'We have the capacity to lead': Panel debates environmental concerns over Canada's energy industry
As Canadian senators mull over potential amendments to the sweeping infrastructure legislation, the debate rages on from both Canada’s environmental and energy sectors over whether it will actually improve the approval process for major projects in the country.
So, what happens when you get an outspoken oil-and-gas man, an environmental lawyer and the federal leader of the country’s Green Party together to talk about it?
Well, it gets complicated.
“The thought that we’re going to block Canada from participating in the world economy is what we’re basically doing with [Bills C-69 and] C-48,” Canoe Financial chairman W. Brett Wilson told BNN Bloomberg as part of a roundtable discussion on Wednesday. “We’re making no effort to block the oil transported along our coast or into our country.”
Green Party of Canada leader Elizabeth May disputed the economic impact of the bill, saying that the energy industry’s claims of its product being landlocked are overblown.
“It’s a house of cards without any evidence,” May said, saying that Canadian oil would be better served to help Canadian needs first.
“I really do think we need to look at what’s in our national economic interest and not be thinking it makes sense to pit British Columbians against Albertans when there’s a solution that helps both economies.”
Joshua Ginsberg, an environmental lawyer at the Ecojustice Environmental Law Clinic, said the bill actually won’t change Canada’s energy landscape much.
“Industry players, and particularly the oil and gas industry, are ringing a false alarm here about the supposed damage that this bill is going to cause,” Ginsberg said. “In fact, it is a very modest and incremental improvement on the system we have now, which everybody agrees isn’t working.”
Wilson’s rebuttal noted that those dissatisfied with the environmental track record of Canada’s oil and gas industry turn their attention to other industries around the world.
“We have the most regulated and thoughtful energy industry in the world,” Wilson said. “Instead of worrying so much about what Canada’s doing to participate in the global economy, why aren’t any of these groups using genuinely efforts to try and reduce greenhouse gas emissions on a global basis?”
However, May said Canada could be a world leader on both environmental and energy policy if it struck a balance between the two.
“Energy policy should be framed with: 'What meets the maximum number of jobs for production of that resource'?” she said.
“We have the capacity to lead, but only if we come to an issue with clean hands and we’ve done our homework ourselves.”
Watch the full roundtable discussion here.