Stewart: Cabinet Decisions on Wet’suwet’en Blockades, Teck Will Show What Ottawa Stands For
With crucial decisions coming up or in progress on the Wet’suwet’en blockades and the proposed Teck Frontier tar sands/oil sands mine in Alberta, Canadians are about to find out what the second-term Trudeau government in Ottawa really stands for.
And the answer to that question might turn on how the federal Liberals “decide to address a crucial imbalance in their political calculus,” writes Greenpeace Canada Senior Energy Strategist Keith Stewart, in an opinion piece this week for CBC News.
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“On one hand, the Liberals overestimated the power of the oil patch and Wexit (which the overwhelming majority of Albertans don’t support),” he writes. “On the other hand, they underestimated the conviction of the many Canadians who want urgent climate action and think that ramming through fossil fuel megaprojects without consent from impacted Indigenous communities is morally wrong on many levels.”
But Stewart notes that two-thirds of Canadians voted for parties that supported stronger climate action in last year’s federal election. Liberal caucus members “are reportedly nearly unanimous in their opposition to the Teck Frontier mine,” and “there’s also more national alignment behind an energy transition than might be supposed by skimming the headlines,” with 75% telling Abacus Data last month that the transition will benefit them in the long term.
All of which means that “anyone with an interest in energy strategy should see that climate politics are changing, and fast,” he warns. “Failing to act with the urgency the climate crisis demands is rapidly becoming denial 2.0—political kryptonite. It’s a lesson Scott Morrison is learning in Australia, as his coal-happy energy policies come under fire from the public and internal pressure for stronger climate action.”
And closer to home, “as financial giants like BlackRock leave the oil sands behind, Canada could find itself learning that doubling down on oil could be economic kryptonite, too.”
It isn’t as though Ottawa doesn’t know what to do. “The Liberals have already floated the idea of rejecting Teck, while giving Alberta an aid package to create jobs and deal with the growing costs of companies’ abandoned oil wells,” Stewart notes. “Trudeau can help Canada embrace the coming energy transition by pairing the Liberals’ promised Just Transition Act with such an aid/economic package to help workers who will be affected by the coming global transition off oil.”
But to get there, “Trudeau and his Cabinet will need to summon their courage against the noisy few who refuse to change a business-as-usual approach to the oil sands. They’ll also need to update their national unity narrative to one that makes room for nationhoods (plural), and that is centred on coming together to solve the climate emergency in a way that respects Indigenous rights.”