The Ontario government has previously pushed forward a bold agenda to reduce carbon pollution and spur the transition to clean energy. So, it was rather inexplicable when Minister Duncan recklessly embraced Enbridge’s tar sands pipeline and tanker project, Northern Gateway, yesterday.
Hopefully it was a seat of the pants type of comment. Northern Gateway is not only widely opposed by British Columbians, but is also not in the best interests of Ontarians. Does Ontario really want a pipeline and tanker project rammed through B.C. against the wishes of that province?
The opposition to Enbridge’s plans runs wide and deep in B.C. Just yesterday, the Union of B.C. Municipalities passed a resolution opposing any projects that lead to more oil tankers off the coast of the province. A recent poll found that British Columbians are almost as concerned about oil pipelines and tankers as they are about the economy, and 60% oppose Northern Gateway. Over 100 First Nations have banned oil pipelines and tankers from their territory, meaning that First Nations whose territories make up more than 50% of the proposed pipeline route have clearly said no. It’s ironic that Minister Duncan’s comments appeared in the Globe and Mail on the same day that former federal environment minister, Jim Prentice, is on the front page of that paper criticizing the failure to deal with First Nations concerns about the pipeline.
People in B.C. are rejecting Enbridge’s proposal because the risk of oil spills is too great, putting thousands of jobs that rely on a healthy coast in jeopardy. But this is a risky project for all Canadians. It is based on a massive expansion of the tar sands over the next two decades, and would ship 100 million tonnes of carbon pollution into the atmosphere every year.
The increased carbon pollution from the tar sands means that other provinces like Ontario would shoulder more of the burden to cut emissions if Canada is to reach the targets it has set. It further ties the Canadian economy to oil, which will worsen the negative impacts of the petrodollar. Already, an estimated 200,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost due to our increasing exports of oil, many of those in Ontario. And, Robyn Allan, an economist and former CEO of the Insurance Corporation of B.C., has raised concerns that while big oil companies will reap the profits from Northern Gateway, it could have an overall negative impact on the Canadian economy resulting from higher oil prices.
Doubling down on oil also puts us further behind in the clean energy revolution. Ontario, which has stuck its neck out to spur renewable energy, should be worried about this. We can’t build the new energy economy, and harness the good jobs that come along with it, if the country puts all its eggs in the tar sands basket.
More carbon pollution, more jobs at risk from the petrodollar and more risk of costly and dangerous oil spills. British Columbians have already decided it isn’t in their interest. For a province that has undertaken one of the biggest carbon reduction projects on the continent by phasing out coal entirely and one of the most ambitious renewable energy policies, embracing Northern Gateway is a puzzling step for Ontario.
Ontario has done some good work on pollution reduction. This should be a legacy to build on, not to shred.