Prime Minister Trudeau spoke at a town hall meeting in Peterborough while touring southern Ontario in January. He said: “We can’t shut down the oilsands tomorrow. We need to phase them out. We need to manage the transition off of our dependence on fossil fuels.” Following an uproar, he back-pedaled on the issue.
Apparently, Canadian PMs cannot suggest the oil industry needs to be phased out. Such phrases stick in too many powerful, gilded craws. This is because potential investors are less likely to invest in infrastructure such as pipelines, extraction or refineries for anything destined to be “phased out.”
This is a sad reality, but things could be worse. In today’s America, similar to Harper’s Canada, government employees cannot even mention climate change. Trudeau is arguably too cautious in the face of economic power, but at least he accepts scientific reality. More, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna is clearly open to a balanced view. She wants to offset pipeline approvals and also announced Canada’s carbon tax last month.
Nevertheless, when our national conversation about energy is so constrained by politics, is real policy compromise between environmentalists and government even possible? A key component of a middle ground is recognition of the need for an energy transition; recognition that fossil energy’s days are numbered.
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