of the 1980s (different world, different ambitions).
The argument would have more salience if Trudeau hadn’t—as he points out—approved two major energy pipelines in his two years in office, compared to zero for the Harper government. It also runs counter to the prime minister’s, and Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr’s, frequently stated enthusiasm for getting Alberta’s oil to China and beyond—in an environmentally responsible way, of course, as if there was an environmentally responsible way to crank up, or extend, production in the oilsands.
That said, many Liberals are probably relieved that Energy East didn’t proceed, given the opposition it aroused in Quebec where the party holds 40 seats. But to suggest they undermined the project by imposing more rigorous emissions requirements, at the last minute, disregards the awesome fury of Montreal mayor Denis Coderre and many other municipal leaders. Not to mention TransCanada’s arrogance when it first tried to sell the project to a skeptical province. (Providing English-only documents is never a good idea.) Energy East was never going to be accepted by Quebecers.
2. TransCanada and its champions have also suggested those extra conditions, imposed by the National Energy Board—allegedly acting as puppets, for anti-oil Trudeau—sabotaged the project as much, if not more, than market conditions. 
No, the NEB was finally doing what it is supposed to be doing: acting in the Canadian interest, instead of running interference for the oil industry, which has long been its role. It has never once turned down a major pipeline/fossil fuel project. It attaches conditions, but its main concern has been protecting the industry from mounting protests from environmentalists, Indigenous people and local politicians.
That started to change under Trudeau’s watch, with the appointment of new board members with new responsibilities, including assessing the broader environmental consequences of major projects—not just emissions resulting from construction, but emissions generated by future consumption of all that oil.

Conservative leader Andrew Scheer accuses Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in so many words, of being hostile to Western Canada and the oil industry, and draws lazy comparisons to his father’s National Energy Policy of the 1980s (different world, different ambitions). The Hill Times file photograph

Rising emissions are the inescapable consequence of burning oil—a fact TransCanada would rather not focus on. And, if Canada is remotely serious about meeting its Paris targets, we have to start measuring more rigorously, and curtailing the growth, of emissions. As to TransCanada’s complaint that other recent projects have not been subjected to the same demanding standard, the unintended question is—why not? How much more greenhouse gas will the controversial Kinder Morgan project, intended to transport Alberta bitumen to China via Vancouver harbour, add to global totals?

3. The claim that TransCanada was the victim of an industry-hating, Quebec-dominated government downplays the reality that this was a doomed business proposition almost from the start. 

More in News

Feds pick three vendors to pilot Phoenix replacement projects

News
Treasury Board President Joyce Murray says it’s ‘too soon to say’ which or how many vendors will be tapped to provide new public servant payment services.

Liberal backers want to implement new NAFTA now, but Conservative supporters want to wait until after looming election, poll suggests

News|By Neil Moss
Forum Research's interactive voice response telephone poll is based on 1,633 randomly selected responses from May 31 to June 2. It has a margin of error of three per cent 19 times out of 20.

Conservatives vulnerable to intolerance attacks, and ‘clumsy’ Cooper episode feeds into perceptions, say strategists, pollster

Stripping Conservative MP Michael Cooper of his deputy critic role would have sent a stronger message, says Tim Powers.

ISG Senators to propose amending Bill C-48 to allow tanker access to Nisga’a Nation: Sen. Paula Simons

The amendments would respect the rights of the coastal First nation and give Alberta hope for exporting heavy oil from the coast, says the Independent Senators from Alberta.

Media fund panel takes shape amid transparency, partisanship concerns

News|By Mike Lapointe
The Canadian Association of Journalists only agreed to come onboard following the government’s agreement to waive confidentiality agreement requirements for panel members.

New-parent MPs allowed year-long pass from House duties under long-awaited leave changes

‘This is a really important step for a culture change on Parliament Hill,’ says Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould of the new system for parental leave.

Union pans $2.6-billion public-private contract to modernize federal heating, cooling

News|By Mike Lapointe
The $2.6-billion contract will help reduce emissions by 60 per cent, says Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, but PSAC is concerned with public-private partnerships they say 'regularly fail.'

Departing Chinese ambassador on career ‘fast-track,’ rhetoric worsened relations, say former diplomats

Canada has been without an ambassador in China for five months, during a time when relations with China have deteriorated. Now there’s reports Chinese Ambassador Lu Shaye is set to depart for a new post.

Senate ushers back on the job as Chamber resumes contract with security firm

Contractors hired to man Senate of Canada Building doors returned on June 10 after a Senate committee reviewed the sole-source contract signed by senior officials without their knowledge.
Your group subscription includes premium access to Politics This Morning briefing.