It’s time to turn our backs on the energy sources of the past

(Anne Minh-Thu Quach) – The Trudeau government is hiding behind its image as a great defender of the environment and friend to First Nations. Everyone was impressed by the government’s key role in the Paris climate change summit in 2015. Yet, since the Paris Agreement was signed, the Trudeau government has broken every one of its commitments. Canada can and must do better so that our children, and their children in turn, can inherit a healthy environment.

Since TransCanada announced the Energy East pipeline project in 2013, both the residents of Salaberry–Suroit and NDP MPs have expressed their strong opposition. We’re taking a progressive and responsible approach to future generations: without a credible and rigorous environmental assessment process, this project cannot go forward.

Accepting Energy East means accepting the expansion of the oil sands and more shipments of oil by rail. From the perspective of the fossil fuel companies, pipelines and trains go hand in hand—they are complementary means of transportation. The idea that less oil will be shipped by rail is false. The risks will therefore grow, and more tragedies like the one in Lac-Mégantic are inevitable. In addition, Energy East will cross 860 watercourses, most of which are in our province. We cannot choose between water and oil. Accepting Energy East means accepting more oil production and its associated risks. In this regard, it’s unacceptable that the Trudeau government has yet to restore environmental protection measures such as those eliminated from the Fisheries Act and the Navigable Waters Protection Act.

Finally, the Energy East project has not yet been shown to benefit Quebec economically. We should be processing our own natural resources—in this case, refining our own oil and creating good jobs. But what’s on the table right now is essentially just exporting a product that has major environmental impacts without any real, local value added or long-term job creation. Canada exported $93 billion in oil and gas in 2015 (1). Currently, Canada exports 73% (2) of its crude oil production and 51% of its natural gas output (3).

Globally, Canada has the eighth-largest per capita environmental footprint, two and a half times the global average. Canadians consume about three and a half times their fair share of biological production each year. Canada can and must do better (4).

Under the circumstances, acting responsibly means protecting our environment and shifting as quickly as possible to renewable energy sources. The global green energy sector is growing and will generate $3 trillion in revenue per year by 2020 (5). For example, according to a report by Clean Energy Canada, the Canadian renewable energy sector has expanded substantially since 2009, taking in some $25 billion in new investment and creating 37% more jobs. Sustainable clean energy does more than just reduce the risks of climate change. It creates new jobs, brings in investment and improves competitiveness. This applies to other aspects of the energy transition as well, such as green transportation, the circular economy (recycling and waste reclamation), building energy efficiency, the forestry sector, green chemistry and biofuels.

Of course, we’ll still need oil tomorrow, and we’re aware of that fact. But we can start working to end our dependency on oil today. We must work together to build a country that is focused on the energy sources of the future. There can be no doubt that fossil fuels are the energy sources of the past. Prime Minister Trudeau is showing no leadership or vision on this issue. If, as he claims, he truly cares about our children and the planet, Mr. Trudeau must act accordingly.

On a more optimistic note, I would like to conclude by highlighting a very topical initiative in Vaudreuil-Soulanges: the creation of that region’s branch of the Comité 21 Québec, an organization that spreads the word about sustainable development to businesses, institutions and communities, and promotes it as way of setting the region apart. This group encouraged me to make my constituency office greener. I’m taking steps to make my office carbon-neutral and ensure my events are environmentally friendly. It’s a challenge!