HONEYMOON IS OVER BETWEEN TRUDEAU AND ANTI-OIL ACTIVISTS
- 11 Jan 2017
- Saskatoon StarPhoenix
- CLAUDIA CATTANEO Financial Post
HONEYMOON IS OVER BETWEEN TRUDEAU AND ANTI-OIL ACTIVISTS
Environmental campaigns call into question whether the pain is worthwhile
On Tuesday, Jane Fonda was in the oilsands to agitate against new pipelines supported by Alberta’s left-leaning NDP government and approved by Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Meanwhile, more aboriginal lawsuits were flying in Vancouver over Trudeau’s approval of the Petronas LNG project. And in Toronto, environmental activists were scoffing at Ottawa’s efforts to reform the National Energy Board.
Clearly, the honeymoon is over between opponents of oil and gas projects and Canadian governments that hoped to win their approval by cranking up environmental regulations and carbon costs, even at the expense of the economy.
So much for Canada’s ambitious climate leadership program, sold to Canadians on the promise that it would satisfy critics and rehabilitate Canada’s reputation as a responsible energy producer.
Which begs the question: If there is no gain for the pain, why bother? Why not stop pretending that no big pat on the back is coming from Canada’s environmental leadership, just a loss of competitiveness and wealth while the rest of the world — particularly the U.S. under Donald Trump, who’ll be no puppet of activists — keeps looking out for itself?
That pain should have been in plain sight as Fonda toured the region around Fort McMurray, Alta., a city ravaged by last year’s fire and where economic growth has been stunted by cuts in oilsands investments, carbon taxes, and a cap on oilsands emissions.
“Apparently @Janefonda & Greenpeace didn’t get the memo,” PC leadership candidate Jason Kenney tweeted.
“The NDP carbon tax was supposed to end their opposition to our oil & pipelines.”
But the Hollywood actress, sponsored by Greenpeace and some aboriginal leaders — certainly not the ones that are benefiting from the oilsands industry — was more interested in lecturing Albertans about the evils of oilsands pipelines and oilsands expansions.
Oilsands tours have become de rigueur for celebrities fronting anti-oilsands campaigns, most recently Leo Di Caprio and Neil Young, as if briefly surveying the industry from the air gives them legitimacy to pass judgment.
“Canada’s recent approval of new tar sands projects in Alberta and the Line 3 and Kinder Morgan pipelines, and the looming possibilities of a Keystone XL and Energy East, are in direct conflict with Canada’s commitments to Indigenous Rights, the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), and the Paris climate accord,” organizers of Fonda’s event said in a news release.
“That is the message First Nation leaders and Indigenous advocate and Academy Award winning actress Jane Fonda will bring to a press conference in Edmonton,” on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, at a press conference in Vancouver, British Columbia First Nations chiefs slapped a fourth lawsuit against Ottawa’s approval of the Pacific Northwest LNG project.
They claim that the proposed liquefied natural gas export terminal infringes their aboriginal fishing rights and that they were not consulted.
Two Gitxsan Nation hereditary chiefs — Charlie Wright with the Luutkudziiwus house group, and Yvonne Lattie with the Gwininitxw house group — want a judicial review to overturn Ottawa’s conditional permit.
“This LNG project will be stopped,” Richard Wright, spokesperson for Luutkudziiwus hereditary chief Charlie Wright, said in a statement. “We don’t give a damn about (Premier) Christy Clark’s re-election, Trudeau’s deal-making, or Petronas’ hopes to sell fracked gas. That terminal is bad news for our salmon up the Skeena River.”
The chiefs claim that during the government’s consultation over the project’s impacts, through the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, they were “very keen to participate, but were either offered grossly inadequate funding to give technical input, or were told they were not directly affected by the project.”
The legal showdown comes after the $36 billion project received federal cabinet approval in September after a lengthy review, and despite recent reports that Petronas is prepared to make major design changes to minimize impacts and increase aboriginal support, probably resulting in more delays before proponents make a final investment decision.
As for efforts to restore trust in the National Energy Board, one of Trudeau’s campaign pledges, they’re being met with similar rebuke.
The NEB officially appointed three new members to a panel to restart the stalled review of the proposed Energy East pipeline, proposed by TransCanada Corp. The review was put on hold to put to rest concerns about a potential conflict of interest, raised by environmentalists last year.
But Environmental Defense, a leader of the campaign against the Alberta-to-New Brunswick pipeline, wants Ottawa to shut down the review altogether until after the completion of reforms to the NEB and to environmental assessment laws. It’s safe to say, based on past pronouncements, that Environmental Defense will find fault with those, too.
“After the recent approval of tar sands pipelines with the capacity to carry over a million additional barrels of oil per day, the federal government needs to demonstrate more than ever how energy projects fit within its Paris climate targets and the pan-Canadian climate framework,” the group said in a statement.
The re-invigorated campaigns against the oilsands, pipelines and LNG reinforces what previous Canadian governments already knew: Activism against natural resource projects is an industry representing special interests that thrives on confrontation and escalating demands that will never be satisfied.