On August 30, the Federal Court of Appeal nullified the Trudeau government’s order in council approving construction of the Trans Mountain Pipeline. Construction has halted or is in the process of being halted. What now?
Following the court decision, the federal government announced that the pipeline will be built, but that it will also honour the requirement for meaningful consultation with all affected First Nations and will ensure that any unconsidered environmental impacts are identified and appropriately addressed. Thus, the pipeline, that Canada now owns, is delayed, not halted.
The Alberta government is urging the federal government to appeal the decision of the Court of Appeal. Even if the federal government decides to appeal, it will be months, perhaps years, before construction can begin again. For those of us who opposed the pipeline expansion because it would encourage additional development of the tar sands and push further back any agenda for building a low carbon economy in Canada, the Appeal Court decision has bought us time. Time to continue lobbying industry, and the federal and provincial governments to take substantive and meaningful steps toward modernizing the Canadian economy, toward creating a truly low carbon economy.
The court decision is a blow to Alberta, and Premier Notley has reacted with predictable anger. Both the Alberta and the Canadian economies will suffer because of the decision. The oil industry has been a great source of jobs and economic prosperity. However, like colonialism and slavery, both economic engines of the past, oil too must be abandoned as a primary source of jobs and wealth. Alberta has the greatest potential for development of wind, solar, and geothermal electric power of any province. Under premier Notley, Alberta has taken vigorous steps to develop this potential, but much more needs to be done. With help from Canada and from the oil industry, which has a very big stake in the development of renewable energy, Alberta could become the renewable energy powerhouse of Canada. Even with existing systems of transforming and storing electrical energy, much electrical energy can be captured and shipped without the need for new power lines. However, improvements to the grid and better power sharing arrangements among the provinces would greatly expand Canada’s capacity to use electricity domestically and ship it internationally. This is an area where federal leadership and federal investment are badly needed and would pay big dividends.
Business and government are currently wringing their hands over the Appeal Court decision. We need to make them realize that this decision presents a business opportunity and an opportunity to put Canada on track toward a sustainable energy economy that will generate thousands of jobs and impressive profits. The activist community that worked so hard to stop the pipeline expansion must now devote its energy to making our political and industrial leaders recognize this opportunity and take up its challenge.
Michael Healey, Vice president, FTFO