Several of Canada’s leading environment groups say election demands from Canada’s oil industry earlier this week are a direct attack on the future health and prosperity of Canadians.
The different visions for Canada’s economic and environmental policies are a preview of the federal election campaign to come, in which the fossil-fuel sector and environment groups are expected to play central and conflicting roles.
Environment groups want the federal government to bar new pipelines and slowly wind down production in the oil sector while ramping up investments in and exports of cleaner, renewable energy technologies.
“If our goal is to limit global warming we need to be retiring fossil fuels,” said Dale Marshall, national program manager at Environmental Defence.
The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers on Monday issued its “election platform,” calling for all parties to come up with a long-term vision for oil and gas that includes displacing foreign imports with Canadian fuels and ramping up production and building pipelines so Canada can export more.
The association’s president Tim McMillan argued Canadian oil is produced with higher environmental standards so it is better for the environment if foreign countries buy and use it rather than the fuels produced in countries with lower standards.
McMillan said emerging markets in India, China and Southeast Asia are increasing demand for fossil fuels and Canada should be ready to fill that need.
More than half a dozen environment groups pushed back Wednesday, urging political parties to reject the petroleum industry’s vision.
Marshall said investing in clean and renewable energy that can be exported will result in the same economic benefits without the accompanying climate harms.
He also said the idea that Canada’s oil is cleaner than others’ is a fallacy and that producing more oil for export is not the responsible way to go.
“I would say straight-up that the agenda put forward in this document by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers is a recipe for climate chaos,” said Marshall.
Each side denies favouring any one party. However Marshall acknowledged that climate and environment plans put forward by the Green Party and the NDP “could have been written by the environment community.”
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer promises a major speech on the environment later this month. However much of the vision in the CAPP plan – in particular to expand Canadian exports and replace foreign oil with Canadian production – is directly in line with the vision Scheer put forward in a recent speech on the economy.
Scheer was criticized earlier this year for having a closed-door strategy session with oil executives in Calgary to develop plans to oust the Liberals. McMillan attended that meeting but his presence was downplayed by the organization as part of CAPP’s open strategy to promote Canadian oil and gas.
Marshall said “it’s worrisome” that the Conservatives are so closely tied to the interests of one industry.