The News Rundown
- Much of this past week's news has all been connected together, and this upcoming story is no different. Much like everything that's been going on with Trudeau's government in the past 4 years, you have to look at what they say, and what they're doing. Oftentimes the two are very different things.
- On June 18, the government of Canada declared a national climate emergency. The next day, the same government approved the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, which will be able to move almost 600,000 barrels of oil per day from Alberta to the Port of Burnaby in British Columbia. If this seems like a contradiction, you are not alone.
- Environment Minister Catherine McKenna had this to say: "Canada's facing a climate emergency. Climate change is an urgent threat to our environment, our health, our economy, and our future. I'm calling on all parties to recognize the climate emergency and send a unanimous message across party lines. #ClimateActionNow"
- The House of Commons voted on Monday night to recognize a climate emergency in Canada and for the government to commit to meeting its emission-reduction targets under the Paris Agreement. The vote passed with a majority with only Conservatives and Maxime Bernier voting against. But while the vote made headlines across the country, that support doesn’t mean the government is actually compelled to do anything.
- As Shane pointed out in his story last week about Trudeau banning single use plastics, the Liberals are clearly taking stock in polls that show them losing ground to the Green Party, and in an election year he wants to make sure he doesn't lose the young people who voted for him in 2015, when broken promises have made people think twice about him.
- That's why Trudeau has been pushing environmental issues, and even the influencer campaign we also talked about last week that was scrapped after it was found to be "inherently biased", a conclusion we came to as well as soon as it was announced. So for Trudeau to make headlines with fancy words that don't actually require him to do anything is just par for the course at this time. Trudeau wasn't even in Ottawa for the vote, instead spending time with the Toronto Raptors at their victory parade.
- But let's get back to Trans Mountain. Cabinet has once again approved the project, and has affirmed the National Energy Board's conclusion that, while the pipeline has the potential to damage the environment and marine life, it's in the national interest and could contribute tens of billions of dollars to government coffers and create and sustain thousands of jobs.
- Beyond approving the project, Trudeau also committed to directing every single dollar the federal government earns from the pipeline — which, when it's built, is estimated to be some $500 million a year in federal corporate tax revenue alone — to investments in unspecified clean energy projects.
- It's not exactly a win for industry, as the government clearly approved of the project before, yet due to concerns with regulations, First Nations negotiations, and a hostile BC government and coastal populace it still has not begun.
- Trudeau and his cabinet didn't even look happy when they were announcing the reapproval. Trudeau said: “I know some people are disappointed by this decision. I understand your disappointment. And I know that for some, your concerns are very tangible. To those who want sustainable energy and a cleaner environment, know that I want that too. But in order to bridge the gap between where we are and where we are going, we need money to pay for it.”
- His own disappointment appeared to be mirrored in the faces of the ministers beside him, a number of whom looked like they were at a funeral. In particular, Environment Minister Catharine McKenna looked crestfallen to find herself at a press conference announcing a major pipeline expansion the day after she introduced a non-binding motion in Parliament declaring a national climate emergency. “We don’t believe in symbolism, we believe in action,” she hollered in the House earlier in the day. Tripling the capacity of a bitumen pipeline may not be what she had in mind.
- Despite expending considerable financial and political capital on the project, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said he doesn't trust Trudeau to see this energy infrastructure project through to completion, given it was this Liberal government that cancelled the now-defunct Northern Gateway project through northern B.C.
- "I doubt his sincerity because he hasn't actually done anything. Show me the pipeline. I don't believe he actually wants it built. He doesn't support our energy sector ... he failed to tell Canadians on what day construction would actually start," Scheer said.
- The decision comes more than two years after cabinet last approved the project — a decision that was nullified by the Federal Court of Appeal last summer, with judges citing inadequate Indigenous consultations and an incomplete environmental review process.
- The court decision placed the federal government in the awkward position of being both the owner of the project — it bought it for $4.5 billion amid investor uncertainty — and the entity tasked with approving construction permits.
- Trudeau said the company plans to have shovels in the ground this construction season. Those hopes may well be frustrated by legal appeals from First Nations along the route. A briefing by government officials revealed that the Coldwater First Nation in B.C.’s interior is still seeking a route change to protect its only aquifer against an oil spill. Then there is the prospect of direct action by pipeline opponents — already the Tiny House Warriors, a group of Secwepemc “land and defence warriors” in B.C., has pledged TMX will never be built.
- B.C. Premier John Horgan says he's disappointed by the federal approval of the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, a sentiment echoed by environmentalists across the province.
- But Horgan added that Ottawa has the authority to give the green light, and he'll focus on making sure B.C. can protect its territory from the impact of a spill.
- "I believe it's my job as the premier of British Columbia to always be vigilant to protect those things that matter to British Columbians, and I'll continue to do that, " he said.
- Last month, the B.C. Court of Appeal ruled against the provincial government's proposal for environmental legislation that would effectively stop the expansion project. The proposed law would have allowed the province to limit the flow of "heavy oil" into B.C., but the court said that would be in direct conflict with federal jurisdiction over interprovincial pipelines. B.C. officials have said they are appealing that court decision.
- Environment Minister George Heyman said Tuesday that he continues to oppose the expansion: "We know that British Columbians continue to be deeply concerned about the consequences of a sevenfold increase in tanker traffic in the Salish Sea. We will not abandon our responsibility to protect our land and our water."
- Probably the one with the most truthful take on the pipeline approval was Alberta Premier Jason Kenney. Kenney says while he is pleased with the federal government’s reapproval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, it “isn’t a victory to celebrate.” He said the approval doesn’t mean construction or completion of the pipeline, and he will continue to push to get the expansion built: “It is just another step in a process that has frankly taken too long. That’s why we’ll measure success not by today’s decision but by the beginning of actual construction and more importantly, by completion of the pipeline."
- This process certainly has taken a long time. I'm sure it will continue to take a long time.
- Alberta is profoundly disappointed with the final passage of Bills C–48 and C–69.
- Jason Kenney called the bills, a “prejudicial attack on Alberta, banning from Canada’s northwest coast only one product — bitumen — produced in only one province, Alberta.”
- Bill C–48 and C–69 refresher.
- “The passage of Bill C–48 is an unconstitutional violation of Canada’s economic union and our government will challenge it in court,” Kenney said.
- On Bill C–69 Kenney said, “The Senate had commendably made 188 constructive amendments to the bill, which were subsequently stripped out by the Trudeau government in the House of Commons. The bill, in its final form, is opposed by nine of 10 provinces, almost every major industry group in Canada, and dozens of First Nations.”
- On Friday Premier Kenney gave a 20+ minute press conference detailing the province’s next steps now that both Bills have been passed.
- Barring media questions asking what the point is of elected senators when the government can do what it wants or if there’s any concerns with the Scheer climate plan, Kenney was resolute in standing up for Alberta’s interests and committing to campaign against the re-election of Justin Trudeau.
- He thanked senators who voted in favour of Alberta’s interest, including Senators: Black, Tannas, and McKoy. While expressing disappointment with Senators Mitchel, Laboucaine-Benson, and Simons.
- “It is clear that Senators who are directly accountable to Alberta voters are more likely to fight for our provinces interests.”
- As a result, Alberta will accelerate the introduction and passage of the Alberta Senate Selection Act. It was originally slated for introduction next year but this process will be accelerated.
- The former NDP government let this piece of legislation lapse.
- Once passed Albertans will elect senators at the same time as the 2021 municipal elections.
- If the current path the government is on continues (C–48, C–69, and the imposition of the carbon tax) or the Trans Mountain Pipeline project faces delays or is stopped Alberta will bring forward a referendum on a constitutional amendment to eliminate equalization from the Canadian Constitution.
- The plan would be to hold the referendum and senate elections at the same time as the 2021 municipal elections.
- He summed up a 20+ minute press conference by asking and pleading with the Trudeau government: “What’s the point here? I was just in the Bay of Fundy a week ago today, at the largest oil refinery in the world, that offloads about 200,000 barrels per day from supertankers coming from Saudi Arabia. You’re not imposing a ban on the Bay of Fundy. You’re not imposing a ban on the tankers that come down the Gulf of Saint Lawrence or airplanes from Quebec — you’d shut down the Quebec economy if you did. So why is it just a ban on Alberta exports?”
- Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer unveiled a plan for the environment Wednesday that he said would meet Canada's emissions reduction targets while eliminating the current federal carbon tax regime.
- The plan, detailed in a 60-page document, is focused on "green technology, not taxes." It hinges on setting strict emissions standards for major greenhouse gas emitters that, if exceeded, would force those companies to pay into a fund that would in turn be invested in government-certified clean tech companies — a policy the party said would force companies to make emissions reduction part of their business models.
- Scheer said in a speech to supporters in Chelsea, Quebec that "Conservatives fundamentally believe that you cannot tax your way to a cleaner environment. Instead, the answer lies in technology. The fact is, we can actually create more jobs in Canada through technological growth while at the same time lowering global emissions."
- The plan includes a host of other environmental measures meant to reduce the country's carbon footprint — and give Canada a shot at meeting targets set at the Paris climate talks — but it does not include any hard data on how much this proposed policy suite would actually reduce the country's emissions.
- When asked if the party had any projections for expected reductions, a Conservative official, speaking on background, said, "We believe that our plan gives Canada the best chance of meeting our Paris targets."
- It's odd that the Conservatives are still talking about the Paris targets, as the PBO said Canada likely would miss its goal of reducing emissions by some 30 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030, and that's with the super expensive Liberal carbon tax in place.
- Instead, Scheer says that we should not be focused on Canada's emissions, but rather international emissions from countries that are much higher, like the U.S., China and India — and that Canada should receive credit for selling cleaner energy products like liquefied natural gas (LNG) to coal-reliant markets abroad. The Conservatives are also proposing measures including creating a “Canada Clean Brand,” described as “a product designation that will communicate to the world which technologies can lower emissions in other countries.”
- Scheer emphasized that Canada is responsible for only about 1.6 per cent of global emissions. "If you shut down Canada's entire economy for a year, China would replace all of our emissions in 21 days. The fact is, Canada will not make a meaningful contribution to fighting climate change by focusing only on our own emissions, we have to look beyond our borders ... CO2 molecules don't have passports."
- Scheer wouldn’t say whether a Conservative plan would rely on emissions cuts in other countries to meet Canada’s Paris targets. He said “Whether or not we get credit for it is less important than if we get those real results and actually lower those emissions.”
- The plan also includes a $900 million per year green homes tax credit (GHTC) to help people pay for energy-saving renovations. Homeowners would be eligible for refundable tax credits — up to $2,850 each year — for improvements like the installation of high-quality insulation, high-efficiency furnaces, new doors and windows and solar panels. The party said the credit would help reduce building-related emissions, which accounted for 12 per cent of Canada's total emissions in 2017.
- The previous Conservative government had a similar plan in place for five years that paid $934 million in grants to nearly one in 20 Canadian households — or 640,000 beneficiaries — before then-Finance Minister Joe Oliver pulled the plug in 2014.
- The Conservatives also are touting a "green patent credit" that would reduce business tax rates for companies that generate income from green technology developed and patented in Canada. The party said the credit would encourage the sector to conduct research and development. The current 15 per cent business tax rate would be reduced to 5 per cent for income generated from a green patent. This relatively modest initiative would cost about $20 million in its first year, the party said.
- The plan also calls for a $250 million investment in a "green technology and innovation fund," a venture capital plan similar to the Canada Infrastructure Bank that would leverage public and private funds to help fledgling green tech companies and entrepreneurs secure the capital they need to grow.
- In this, the Conservative plan is much more affordable to low income earners than the Liberal one, as instead of taxing everyone and driving prices up, you get refunds and tax credits for making more environmentally friendly choices.
- Unfortunately, what no federal party has mentioned is a surefire way to efficiently provide Canada with its energy needs and protect the environment at the same time, and that's nuclear energy.
- Canadian nuclear reactors are among the safest in the world. We've developed a unique nuclear reactor technology, CANDU; there are 18 CANDU reactors in Ontario, 1 in New Brunswick and 12 in operation outside of Canada.
- Saskatchewan is one of the biggest uranium exporters in the world, and its government is considering small modular nuclear reactors in the future as part of its goals to lower carbon emissions. Premier Scott Moe said the provincial government has been in discussion with Ontario and New Brunswick about small modular nuclear reactor technology.
- However, it seems that many are mis-educated about nuclear energy due to the disasters of Fukushima and Chernobyl. One in three Canadians thinks nuclear power emits as much carbon dioxide as burning oil. Almost three in 10 think it emits more.
- There are several reasons to marvel at these facts, which were uncovered by Abacus Data earlier this year. First, they’re spectacularly wrong. After construction, nuclear power is effectively zero-emission electricity. Second, the fight against climate change is about replacing fossil fuels such as oil with the short list of zero-emission energy sources.
- France replaced almost all of its fossil-fuelled electricity with nuclear power nationwide in just 15 years; Sweden, in about 20 years. Both these revolutions were prompted by the energy crises of the 1970s, long before anyone worried about climate change, but they made France and Sweden climate-change leaders, however accidentally.
- In 2003, Ontario’s government made the historic decision to fight both climate change and local air pollution by phasing out coal-fired generators. It was a huge challenge. Coal generated one-quarter of the province’s electricity. But by 2014, coal was gone.
- So what replaced it? Generously subsidized and much-discussed solar and wind power covered about 7 of coal’s 25 percentage points. The remaining 18 percentage points were replaced by unloved, seldom-mentioned nuclear power. Today, Ontario’s electricity is among the cleanest in the world.
- With the battle for the environment and taxation that will be waged in Parliament and at the polls this fall, one wonders why nuclear energy isn't discussed in the media or elsewhere.
- The Canadian parliament has risen for summer break and this could be the end of the legislative session as we’re slated to head into a fall election.
- When parliament rises and the house is dissolved or prorogued, any piece of legislation that has not been passed dies.
- This is an issue for Canada going forward because the new act to ratify USMCA, the NAFTA replacement, hasn’t been passed.
- Bill C–100 which would enable the new USMCA trade deal to take effect sits at second reading. It is thought that the government did not pass this as they are waiting to see whether the democratic controlled House of Representatives will pass the NAFTA replacement in the United States.
- MPs also passed Bill C–101 enacting the customs and tariff changes that were a requirement for NAFTA ratification, getting rid of tariffs placed on American goods coming into the country.
- The Prime Minister said, We’re going to make sure we’re keeping in step with them. We have an ability to recall Parliament if we need to and we’ll also make sure we’re monitoring the pace at which the Americans are ratifying."
- Other Bills that were passed this past week and received Royal Assent include: Bills C–48 and C–69 which we have already talked about. Bill C–58, a Bill to improve access to information requests allowing the public and journalists to request information in a more timely manner, but has also been criticized by the senate and advocates. As well as Bill C–97, the Budget Implementation Act of 2019.
- In total for this legislative session running from the inception of the Trudeau government to today passed 88 Government Bills (House and Senate combined), 10 Private Member’s Bills and in total 111 Bills were passed.
- By comparison the Harper majority passed 169 Bills, 105 of which were government Bills. And 34 of which were Private Member’s Bills not sponsored by the government.
- This number is low for a majority government and people often feel that government is inefficient. When comparing these stats the population will have their feelings of inefficient government confirmed and will also see their MPs didn’t have as much of their legislation see the day as happened in the previous session.
Word of the Week
Emergency - a serious, unexpected, and often dangerous situation requiring immediate action.
How to Find Us
Episode Title: A Climate of Uncertainty
Teaser: While declaring a climate emergency, Trudeau reapproves Trans Mountain, at the same time as enforcing legislation attacking Alberta’s energy sector. Also Andrew Scheer unveils his climate plan, and Parliament finishes for the summer.
Recorded Date: June 22, 2019
Release Date: June 23, 2019
Edit Notes: None
Podcast Summary Notes