The Canadian Global Affairs Institute provides credible, open access expertise on global affairs. With your support, we can continue to spark impassioned nation-wide discussions designed to help Canadians better understand their role in the international arena.
S U P P O R T   U S

Energy East opposition has nothing to do with the environment



by Barry Cooper

Calgary Herald
March 17, 2016

For the past six weeks, I have been doing research in the United States. Only the state dinner penetrated the news blackout on Canada. I read and heard nothing about Alberta.

When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s words were reported, they were context free. In the Rose Garden, for example, he was quoted as saying “it’s wonderful to see our American friends and partners share and working on the exact same priorities” as Canada.

What the prime minister seemed to have in mind was applauded by his new friends at the Center for American Progress. The centre, a strong supporter of President Barack Obama’s environmental initiatives, has attacked Alberta’s “dirty and destructive” resources and spearheaded opposition to pipeline construction. When asked, the PMO had no comment or explanation why Trudeau broke bread with such persons.

Canadian and U.S. “priorities” certainly did not translate into policies. We are facing a carbon tax; the Americans are not. Despite the low loonie, Canadian oil is marginalized in favour of subsidized energy sources. As the Alberta royalty review report noted, increased U.S. production poses a “huge risk” because Alberta oil is sent only south, whereas American oil can now be sold abroad — a problem that has been publicly discussed for over a decade in this province.

Not until I returned to Calgary and started wading through the accumulated newspapers did I see that one pattern in Canadian politics has not changed: the regional divide between western resource-producing provinces and Laurentian Canada is as deep as ever.

Take the proposed carbon tax, for example. In principle, carbon pricing and carbon taxing apply to both upstream and downstream emissions. In reality, they don’t. Writing in the National Post, Colin Dormuth suggested applying environmental sustainability criteria to Bombardier, whose products have produced far more CO2 than the oilsands. Economist Jack Mintz would also include the automobile and heavy equipment manufacturing and petrochemical industries in Ontario, Quebec, B.C. and New Brunswick. This all sounds like a joke.

In any event, as Claudia Cattaneo and Geoffrey Morgan remarked in the Financial Post, Alberta oil is already “greener,” which is to say, more low carbon, than, say, Saudi crude. This brings us to the opposition in Laurentian Canada to the Energy East pipeline.

There are nearly 90,000 person years of employment involved and $6.3 billion of tax revenue over 20 years. It will end rail transportation of oil through such towns as Lac Megantic, Que. The $16-billion project will cost the federal treasury nothing.

So why do municipal politicians around Montreal object? Why does the government of Quebec seek to enforce an inapplicable provincial law? Why does the prime minister muse about a social licence? “Only communities grant permission,” he said.

Premier Rachel Notley was clearly bewildered that Quebec would rather import oil from Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Venezuela, Nigeria, and yes, the U.S. and eventually from Iran, rather than Alberta.

“It makes no sense to finance the economies of other countries this way,” she said. Not only is it economically stupid, it is “more environmentally responsible for Canada to rely on its own abundant energy resources.”

Energy East, she said, “is this century’s railway.” Yes, it is. Except for one thing: the CPR was then headquartered in Montreal.

Energy East is not about energy or the environment. It is about the East. Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall and Wildrose Leader Brian Jean both noted that opposition to it increased regional tensions and divisiveness.

For Quebec politicians, including the prime minister, who clearly was tricked by the sophisticated political chicanery in Washington, D.C., that is the whole point: Saskatchewan, and especially Alberta, need to be reminded of their proper place in the Laurentian vision of Canada.

Barry Cooper is a professor of political science at the University of Calgary. 

Cartoon credit: Rodewalt

Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.

Canada must act swiftly to help resettle Afghan interpreters, says vet

by Katie Simpson (feat. Howard Coombs), Power and Politics, July 29, 2021

Targeting COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy

by Global News Morning (feat. Heidi Tworek), Global News, July 29, 2021

China ‘demands’ on Taiwan, regional issues seek to constrain US action

by Sarah Zheng (feat. Stephen Nagy), South China Morning Post, July 29, 2021

Canada approved deal to sell $74-million worth of explosives to Saudi Arabia

by Steven Chase (feat. Thomas Juneau), The Globe and Mail, July 27, 2021

Diplomatie Canada-États-unis : qu’est-ce qui fait un bon ambassadeur?

par Olivier Mercure (avec Ferry de Kerckhove), Y a pas deux matins pareils, July 27, 2021

COVID-19: Province shifting vax strategy to reach those without a dose

by Tyler Orton (feat. Heidi Tworek), Business in Vancouver, July 27, 2021

Point Roberts businesses say border situation worst possible outcome

by Nicole Jennings (feat. Laurie Trautman), MyNorthwest, July 23, 2021

Canada offers ‘path to protection’ for Afghan aides

by Aidan Chamandy (feat. Denis Thompson), iPolitics, July 23, 2021

U.S. extends Canada border restrictions through Aug. 21

by Alex Harring (feat. Laurie Trautman), American Military News, July 22, 2021

How Justin Trudeau One-Upped Joe Biden

by Michael Bociurkiw (feat. Colin Robertson), Action News Now, July 20, 2021


Canadian Global Affairs Institute
Suite 1800, 150–9th Avenue SW
Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2P 3H9


Canadian Global Affairs Institute
8 York Street, 2nd Floor
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1N 5S6


Phone: (613) 288-2529
Email: [email protected]
Web: cgai.ca


Making sense of our complex world.
Déchiffrer la complexité de notre monde.


© 2002-2021 Canadian Global Affairs Institute
Charitable Registration No. 87982 7913 RR0001


Sign in with Facebook | Sign in with Twitter | Sign in with Email