Canada is headed for a new and promising future with the election of Justin Trudeau on October 19, 2015 as the prime minister of the country. The biggest question on many people’s mind is how he will tackle two serious issues facing Canada today. On the international scene, we will continue to help other countries, including the US, in the war against ISIS and here at home, will our new environmentally conscious prime minister bend to the will of oil companies intent on sending tar sands bitumen across Canada risking potential spills on land or into our lakes and oceans.
US President Barack Obama has no qualms about going to war to rid the earth of the scourge of ISIS or any other fanatic groups/regimes. Trudeau on the other hand, is committed to returning the Canadian Military to it’s former glory as peacekeepers. The Canadian Military prior to former prime minister Steven Harper was known for years as a peacekeeping force that sought to help civilians caught in the middle in war-torn countries. Canadians in general loved the role of being known as the largest peacekeeping country in the world and many would likely be thrilled to see this agenda return. With the US as our closest neighbor, how would Obama react, if and when this happens?
Harper displayed only a minimal concern about the preservation of Canada’s environment. Over the past few years, he has been firmly in the pocket of oil companies and put forward plans for various pipelines across the country. Trudeau is a confirmed environmentalist, who would not want to risk the possibility of harming the natural environment in any way. It is well known, and he is aware of it as well, that the oil companies make big promises about allowing no oil spills on our land or in the waters of this once pristine country. Those promises have proved to be empty ones, as Canada has seen a long list of spills and accidents over the past couple of years.
Obama has held back on implementation of the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline. This line would would send diluted bitumen from the tar sands at Hardisty, Alberta to Steele City, Nebraska. Obama rejected this plan in January 2012, although previous lines are already running. This one, however, is still being reviewed. Although it previously passed the House of Representatives, Obama vetoed the bill. The Senate then voted in favor of the bill, but again the president’s veto held firm because it failed to garner a two-thirds majority. In June 2015, the House Oversight Committee “threatened to subpoena the State Department” for withholding records and being secretive about the process, but so far the department has not responded.
This turn of events would give Trudeau the opportunity to revisit the Keystone XL Pipeline and that would criss-cross Canada, including the Energy East Project that would see a 4,600-km pipeline carry 1.1 million barrels of crude oil per day travel from Alberta and Saskatchewan to refineries in Eastern Canada. Environment groups have accused the National Energy Board (NEB) with “rushing the process” for the pipeline by “gathering oral traditional evidence from aboriginal bands” before it even received a complete application. TransCanada (TXC:TRP) originally filled its application about a year ago. However, the company must amend it because a plan to build a pipeline to Cacouna, Quebec’s export terminal has now been dropped.Although NEB spokesperson Katherine Murphy has claimed the consultations with aboriginal groups aimed simply to give them a voice in the process, Adam Scott of Environmental Defence is leery of it’s intentions. He has called the process “sloppy and confusing,” and it appears to “work in favor of the company.
“I want a clear answer on why they’re rushing ahead,” he noted in an October 8, 2015 Huffington Post article. “What is the need from the NEB’s perspective to get ahead on this?”
Murphy noted further sessions will be held with Canadian residents this November and December in cities from Alberta to northwestern Ontario. It will be interesting to see how Trudeau reacts to this process as it makes it’s way across Canada and whether he would be in favor of this pipeline or not.
On a larger scale, what platform will Trudeau put forward at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference to be held in Paris from November 30 to December 11. The UN’s goal is to form a “legally binding and universal agreement on climate” change from all world nations to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that would limit a “global temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.” At the 2012 Doha Conference held in Doha, Quatar, the Kyoto Protocol was extended by eight years to 2020. Worldwide carbon dioxide emissions were limited to only 15 percent due to “the lack of participation of Canada, Japan, Russia, the US, Ukraine, Belarus and New Zealand. China, Brazil and India are not even a part of the Kyoto Protocol.
Shortly thereafter, Harper became the first nation to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol. Rather than form an agreement with other nations, he adopted a “GHG reduction target of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. According to well known environmentalist, Dr. David Suzuki, “The current government has, unfortunately, moved Canada backwards on climate change. It announced that it would not even try to meet its Kyoto targets, and it reduced funding for Canada’s climate change plan and cut most of Canada’s climate change programs, including successful programs like the Wind Power Production Incentive, which subsidizes the installation of wind power, and Energuide for Houses, which gives incentives for Canadians to make their homes more energy efficient.”
In May 2015, Harper announced that carbon emissions would be reduced by 30 percent by 2015 and many wondered how he could ever achieve that goal given the many current and future pipeline projects. Then in June, the G7 nations attended a summit in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany where members agreed to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2100. However, it was reported that Harper worked behind the scenes to “water down” the agreement.
Canadians can only wait to see if Trudeau brings back these initiatives, creates new ones and/or gets back on board with other nations attempting to save the environment for future generations. According to a report compiled by four global think-tanks: Adelphi, International Alert, Wilson Center and the European Union Institute for Security Studies, the need to address climate change has now become a security issue. The report concluded that continued degradation of the environment could lead to “social upheaval and even violent conflict.” Now it remains to be seen if Trudeau ensures that Harper’s record of reckless disregard for Canada’s environment in favor of massive money making ventures becomes a thing of the past.