Trudeau’s strange non-battle with fossil fuels (and Site C rubber stamp)

Justin Trudeau speaks at the Paris climate talks - flanked by Canadian premiers (Province of BC/Flickr)
Justin Trudeau at the Paris climate talks, flanked by Canadian premiers (Province of BC/Flickr)

I am writing today about the Trudeau government’s increasingly bizarre policy on fossil fuels, which essentially amounts wanting to have its cake and eat it too. But first, I must note that the same can be said for the government’s dealings with First Nations and myriad environmental issues surrounding Site C Dam – as yesterday’s quiet approval by DFO of key permits for the project shows. Treaty 8 First Nations are going to federal court in September to challenge a lack of consultation regarding a project with massive implications for their territory and rights.

Justing Trudeau and Jody Wilson-Raybould meet in Hartley Bay on the BC coast in 2014 (Flickr / Justin Trudeau)
Justing Trudeau and Jody Wilson-Raybould meet in Hartley Bay on the BC coast in 2014 (Flickr / Justin Trudeau)

Aboriginal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould has publicly acknowledged this project would violate treaty rights, while the Trudeau government made a big deal recently about backing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. And yet, where the rubber meets the road, we have the swift, closed-door approval to damage important fish habitat, with no meaningful consultation of First Nations and local landowners. What are we doing in this day and age destroying any fish habitat at all? Moreover, the latest research shows that big dams are actually destructive to the climate, not “green” or “clean”. It’s getting harder and harder to square Justin’s campaign promises with his actions in government.

Forget Paris

The federal government’s ever-evolving oil and gas policy isn’t much different. I am puzzled by Prime Minister Trudeau’s attitude towards fossil fuels for, not to put too fine a point on it, he simply does not seem to have the courage to follow through on his peerless stage performance in Paris, where he became the darling of the world’s glamour puss fans. I hate to think that the fossil fuel industry, which mostly controls the media, controls him too and has frightened him off course.

Without descending into the world of science, where I admit I am instantly lost, my understanding was that he and Canada would take the lead in fighting climate change and that we would begin to wean ourselves off the extraction, use, transport and export of fossil fuels.

It doesn’t take a highly developed understanding of these issues to know that climate change is mainly caused by fossil fuels in the atmosphere and that despite the customary and convenient ignorance of Premier Christy Clark, LNG would be a terrible offender.

Two steps back with Woodfibre LNG approval

And what does Mr. Trudeau do by way of setting an example?

With indecent haste, no warning and without appropriate environmental assessments, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna approved Woodfibre LNG in Squamish saying that the project underwent “a thorough, science-based environmental assessment that considered public and indigenous input and views.”

Well, not quite, because the project was assessed under the post-C-38 regulations — after the Harper government had gutted traditional safeguards for the environment and transferred the task of environmental review to the provinces which, in this case, had already committed to it!

As Michael Harris of iPolitics put it:

[quote]Under the former regulatory regime, the public process was far more rigorous. Opponents were allowed to express alternate opinions, stakeholders could submit briefs and cross-examine witnesses at the hearings. With Bill C-38, the environmental review process was emasculated, weakening the protection of the public interest. It can hardly be invoked now by the federal government to vindicate this dubious decision.[/quote]

This wasn’t how it was supposed to go, for, on March 1, 2016, on CBC National TV, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, in reference to developments, “governments grant permits, communities grant permission”.

Then on March 18, 2016, a mere 17 days later, even though every Council in the constituency, including the City of West Vancouver, stood unanimously opposed to the project, the Trudeau government gave the go-ahead to Woodfibre LNG!

As mentioned, one partial, shabby, discredited Environmental Process had been carried out by the Province of BC, after BC had already approved the project, and Trudeau, in the 2015 election, heavily badmouthed the National Energy Board process and procedures and promised radical changes.

A dangerous idea, approved

Harper says LNG tankers too dangerous for East Coast, but OK for BCBut that’s not all – there was no proper assessment of the impact of noxious discharges of the plant itself into the atmosphere or the impact of poisonous discharges into Howe Sound and their impact on recently restored salmon and herring runs.

Think that’s all?

Not on your tintype!

By internationally accepted standards, as determined by world renowned Sandia Laboratories and set by the industry organization itself, The Society of International Gas Tanker and Terminal Operators (SIGTTO), Howe Sound and its channels are far too narrow for LNG tankers, creating a very serious safety risk. The Trudeau government has refused to take this seriously.

In fact, the Prime Minister, far from weaning us off them, is committed to more pipelines, more oil, more coal and more LNG.

You may be thinking that there’s a wee bit of hypocrisy here. Well, you ain’t heard nothing yet.

Lip service

Liberal MP Pamela Goldsmith-Jones (Flickr/CreativeMornings Vancouver/Matthew Smith)
Liberal MP Pamela Goldsmith-Jones (Flickr/CreativeMornings Vancouver/Matthew Smith)

Our Liberal MP, Pamela Goldsmith-Jones, who told us during the election that she opposed WLNG, now finds herself Parliamentary Secretary to Stephane Dion, the Foreign Minister, thus on the cusp of Cabinet. I wouldn’t suggest for a moment that this converted Pam to an LNG enthusiast but she now supports WLNG.

Now, you ready for this? Pam has arranged for public hearings for her constituents not on the merits of WLNG – that is strictly off limits and not to be mentioned – but to help us all understand climate change and tell us what we can do about it, such as buy solar panels and that sort of thing.

I hardly need to remind you, I’m sure, that the best way to avoid Climate Change would be to tube WLNG and forego any other LNG production and export. That’s where the biggest increase to our carbon footprint would come from (Petronas’s Lelu Island plant alone would boost BC’s entire carbon footprint by 8.5%). So here we have the Trudeau government and MP coming to tell us how to find solutions to climate change, which they are causing and plan to cause more of, and could end with the stroke of a pen!

Saskatchewan spill worst yet

Let me close with pipelines.

Pipelines, as we know, carry noxious fossil fuels through our wild forests and salmon-spawning rivers to narrow passages on our pristine coast, from where they are tankered to faraway places. The Industry, supported by the media and Prime Minister, pooh pooh their unfortunate propensity to burst with disastrous results and irreparable damage. At this moment, when Trudeau is patiently waiting to approve two major pipelines, there has been a major fracture in Northern Saskatchewan threatening, amongst other things, major domestic water supply. We’re told this spill is worse than that into the Kalamazoo River 6 years ago, the worst modern spill, which Enbridge plays down almost as if it never happened even though it’s not been cleaned up yet and likely never will be.

You would think that Mr. Trudeau, based upon his flowery words in Paris would be deeply concerned but, au contraire, he can’t wait to get on with them.

The “Tidewater” myth

Interestingly enough, J. David Hughes, a retired senior geologist for the Geological Survey of Canada and author of the report “Can Canada Expand Oil and Gas Production, Build Pipelines and Keep its Climate Commitments?” makes a strong case that the pipelines planned are going to the wrong place. He states the following:

[quote]The widely recited rhetoric that new pipelines must be built to oceans — or “tidewater” — to capture a significant price premium by selling on international markets is likewise not supported by the facts.

Although oil is a globally priced commodity, between 2011 and 2014 the international price (“Brent”) was considerably higher than the North American price (“WTI”). In September 2011 the differential reached $25.26 per barrel. However, the average differential in the six months ending May 2016 was 88 cents per barrel and recently Brent has been trading below WTI.

Not only has the international price advantage evaporated, but Canada’s primary oil export, Western Canada Select, sells at a discount to WTI. That’s because it is a lower grade heavy oil and will sell at a discount whether sold internationally or to North American markets.

Thus the premium that fuelled the rhetoric on the need for new pipelines to “tidewater” has disappeared and is unlikely to return.

Developing a climate plan to meet Canada’s Paris Agreement commitments is a challenging but achievable task for the federal government. Doing so while meeting Alberta’s and BC’s oil and gas production growth aspirations, however, will be virtually impossible.

The oil and gas industry is certainly not going away any time soon, but if Canada is serious about meeting its climate commitments it is time for the prime minister and premiers to do the math and stop telling us we can have it all.[/quote]

This is a bit of the history of the actions of prime minister Justin Trudeau since he did his dog and pony show in Paris and wowed us all with his commitment to the environment and, particularly, in reducing climate change, which has the potential to do no less than destroy the world.

Somehow I don’t think my prime minister has been telling the truth and I’ve lost faith in his commitment to do what he promises. Can anyone help me understand why I feel this way?


About Rafe Mair

Rafe Mair, LL.B, LL.D (Hon) a B.C. MLA 1975 to 1981, was Minister of Environment from late 1978 through 1979. In 1981 he left politics for Talk Radio becoming recognized as one of B.C.'s pre-eminent journalists. An avid fly fisherman, he took a special interest in Atlantic salmon farms and private power projects as environmental calamities and became a powerful voice in opposition to them. Rafe is the co-founder of The Common Sense Canadian and writes a regular blog at

27 thoughts on “Trudeau’s strange non-battle with fossil fuels (and Site C rubber stamp)

  1. I still do not understand the total idiocy of believing in politicians and their trillion ton containers of pre-election lies when Everyone has seen them pulling the same bloody stunt in EVERY election! It is ALWAYS BS, and it will NEVER be anything other than total BS so WHY do Canadians who boast about having a brain, always go for the bait and consistently end up like big stupid fish dangling on the PM’s Party (Phishing) line! Well it is basically because everyone is living in denial and nobody is snapping out of the great illusion. I am very anxious that Canada’s SHEEPLE wake the ‘F’ up and realize that ALL Political representatives DO NOT represent the public since they ALWAYS represent the Monarchs and Lobbyists who never stop exploiting and robbing our resources, our Labor and our meat and Potatoes while completely destroying our heritage (environment) to profit their already MEGA rich buddies.

  2. We need to stop supporting these massive corporations with destructive choices that hurt our Country and Eco system. There are many great and safer ways of increasing jobs and protecting our environment. Until then we are slowly committing genacide to our children and future generations. We need to step out of these toxic choices and move forward with more positive choices.

  3. The reality of Canada’a economic dependence on fossil fuel revenue has hit Trudeau right between the bottom lines. How to pay for the social programs? Pipelines! Any British Columbia resident of your age knows how the Bennetts paid for everything – exploit our natural resources with full cooperation of the multi-national corporations and the labor unions. It a Canadian tradition.

  4. I had hope that with JT things would be different !! Just a younger guy in the rich old FRACKING boys club… All so corrupt !!! Now we need civil disobedience … 10s of thousands of us.. Get ready. Have community meetings NOW !!! Please. Help save Howe Sound also. No LNG ..

  5. Hmmmmm
    This weeks(July 23rd 2016) Economist magazine. An article(page 49, titled ‘A dirty little secret”) on LNG and the METHANE it produces. Unburned methane and leaked methane from naturla gas and petroleum constitute 30% of all methane created in the US.
    This “endangers” the arguement that LNG is “cleaner” than…..coal.
    And if the US, with all its regulator checks and balances is leaking 30% of all the methane in petroleum and LNG manufactured……..One wonders about how much methane is being leaked in such regulatory backwaters as Russia, Nigeria and Angola……………..All major producers of the “green” energy…..
    The sooner industry gets on the solar and wind “green train” the better for all of us and our childrens children……..
    But I wont hold my breath until (in a methane choked future) I’m forced to.

  6. I’m sick and tired of all this bullshit! I’m pulling for Elon Musk. All aboard for Mars. Maybe (?) the politicians will be reluctant to follow. No? Then send them and then maybe I’ll stay here. I just need the separation!

  7. The fact that JT respects the business acumen of both Ontario leader Wynne and BC’s leader Clark tells me all I need to know. He said what he had to for the election win. Now it’s business as usual. Any wonder so many young folks can’t be bothered voting? It’s called blatant corruption.

    Apparently civil disobedience is the only viable option left.


    Canadians, almost to a person, don’t understand how the system of “Responsible Government” has been subverted so that the following has happened. I support Bloggs for MP and he’s elected. I therefore transfer my political rights and the execution of them ro Bloggs. This makes sense because we can’t all fit in the Town Hall any more.


    Earlier this year I wrote a two part essay on this, which tells you in plain unadorned English how they do it to you and how, without spending a penny or any constitutional amendment we can change this with a stroke of a pen. You can read it here:


    Part 2:

    There is absolutely no obligation but if you felt like making a small (or immense for that matter) donation, to help the Common Sense Canadian to keep its independent voice going, I doubt it would be refused.

  9. Many on the left warned about jumping onto the Liberal bandwagon to defeat Harper. But many progressives argued that strategic voting was the answer. Door-to-door canvassers were dismissed as progressives jumped onto the Liberal bandwagon without a critical thought about the history of the Liberals compared to the NDP. I don’t know where the money for the groups that pushed strategic voting over critical thinking came from, but it tipped the scales. Now we have a corporate Trudeau. The Liberals are much better than the Harper racists, but we are in a total mess with the federal NDP in crisis.

  10. 1) BC Hydro concluded that windpower is the most cost-effective clean energy option:
    2) A “LNG expert” seemingly unconcerned about climate change thinks the LNG glut will last until 2025:
    3) Global green economy advancements — Canada excluded — suggest that the proposed Energy East and Kinder Morgan pipelines would be redundant/superfluous by the time the projects are complete. What follows is an updated version of Pipelines to Nowhere which first appeared in The Common Sense Canadian on March 7, 2016. The final version will be submitted and presented for the federal and Quebec hearings on Energy East.
    4) Should you be so interested, I can supply you with a detailed (59 pages) Roadmap for a Canadian migration to a green economy based on a) models from around the globe adapted and improved upon for a Canadian context and b) my own Government of Canada experiences on sustainable development related policies, legislation, programs, projects and other initiatives.

  11. It is a kick in the teeth. I wonder how much it took to buy them? Any integrity they might have had is now gone. Just more whores.

  12. Before the election, Trudeau stated, “Our communities grant permission.” What happened? The Peace River community should decide on the permits, because this dam affects their lives and livelihoods.

    1. Totally. This dork is all image no substance. Big business and
      Gerald Butts are running the show.

  13. Why do we feel this way? We’ve been betrayed yet again. I don’t think our Prime Minister Trudeau should count on the support of First Nations or ABC voters (especially in BC) in 2019. We gave him an advantage in 2015 that won’t be offered again. We don’t need more corporate owned pay to play politicians in the world. We need LEADERS who appear to be in very short supply.

    You nailed it Rafe. You always do. Thanks

    1. With a bought MSM, a 45% mesmerized, 45% complacent populace, changing the game federally will be just as easy as it has been changing Christy’s ways.


Comments are closed.