Martyn Brown: What’s really criminal in Canada’s Kinder Morgan pipeline debacle
“The commitment to build a pipeline in 2018 when we are in climate crisis is a crime against future generations and I will not be part of it.”
—Green party Leader Elizabeth May, as she was being arrested for civil contempt, in protest of the Kinder Morgan pipeline project.
“Trudeau's Kinder Morgan fiasco is a crime against future generations.”
How eloquently those words sum up the appalling failure in leadership on climate action, ocean protection, Indigenous rights, and national unity that is quickly becoming Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s sorry legacy.
His Trans Mountain pipeline debacle is so much more than a filthy line in the sand that has divided Canadians on both sides of Alberta’s world-reviled tarsands.
It is an ugly scar on the face of our nation; one that threatens to forever mark Canada as a climate outlaw and as a patently dishonest country that has no serious plan to meet its Paris Agreement greenhouse gas reduction commitment to cut its carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030.
It is a crime against Aboriginal peoples that now threatens to drive a knife in the heart of Canada’s collective search for a new relationship rooted in mutual respect and reconciliation.
One that is newly alienating First Nations. One that Aboriginal leaders warn may set “Canada up for another catastrophic crisis on the same level as Oka.” One that Trudeau is unwittingly inviting.
Thousands have marched in solidarity to try to communicate that message, as others have confronted Trudeau in public forums. All for naught. Their concerns have fallen on deaf ears.
His pipeline “strategy” is anything but a climate trade-off for a carbon tax in the national interest. It is a prescription for national schism, for ongoing conflict, and for environmental ruin.
It is a breach of public trust, perpetrated through acts of political duplicity and morally bankrupt processes, in contempt of evidentiary standards and of the prime minister’s own election promise.
Over 200 Canadians felt so strongly about that fact, they chose to make a political statement of defiance, aimed at heightening national awareness. They are otherwise wholly law-abiding citizens from all walks of life — teachers, seniors, community leaders, former employees of Kinder Morgan, students, environmentalists, artists, First Nations leaders, and parents of every demographic and political description.
The courage of their conviction is beyond humbling: it is a testament to their faith in democracy and to the time-honoured tradition of peaceful civil disobedience.
It is a measure of their moral mettle and of their resolve to act in conscientious objection. To right an egregious state-sanctioned wrong. Not out of flagrant disregard for the rule of law, per se. But rather, out of profound reverence for all life on Earth and out of concern for their children, for future generations, and for others besides themselves.
They were not motivated by selfish or pecuniary interest. On the contrary.
They stood their ground when, where, and how they did—not to disparage the rule of law—but to not cede an inch to a project that millions of Canadians also deeply oppose on legal, moral, environmental, economic, and procedural grounds.
They wanted to formally register their deep civic concern and personal commitment to an issue so much bigger than themselves, through a site-specific, time-limited, politically coordinated, democratic testament to the importance they vest in this vital public policy issue.
And for that, Elizabeth May, Burnaby South NDP MP Kennedy Stewart, and so many others may now see their initial charges of civil contempt elevated to criminal contempt, if Crown prosecutors accede to the presiding judge’s request, based on his interpretation of the nature of the acts at issue.
If only the courts took as dim a view of the so much more truly harmful conduct that has has been imposed on our nation by those elected leaders in Ottawa and Edmonton who have arguably flouted the law to do the bidding of Big Oil.
They have abused the National Energy Board review process and ignored countless issues and arguments that should have been material to any decision on this environmentally irresponsible project.
They have dismissed the concerns of the cities and citizens who are ardently opposed to turning Metro Vancouver into a major export hub for Canada’s dirtiest, unrefined, heavy crude, with a seven-fold increase in oil tanker traffic through Burrard Inlet.
They bent the laws and rules in ways that discounted Aboriginal rights and title, that ignored British Columbia’s legitimate interests in oil-spill protection, and that will mostly serve to increase the risks of further poisoning our oceans and atmosphere.
All for the love of Big Oil and Big Money. Or if one is stupid enough to take Trudeau at his word, to cut a deal with Alberta, to gain its buy-in to impose a national price on carbon aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions— if only by first increasing Canada’s tarsands emissions.
Almost lost in the whole controversy is the massive impact that the Trans Mountain pipeline project will have on Canada’s greenhouse gas reduction targets.
That alone represents a travesty of justice for which Justin Trudeau bears full responsibility.
Environment and Climate Change Canada found that the “twinned” Trans Mountain pipeline stands to generate 21 to 26 million tonnes (Mt) of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) every year in associated upstream greenhouse gases.
That is a huge problem, considering that Canada’s latest GHG emissions inventory report shows that our country’s total emissions grew by that same amount—21 million tonnes—from 701 Mt in 2010, to 722 Mt in 2015.
Despite all the ballyhooed “climate action” measures undertaken by Canada in recent years, its total carbon emissions only fell by a third of that amount—a mere 7 Mt—since 2013.
Yet the new pipeline would itself account for an additional 13 to 15 million tonnes of added yearly emissions.
And those amounts do not even include related indirect upstream emissions, such as those created through land-use changes and generated during the production of “purchased inputs”, such as equipment, electricity, and external fuels.
Nor do they include the estimated one million tonnes in CO2e from the pipeline’s construction, which the National Energy Board (NEB) required must be offset.
Nor do they include the further 407,000 tonnes per year of CO2e in direct emissions that new pipeline would generate, excluding those additional upstream and downstream emissions.
Nor do they include the estimated 100 million tonnes of annual downstream emissions that would result from shipping, refining, and burning that exported tar sands oil around the world.
Worse, those downstream emissions will be so much greater than need be.
In his “wisdom”, Trudeau opted not to insist on at least refining that heavy crude at home, with all the jobs that would have entailed, instead of shipping that unrefined product to Asian importers.
Even now, he could choose to go that route, rather than partnering with Alberta to invest in the Trans Mountain pipeline, in a bid to reduce its shareholders’ investment risks or to let that company unload that “white elephant”, if that is its real plan and/or preference.
Trudeau opted not to invest in enhancing Canada’s rapidly diminishing refining capacity, or to avoid the untenable risks of diluted bitumen spills by processing that heavy crude in Canada, instead of shipping it abroad to be refined by countries with much lower environmental standards.
The federal government itself notes that “emissions of GHGs from the oil and gas sector have increased 76 per cent, from 108 Mt CO2e in 1990 to 189 Mt CO2e in 2015. This increase is mostly attributable to the increased production of crude oil and the expansion of the oil sands industry.” [Emphasis added.]
Under its laughable “climate action” emissions “cap”, Alberta’s NDP government actually plans to grow those tar sands emissions by more than 42 percent—from 70 Mt annually to a new maximum of 100 Mt a year.
That increase of 30 million tonnes of annual carbon emissions is equivalent to 6.4 million passenger vehicles driven for a year, or nearly 3.4 billion gallons of gasoline consumed.
The estimated 100 million tonnes of added annual downstream emissions that will result from the expanded Trans Mountain pipeline alone is even greater.
As that heavy oil is refined and burned in Asia’s already polluted cities, it will generate the equivalent of another 21.4 million cars on the road, or almost 42.8 billion litres of gasoline consumed per year.
All of that diluted tar sands “bitumen” and synthetic crude is especially dirty.
A study by the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory found that gasoline and diesel refined from those products have a significantly higher carbon impact than fuels derived from conventional domestic crude sources.
That is indeed a climate crime against future generations.
While other jurisdictions are actually suing Big Oil companies for their harmful impacts on human health and the environment, our Canadian governments are going the opposite way, and actually subsidizing their efforts to profit from their pollution.
Are protestors desperate about that fact? You bet. And rightly so.
Consider these facts, culled and quoted below from the International Energy Agency’s just-released Global Energy & CO2 Status Report 2017:
"Global energy-related CO2 emissions rose by 1.4 percent in 2017, an increase of 460 million tonnes (Mt), and reached a historic high of 32.5 gigatonnes (Gt)."
"Last year’s growth came after three years of flat emissions and contrasts with the sharp reduction needed to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change."
"The increase in carbon emissions, equivalent to the emissions of 170 million additional cars, was the result of robust global economic growth of 3.7 percent, lower fossil-fuel prices, and weaker energy efficiency efforts."
"The growth in energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in 2017 is a strong warning for global efforts to combat climate change, and demonstrates that current efforts are insufficient to meet the objectives of the Paris Agreement."
"Global energy intensity … in 2017 fell by only 1.7 percent, much less than the 2.3 percent registered on average over the last three years, and half of what is required to remain on track with the Paris Agreement."
"The IEA’s Sustainable Development Scenario charts a path toward meeting long-term climate goals. Under this scenario, global emissions need to peak soon and decline steeply to 2020; this decline will now need to be even greater given the increase in emissions in 2017."
"Global energy demand grew by 2.1 percent in 2017, according to IEA preliminary estimates, more than twice the growth rate in 2016. Global energy demand in 2017 reached an estimated 14,050 million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe), compared with 10,035 Mtoe in 2000."
"Fossil-fuels met 70 percent of the growth in energy demand around the world."
"The overall share of fossil fuels in global energy demand in 2017 remained at 81 percent, a level that has stayed stable for more than three decades despite strong growth in renewables."
That is not “sustainable” in any way, shape, or form.
Yet it is a problem that Trudeau and his Liberal lickspittles all want to compound for the world, even as they dishonestly claim they have a plan to reduce Canada’s carbon emissions by first massively increasing its oil sand emissions.
That is what his tarsands pipeline vision is really all about: digging and steaming more tar out of the ground, to wish that filthy fossil fuel on a world that is already choking itself to death.
To command higher prices and larger profits for Big Oil.
To expedite that enterprise, in contempt of Aboriginal rights and title, and in contempt of the wishes of British Columbia and of that pipeline’s most directly impacted “host” communities.
To flow that diluted bitumen from Alberta to the Salish Sea and across the Pacific, threatening the species and their life-supporting terrestrial and marine ecosystems along the way.
This Sunday, Trudeau will be ganging up in Ottawa with Alberta premier Rachel Notley to read the riot act to B.C. premier John Horgan.
What is Horgan’s “crime” that is supposedly frustrating Kinder Morgan’s project and has now brought that company to the brink of walking away on its risky investment?
In a word, it is that Horgan is using the law to try to protect British Columbia’s environment, coastal communities, and Aboriginal rights. That and nothing more.
His government has joined with all those First Nations and environmental organizations that have legally challenged the abysmal National Energy Board review process in court.
It joined the City of Burnaby in trying to uphold that municipality’s right to enforce its bylaws. An unsuccessful endeavour on first attempt, but one that may yet be appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.
The Horgan government is also intent on seeking direction from the courts through a reference on the constitutional limits of the province’s shared jurisdiction over environmental protection. Specifically, in respect of oil spills and the transportation of heavy oil products through its territory.
Outrageous. A crime against our economy. Sabotage. Unconstitutional. An attack on Canada’s “national interest”.
That is, according to Canada’s corporate and political apologists for Big Oil.
Such recourse to the courts must be punished, in their view.
Nothing should be allowed to further delay a pipeline that its American-based owners now command must be provided unprecedented legal, regulatory, and political certainty. And all by May 31, if Alberta’s most beloved pet project is not to die the immediate death it deserves.
I will admit, Horgan may not be quite as motivated as I would hope he would be by that project’s impact on carbon emissions, hypocritical as he surely is in also hoping to develop B.C.’s highly subsidized natural gas industry.
But he is fighting for what is right in standing up for B.C.’s constitutional rights.
He is fighting for what is right in trying to protect the health of the Salish Sea and its already endangered species, and in trying to protect our province and its economy from the very real threat of heavy oil spills that the Trans Mountain pipeline poses.
He is standing up for First Nations who have once again been relegated to second-class citizens in how their constitutional rights and interests have been subordinated to the monied wishes of Big Oil and their handmaidens in the Alberta legislature.
He is fighting for due process, within the law indeed, through the courts—to also stand up for all those whose voices have been silenced or ignored by Canada’s feckless prime minister.
A faux climate warrior and phony environmental champion, who sold out his supposed “home” province of British Columbia by approving a pipeline that was predicated on a review process he vowed to redo and reprocess before making any decisions.
How dare the Trudeau government threaten British Columbians as it is now doing, with all of the speculated “sanctions” that are now supposedly “all on the table”.
How dare he suggest that Horgan has anything whatsoever for which to apologize, relent, or abandon.
How dare he try to bully B.C. into pushing through a pipeline that its current owners might well abandon as uneconomic without massive new injections of risk capital from Canadian taxpayers.
How dare he even intimate that British Columbians might face sanctions from Ottawa, be it reduced transfer payments or withheld federal investments. Or worse, the unthinkable use of constitutional and military thuggery, perhaps even invoking the Emergencies Act, to ram through a pipeline that is being duly challenged in court.
Trudeau would never do that to Quebec or Ontario. Never in a million years. To even consider any of those measures is a disgrace that only proves he is as shallow and untrusworthty as most Canadians suspect.
As he said, when Quebec’s opposition to the Energy East pipeline led to that project’s well-deserved demise, “governments grant permits, communities grant permission."
B.C.’s most directly impacted communities do not grant that permission.
They insist on the same standard of consideration and respect for due process and provincial autonomy that has been repeatedly accorded to the people of Quebec, including in respect of the Energy East project.
If Trudeau’s and Notley’s unpardonable threats against B.C. on this issue don’t set off the separatists’ alarm bells in Quebec, they will certainly make the topic of separatism a newly burning live issue in British Columbia.
If the federal government acts like an outright enemy of B.C., aided and abetted by an Alberta government that threatens unconscionable trade sanctions to terrorize its western neighbour, many British Columbians will soon come to see both governments in that light.
It will deeply rip at the fabric of Confederation in prolonged and unpredictable ways that no one should want, least of all Canada’s sitting prime minister.
The actions that Alberta is promising—restricting the flow of gasoline through the very same pipeline that it asserts B.C. should have no capacity whatsoever to environmentally regulate—are hypocritical in the extreme.
They will also be challenged in court, as violations of section 92(a) of the Canadian constitution. That will only prolong the uncertainty that those trade-terrorist-tactics are ostensibly aimed at minimizing, however much Notley imagines that it will serve her province’s interests to mimic Donald Trump.
The coercive actions that the federal government is said to be contemplating to bring B.C. to “heel” are even more reprehensible.
They, too, will be challenged in court by B.C. as unlawful measures—perhaps joined by Quebec and other provinces, as intervenors that wish to preserve their own provincial autonomy.
All of that could be avoided if the Trudeau and Notley governments only had the good sense to accept Horgan’s offer for a joint reference to the Supreme Court of Canada on the jurisdictional questions that B.C. is rightly looking to legally clarify.
It is a sensible recourse that federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has also advocated, better late than never.
All Canadians should know, we are on a one-way track to more turmoil, new trade wars, more protracted legal battles, and very likely, the real prospect of physical violence on the front lines of physical resistance, led by First Nations leaders.
They should be under no delusion, the course Trudeau seems bound and determined to follow is a train wreck of incalculable proportions.
Carrying on that course would be the ultimate crime against future generations.
Especially for an oil pipeline that is only intended to deepen Canada’s dependency on fossil-fueled growth, to reap higher prices and greater global demand for carbon-intensive products that are rapidly killing our planet.
Not that we will hear or read a word to that effect from Canada’s mainstream media. It is lock, stock, and barrel captured by that very same industry that pays its bills and pads its pockets.
Sadly, what’s really criminal in Canada’s Kinder Morgan pipeline debacle is all that Canada’s innately conflicted fourth estate has promulgated in defence of the oil sands industry.
It is the crime of subverting lawful actions that are responsibly undertaken in the public interest, to support a false narrative of lawlessness that needs to be “punished” by bullies in Ottawa and Edmonton.
It is the crime of undermining the national public interest in its own namesake, for the sake of political expediency, short-term economic benefits, and above all, corporate greed.
It is the crime against future generations that must be stopped and that its proponents are so determined to impose, come climate hell and high water.More