In her recent column in the Globe and Mail, Denise Balkissoon claimed it’s complicated to be a climate hawk living in Ontario. But she feels she has Alberta all figured out. Let me update her on a few key facts.
In Ontario, where coal-displacing gas-plants are cancelled for political expediency, and where CO2-free nuclear power is under threat by – wait for it – the Ontario Clean Air Alliance, I’ll admit eastern climate hawks do have their work cut out for them.
But for Balkissoon to hope to force Alberta into “drastic action” and a “rapid phase-out” of fossil fuels goes way beyond ineffectual campaign tactics. It would spell human disaster, complete with wide-spread and immediate suffering.
Think of it: without fossil fuels today, what would become of Canada’s agriculture with its diesel-powered planting, cultivating, harvesting and distribution? How would hospitals and treatment centres function on intermittent wind and solar electricity, especially when you require life-saving surgery in the middle of the night?
Do you trust refrigeration or data storage to unstable energy sources? I don’t. How about emergency evacuations and other humanitarian services? Not me.
But perhaps more important, Balkissoon fails to grasp that, in spite of herself and her climate hawk friends, demand for oil and gas is growing worldwide; it’s not rising just a little, either. Fully 30 million barrels/day of new oil production will be shipped to market in the coming decades.
That being the case, then Canada has a responsibility to contribute to that future supply. Among energy producers, Canada leads in almost every major international societal ranking for protecting people and the planet – from democratic freedom and lack of corruption, to women’s empowerment and employment standards, to access to health and education and for environmental protection. Let’s also not forget Canada is a global leader in renewable energy, clean technology and environmental innovation.
In short, why would we hand off oil and gas, our nation’s largest single export and contributor to our national economy, to some country that abhors these same values we live by?
If several countries produce higher emissions per barrel than we do (a fact), and if our strong commitment to research and development continues to lower those emissions (also a fact) while other supplier countries maintain weaker environmental standards, why would Canada leave the supplier pool to some other nation?
Balkissoon hits a fever pitch when she calls Alberta’s most important enterprise “an absolute environmental nightmare.” But being an Ontario climate hawk ought to require more than just smearing Alberta with outrageous hyperbole, misinformation and fear-tactics. While US foundation money has been shown to be supporting campaigns that seek to land-lock Alberta’s energy supplies by fomenting pipeline blockades, Balkissoon misses that bigger picture.
Alberta energy companies and workers live the commitment everyday to higher environmental standards, better sustainability outcomes, and even more renewable energy. It’s no secret fossil-fuel-related companies are major investors in renewable energy projects across Canada – and particularly in Ontario.
As for the Kinder Morgan TransMountain expansion project, it appears people are beginning to understand the issue is perhaps not as outrageous as Balkissoon and others tell you. With more than 40 First Nations leaders supportive of the project, public support for the project is growing.
Perhaps it’s time for Balkissoon to drop the hype – and put in the hard work required on the climate file in her own province.
Cody Battershill is a Calgary realtor and founder / spokesperson for CanadaAction.ca, a volunteer organization that supports Canadian energy development and the environmental, social and economic benefits that come with it.