Climate Emergency: Canadians Get the Government They Deserve

L​earn how Canadians get the government they deserve as the Government of Canada declares a climate emergency, then approves an oil pipeline boondoggle within hours.

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I​n a recent poll by CBC News and conducted by Public Square Research and Maru/Blue, Canadians appear conflicted and confused. The poll results show that 65% of Canadians believe that “Canada is not doing enough to fight climate change.” Canadians who do not believe in climate change now make up a mere 6% of the population. The poll showed that 75% of Canadians are willing to do more to fight climate change. Only 4% of Canadians said that they were not willing to do anything. This is all great news.

When the pollsters asked how much money Canadians were willing to pay to fight climate change, respondents contradicted themselves. A full 32% of Canadians were not willing to pay anything. Another 17% were not willing to pay more than $100 per year. The average Canadian spends $755 per year on alcohol. Netflix costs $120 per year.

The Canadian government mirrors the hypocrisy in this poll. Yesterday, the Parliament of Canada voted 186 to 63 to pass a resolution declaring a national climate emergency. The motion states that climate change is “a real and urgent crisis, driven by human activity”. Justin Trudeau and his cabinet seem to be sending a message here.

“does not require that any action be taken”

The problem is that this declaration of a climate emergency is not a statute or a regulation or even a policy. The House of Commons Procedure and Practice guide says that a resolution “does not require that any action be taken, nor is it binding.” So, with this resolution and a toonie, I can get a coffee at Tim Horton’s–not an extra large, mind you.

What exposes this government’s rank hypocrisy is what happened next. On that same day, a few hours later, the Trudeau government approved a controversial new pipeline. It would carry diluted bitumen from the Alberta tar sands to the British Columbia coast. Like the Canadian people themselves, the government expressed its complete support until it involved money.

The main reason that this pipeline is a bad idea is that it’s not needed. The idea is to carry diluted bitumen to tidewater. That is supposed to open up exports to the Asian market. David Anderson was a respected cabinet minister for ten years. He was the Minister of the Environment when Canada signed the Kyoto Protocol. He wrote a letter to the present cabinet, explaining that “there is no credible evidence to suggest that Asia is likely to be a reliable or a significant market for Alberta bitumen.”

There was no money in it anymore

This makes this a bad investment. The reason you should care is that, a year ago, the Trudeau government purchased this pipeline project from a company called Kinder Morgan. Kinder Morgan claimed that they were tired of all the approvals and red tape. David Anderson gives us a simpler explanation. There was no money in it anymore.

To make matters worse, the independent Parliamentary Budget Officer found that the government had paid a billion dollars more for the project than its market value. It’s one thing for a private company to invest in a boondoggle. It’s another thing to waste taxpayers’ money on it.

The pipeline poses a range of environmental risks that go beyond the climate emergency.. This proposed pipeline is an extension. It would run parallel to an existing line. That means we can look at this safety record for the line that is there now. It has had 82 spills since it opened. The proposed pipeline route runs close to an aquifer that is the water supply for an entire First Nations community. When the diluted bitumen arrives at port, it will create seven times the tanker traffic in Burrard Inlet. That means there will be seven times the risk of a spill there. We have no experience with how spilled diluted bitumen behaves in the ocean. From what we do know, it’s harder to clean up than crude oil.

contradicts the government’s claim to be concerned about climate change

The most egregious thing about this approval is that it flatly contradicts the government’s claim to be concerned about a climate emergency. The above resolution preaches about Canada’s Paris Agreement targets. Experts agree that Canada can never meet those goals if it expands the tar sands project. Any other climate initiatives Canada deploys will be thwarted by the tar sands. Yet, the only reason the government is building this new pipeline is to help grow the tar sands project.

They say that we get the government we deserve. This whole fiasco is living proof of that. If Canadians are not willing to make the hard choices to fight the climate emergency, politicians won’t be willing either.

If you live in Canada, write to your MP and the Prime Minister. Tell them that climate change is a priority. Tell them that you are willing to pay a price to fight it. Demand that they cancel the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion.

We always have more to learn if we dare to know.

Learn more:

The Climate Crisis: Why Do We Fight About It?
Nature Emergency: Time to Make it Official
Climate Justice and Human Rights

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