Things are not going well for Canada's oil advocates. Max Fawcett writes:
Timing, as they say, is everything. And the timing right now for opponents of the federal government’s much-maligned Impact Assessment Act couldn’t be much worse. Arguments around the constitutionality of the act, which has been widely branded as the “no more pipelines” law by conservative politicians and premiers, are being heard by the Supreme Court of Canada this week. And Russell Brown, the justice most likely to side with the provinces, is sidelined after reports of a recent punch-up at a resort in Arizona.
Imperial Oil’s tailings pond leak at its Kearl facility, one that underscores the weakness of Alberta’s regulatory environment and the need for federal involvement, is still making news. It also speaks to the need for something like the Impact Assessment Act, one that might just hold proponents to a higher standard than they’d like. The law will ensure national concerns around climate change and environmental protection are included in decisions around major economic projects. And it will mean new projects with national impacts will have to be in the national interest.
And the powers that be in Alberta are not happy:
Veteran Calgary Herald columnist Don Braid took a swipe at the bill, suggesting that it’s “a slippery thing. It claims to operate in federal lands but then refers to projects ‘in Canada.’ It also assumes power over projects with environmental effects ‘outside Canada.’ It promises co-ordination with provinces, but no province is reassured.”
The federal government’s abiding interest in things like climate change and environmental impacts is unnecessary, Braid writes, because provinces like Alberta already take them seriously. As evidence, he cites the existence of a page on the Government of Alberta website detailing the scientific reality of climate change — one, it should be noted, that was created back in 2016 by its predecessor NDP government and has barely been updated since.
That it isn’t actively denying the scientific reality of climate change is, I suppose, worth noting. But so, too, is the absence of an actual climate plan, one that’s been missing ever since the United Conservative Party scrapped the NDP’s Climate Leadership Plan in 2019. And in the years since, the regulator charged with protecting the public interest has allowed hundreds of millions in rural property taxes to go unpaid, the number of unreclaimed and orphan wells to skyrocket and oilsands leaks to go unreported to nearby Indigenous communities.
Worse, perhaps, is the sort of cronyism that’s rampant at the Alberta Energy Regulator. Former premier Jason Kenney’s campaign manager, an outspoken skeptic of anthropogenic climate change, is the vice-president of its science and innovation branch, while CEO Laurie Pushor is a former Saskatchewan Party political adviser who was involved in a land deal scandal. A regulator marbled with conservative ex-politicos can hardly be counted on to uphold the public’s interest — unless that interest is defined as being in lockstep with the oil and gas industry.
I wrote yesterday about Justin's unpopularity in Alberta and Saskatchewan. You get the idea.
Image: The Conference Board Of Canada