In The News This Week: Its the environment, stupid

That’s right. Despite the roller coaster in the markets this week, Canadian politics was not solely focused on the economy. Several big environmental announcements came from the Canadian Federal government and the BC provincial government. While the Feds announced environmental protection for fisheries and natural resource projects, the most controversial news was the decision by the BC government to stall the expansion of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline.

Who? What? Why?

In November 2016 the Federal government gave the green light on the expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline. This came after a 29 month assessment by the National Energy Board and an environmental assessment by the British Columbia Environmental Assessment Office. The current Trans Mountain pipeline carries oil from oil-rich Alberta to the West coast, and the expansion would nearly triple the capacity of the pipeline (Trans Mountain).

The potential increases in revenue and employment are the main reason why the project is supported by the Trudeau Liberals. Although the pipeline is seen to be positive for the economy (and specifically the Alberta economy) with its oil export potential to other Pacific nations, environmentalists saw the move as hypocritical, since it contradicts the broader climate change emissions goals, and is potentially dangerous for wildlife. (See more, here.)

One such group with this view is the BC Green Party, who after last years provincial election, have significantly more power than ever before. Their three seats are currently enabling the governing NDP party to hold government, and are largely the reason for Premier Horgan’s recent action on the Trans Mountain pipeline. Officially, Premier Horgan’s government has put forth new restrictions on bitumen shipments that mean the pipeline project cannot continue until more studies are conducted on the risk of oil spills. At face value this sounds reasonable. But unofficially, it is a political stalling tactic with little intention of allowing the project forward. (Toronto Star)

In response, Alberta’s government has responded by blocking imports of BC wine and hydro, and calling the BC government decision “unconstitutional.” Interestingly, both governments have contested political futures, which may explain why they are digging in their heels. But if they are not careful, their decisions may end up hurting them in the polls rather than helping them. (The latest here).

Okay, what else?

The Federal government tabled recommendations on the Fisheries Act (Bill C-68) that would roll back some Harper era changes and add some new protections to fish habitats. The Green Party’s Elizabeth May and other environmental groups are applauding the changes, while the Conservatives have noted concerns that the recommendations will create a more bureaucratic process that burdens development projects. (CBC)

The Federal government also unveiled a proposal (Bill C-69) for a new environmental assessment process. The changes would include a streamlined process for approving projects with potential environmental consequences, which should help avoid disputes like the one currently plaguing the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion. The changes would also implement enhanced assessment of energy projects on Canadian waterways. For more information, see this ipolitics article.

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BC Premier John Horgan in July 2017, Source: Flickr

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