Pipeline political deceit

The purchase of the Trans Mountain pipeline project is one of Canada’s greatest political deceits. It is not a balance of the economy and environment, but a sellout that subsidizes the economy of the past while holding back a diversified, low-carbon economy of the future. 

Canadians are now investors, and the prime minister can’t answer basic questions of the project that are critical to its business case and risks: Can diluted bitumen be cleaned up? How does the additional pipeline capacity fit within Canada’s carbon budget? Will the project be a stranded asset in order to meet 2050 global climate change targets and what does that mean for the business case? Does Canada owning this asset not put it in conflict of interest with taking action to reduce carbon emissions?

Those supportive of the pipeline do so because they want economic prosperity and feel optimistic about their future. Increasing economic dependence on the fossil fuel sector, however, is obstructing participation in a low-carbon economy. 

With this plan, we are declaring that we owe nothing to generations after us. How do we explain this to our kids? We have had over 20 years of empty targets and in 2018 as we are experiencing the costly impacts of climate change our prime minister invests in a project that will ramp up oil production to blow past the worst scenarios. It is as if we are all stuck in a vehicle with an impaired driver. Our fate is set making his reassurances meaningless.

The oilsands won’t be shut down overnight, but building pipelines to facilitate growth in extraction only pulls us back and commits us to decades of further inaction. If we are concerned about jobs and the economy, it doesn’t make sense to subsidize a project whose purpose is to generate a few jobs as possible in Canada by shipping bitumen to be refined overseas (benefitting large, foreign-owned oil companies) let alone doubling down on an industry that caused Alberta’s recent recession. Increasing automation in the oil sands proves the trajectory is to sell out our resources at a greater rate with fewer jobs. We are on the path of a race to the bottom generational sellout. 

As Alberta recovers from the oil-fueled recession, now is the time to pivot. Many Albertans who worked in the oil sands have retrained for jobs in less a volatile sector. Therefore, the new jobs should be in new sectors for Alberta and Canada that supports a low-carbon economy.

For the remaining workers, existing jobs can be maintained by shifting from maximizing extraction and minimizing jobs created, to maximizing the number of jobs we can create from the remaining oil we are able to extract within our carbon budget. This means focusing on refining and creating value-added petrochemicals. 

Investing in the Trans Mountain project demonstrates the lack of economic vision for our country. The true national interest is in creating a prosperous economy that provides solutions to the great environmental challenges we have accumulated.

Robert Stupka, Kelowna

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