Alberta vs B.C in the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion (by N. Esak)


Photo: Alberta Premier Racheal Notley (Left) and B.C Premier John Horgan (Right)


The issue between British Columbia and Alberta pertaining to a pipeline expansion has evolved into a very heated conflict between the two provinces interests. These conflicting issues are over the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion (Walkom, 2018). The expansion would drastically increase the amount of tar sand oil transports on the Pacific Coast. The British Columbia Premier, John Horgan expressed his sentiments of not wanting the pipeline to be built while the Alberta Premier, Racheal Notley would like the opposite and for the expansion to occur (Walkom, 2018). To Notley, the expansion will help in promoting a highly competitive oil industry (Walkom, 2018). Horgan, on the other hand, would like to stop this expansion due to the political dynamics of the province. Considering that the province’s minority NDP government, Horgan needs the Green party’s support to remain in power, which includes protecting their anti-pipeline demands (Walkom, 2018).

This pipeline conflict, however grew to become more complex when B.C announced the proposal of restrictions to be placed on bitumen shipments to pipelines from Alberta (Seskus, 2018). Announcement of these restrictions resulted in frustrated threats from Alberta for economic and import retaliations and lawsuits due to the province’s view that B.C has no constitutional authority to create such restrictions (Seskus, 2018).

The federal government, however has been in support of the pipelines expansion, with Trudeau even considering the expansion as both a great economic incentive and still a commitment to climate change as long as those constructing it have a commitment to reduce carbon emissions to combat climate change (Walkom, 2018). However, to those opposed to the project, the promised economic growths are not worth the potential environmental repercussions of oil spills, leaks, and dangerous emission releases. These extreme differentiating views is what is making policy compromises on this issue very difficult to create.

Compromises like these is what the federal government has been working towards to both ease the mind of those with both economic and environmental priority incentives. However, the problem with this is that both these concerns are not equally detrimental. Since the federal government’s role holds the most authority over this matter, it needs to take a hard stance and acknowledge that if they want their claims of combating climate change to be true, they must take the economic and even political consequences which might follow.




Walkom, T. (2018, February 02). B.C pipeline faceoff underscores Justin Trudeau’s climate-change contradictions. Retrieved February 11, 2018, from

Seskus, T. (2018, February 08). Oil, water and wine: Escalating Alberta-B.C. fued threatens future of Trans Mountain pipeline. Retrived February 11, 2018, from




Checking-in on Trudeau

Justin Trudeau has been our Prime Minister for 767 days, including today.  According to the TrudeauMeter, he has achieved 58 of his 226 campaign promises and has a subsequent 72 in progress. His “broken promises” entail 38 thus far. So, he appears to be doing fairly well. He has kept twice as many promises as he has broken.

If we look at the environment section of the Meter, he made 29 promises grouped by TrudeauMeter into clean tech, climate change, national parks, and water. Overall, he has kept only 6 promises:

  1. He attended the Paris climate summit and came home to establish the Pan-Canadian Framework on Climate Change and Sustainable Growth
  2. canceled the Northern Gateway Pipeline
  3. expanded the Learn to Camp program
  4. Provided free admission to all National Parks in Canada for 2017 (you still have a few weeks to take advantage of this!)
  5. restored 1.5 million in annual funding for freshwater research
  6. restored 40 million for funding federal ocean and science monitoring programs

He has broken 4 pledges:

  1. he did not rapidly expand the federal fleet of electric vehicles
  2. he did not phrase out subsidies for the fossil fuel industry
  3. he did not re-do the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion review
  4. he did review the elimination of the Navigable Waters Protection Act by the Harper gov’t

Of the remaining 19 pledges, 14 are in progress and 5 have yet to be started at all.

So, his environmental track record isn’t great. That said, the federal government does not have a lot of constitutional jurisdiction when it comes to the environment. The provinces have most of the power in this domain.

Of course, he can expand electric vehicles for the federal fleet. And he has been working on this – Catherine McKenna is often tweeting about her electric car. The key part is he did not accomplish this “rapidly.”

Phasing out subsidies. That is federal. He should have done that by now.

Re-examine the Kinder Morgan review. Yes, should have been done.

In terms of the Navigable Water Protections Act… I believe his government is doing this. You can see the federal review here. The government accepted all 11 recommendations that came through Parliament’s Standing Committee on Transport, and you can see that document here. So the TrudeauMeter might be judging the government too harshly here – or they at least need a category for “kinda-kept the promise.”

My sense of Trudeau’s first 2 years in office is that he made more progress on climate change than Harper did in his 10 years in office. The Pan-Canadian Framework is weak, but so is the federal government when it comes to climate change. The federal government is only as strong as the provinces on the climate file. Trudeau does have all provinces talking about climate change and seriously mulling over a price on carbon. This is progress.

Trudeau was also thrown a major curveball with the election of Trump. Trudeau thought he and Clinton would champion environmental issues – and indeed, I believe, they would have.

On all transboundary environmental issues, which are most issues, the Trudeau government is only as strong as the Trump government. And Donald Trump pretty much took his globe shaped soccer ball and went home.


Green Party Win in BC

The provincial election in British Columbia was held yesterday. And it was a nail bitter down to the end.

It is fair to say, perhaps, that the Green Party emerged as the winner – even though they only won three seats. How does that work?

BC electionAs you can see from the graphic in the Globe and Mail, the Liberals won 43 seats and the NDP won 41 seats. In BC, you need 44 seats in the 87 seat House to win a majority government. Umm. If the Liberals only have 43 seats then they will need some ONE else to vote with them on legislation – to get the 44 votes need to pass. They would likely work to get the three Green Party members to vote along side them – passing a bill with 46 votes. HOWEVER, the NDP could just as easily work with the Greens to vote against the Liberals – because together the NDP and Greens have 44 votes. Wow. That means that EVERY time a bill is voted on, it will come to down to what the Green Party decides to do.

In fact, it could be the case that the Greens and NDP try to get together and form a coalition government. But that seems a little unlikely – given the relationship between the Greens and NDP in the province. It is not a strong one. Often those two parties are fighting it out! A more likely alliance might actually be for the Greens and Liberals to form a coalition government. But I am going to assume that Clark with try and govern from a minority gov’t position and negotiate on a bill by bill basis.

So, I am saying the Green Party won the election.

But I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself. There were a lot of close races and there will be a lot of recounts. The outcome could still change a little in the coming week(s).

What does this mean for the environment? I think it will mean staying on the course on aggressive climate change policy. I think it might present challenges to LNG/fracking and maybe to the Site C Dam. On the whole, it is good news for the environment. The NDP picked up seats in urban areas. All three Green Party seats come from Vancouver Island. That Liberals held their ground in rural areas. This means there is likely some tension between rural-urban populations and that will play itself out in environmental policy. But so long as the Greens carry the balance of power, the environment has a fighting chance.

Ontario Budget 2016

Last week, Premier Wynn prorogued the provincial legislative assembly. This ended the session and effectively “killed” all bills that were on the table. She wiped the slate clean. So all bills that were in progress will need to be re-introduced in this next session (if they are to become law).

On Monday, Wynne hit the “go button” with the launch of the Ontario Budget. You can find a link to the budget here.

I do not have a lot to say about it in terms of environmental policy relevance. The big announcement was a 8% tax CUT on electricity for residents. See the Globe and Mail article for more details. That isn’t really environmental. In fact, it might make things worse because people might use MORE electricity as it will become cheaper to do so. Um. So why is Wynne doing that? Cynical answer: re-election. Less cynical answer: people are angry and she is responding. The feed-in-tariff system in Ontario means that residents overpay for alternative energy – thus, incentivizing people to produce wind and solar energy. However, residents to do not like paying so much electricity… in fact, it made a lot of people really angry. So the government is going to cut the cost.

On the more environmental side, there are big promises around public transportation – especially in the ever-growing GTA. But like other green promises in the budget, it is all tied to “business” and “growth.” The main theme is really sustainable DEVELOPMENT. Wynne wants to grow – the economy. And suggests this can be done in a “green” way. A lot of the green promises involve “investments” as opposed to “protections” or “regulations.”

In fact, there is little spending on strictly environmental issues – like endangered species, parks, bodies of water, and air quality. The only mention of water is regarding public health (safety) and not environmental health.

This budget leaves a lot to be desired for the average environmentalist. Right now, almost 50% of the budget is spent on health care. There is a connection there, no?

Progressive Conservative Party takes Manitoba

Trump and Clinton… it is all we here about these days. Indeed, their story is the lead on the Globe and Mail this morning. But Manitoba also had an election yesterday. The Progressive Conservative party, led by Brian Pallister, won a majority government. An impressive majority government. The party won 40 of the province’s 57 seats… and took 53.4% of the popular vote.

The NDP have been in power in Manitoba since 1999 – and historically have been very strong in the province. But last night, the NDP won only 14 seats and 25.6% of the popular vote. Their leader, Greg Selinger, resigned immediately after the votes here counted. The Liberal Party won the remaining 3 seats with 14.2% of the vote.

What was this election about? Taxes. (As most elections are!) Salinger said he would not raise the HST (harmonized sales tax) in the province… and then he did. Voters did not like that. Pallister has promised to decrease the tax by the 1% that it was raised. He better come through. He has also promised to join the New West Partnership trade agreement with BC, AB, and SK.

I am surprised to even write this, but as of April 2016 ALBERTA is the only province to have a NDP government.


Status Quo in Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan had a provincial election on April 4, 2016. However, there is really no update to the book – as the status quo resigned supreme. Indeed, the election was dubbed “the ground-hog day election.”

The Sask Party (the conservative or centre-right party) won 51 seats while the NDP (the centre-left party) won 10 seats. There are a total of 61 seats in the SK Legislative Assembly.  In terms of popular vote, the SP received 62.5% and the NDP won 30.3% (leaving 3.6% to the other parties, such as the Liberal Party and the Western Independence Party).

Prior to this election, the SP had 49 seats and the NDP help 9 seats. Thus, the NDP did gain a seat, but in a major setback the party leader, Cam Broten, lost his seat in Saskatoon. It is unclear as to whether or not he will remain party leader.

The Sask Party is a relatively new party – founded in only 1997. It gained major success under Brad Wall’s leadership in 2007. In the 2007 election the party won 38/58 seats and in 2011 it won 49/58 seats.  Last night we saw more of the same. And we can expect more of the same in the next five years. This is not good news for the environment – especially not good for any prospects of a national climate strategy in Canada.

2016 Budget for the Environment

7 billion. That is a big number. The Liberal government is planning on spending more than that on the environment in the next two years. Indeed, the CBC reported that the Liberal’s kept with their election promises on the environment.

So how does that shake down by the numbers?

$2.5 billion = public transit

$1.8 billion = green infrastructure, including (much needed) repair and upgrade to water systems

$1.7 billion = climate mitigation and environmental protection

$574 million = energy and water efficiency upgrades

$401 million = clean teach development spending

These are large numbers and can be sliced and diced in different directions. For example, it is actually $11.9 billion being spent on infrastructure and some of that is related to environmental protection and upgrades. I like this graphic from the Globe and Mail:



As you can see, in the infrastructure spending there is money for climate change mitigation and adaptation projects. That is clearly environmental spending. Then there are categories of an overlapping nature – water infrastructure. That is not exactly about protecting water quality for the sake of the environment. No, it is really about public health. But, hey, that’s okay – a win, a win. Similarly, “public transit” isn’t necessarily about the environment. It is really about getting people where they need to go to keep the economy and society functioning. But better public transportation means less carbon emissions. So, hey, that’s okay – a win, a win.

This all sounds good, right? Why is the David Suzuki Foundation not impressed? Over concern that “the level of investment doesn’t match the urgency of the environmental challenges Canada faces.” The DSF was hoping for more news on carbon pricing, alternative energy investments, and phasing out fossil fuel subsidies. (Me too).

To that end, the Minister of Finance, Hon. Morneau, also announced an additional $1 billion in the next budget (2018-2019) to establish a “low carbon economy fund” that will give funding to provinces/territories that sign onto a Canadian climate agreement. Sounds like a bribe. I like it. It is also what we call “federal leadership.”


I am waiting for other environmental groups and the Pembina Institute to release their comments and analysis on the budget. We need some number crunchers to think this through from an environmental prospective. I will keep you posted on further details!

First Minister’s Meeting on Climate Change

The long-awaited First Minister’s meeting on climate change happened yesterday, March 3 2016. It was somewhat anti-climatic given that Trudeau made this meeting part of his fall campaign pledge. Essentially, he has been talking about this  meeting since last summer. And then it just… passed us all by.


The 13 premiers met with Trudeau and McKenna is Vancouver. (I imagined it was rainy). Prior to the meeting, Trudeau announced an aspirational goal of a set minimum price on carbon ($15 dollars a tonne is the number he threw out). Brad Wall of Saskatchewan immediately said no (see prior post).

What did happen yesterday? The CBC offers a gloomy recap here.  There was no agreement on a carbon price. Instead what emerged was yet another set of promises and goals. We call these “frameworks” or “strategies.” Officially, it is titled the Vancouver Declaration on Clean Growth and Climate Change (perhaps such a grandiose name makes it seem more important). The list of goals includes:

  • developing “regional” plans for clean electricity
    • this includes Indigenous and remote Northern communities
  • doubling investments in clean energy research over the next five years
    • this includes electric cars
  • more investments in green infrastructure (like public transit)
    • this includes working together to leverage the federal Low Carbon Economy Fund

That is really it. There was also an agreement to meet again in October.

The premiers did agree on the “need” for “some form” of carbon pricing – but there was no agreement on what approach to use (Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia are hindrances to creating a national price). This will be a focus for the next meeting. The Premiers are supposed to go home and figure out a carbon pricing mechanism that works for their province (so a tax or cap & trade or any pricing mechanism).  In addition to that task, they are also supposed to focus on clean technology, unique (province specific) opportunities to reduce emissions, and adaptation measures for their province.

Where does that leave Canada? Remember that our UN Paris Pledge is 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. That is what we promised the international community. Essentially, as a nation we need to bring our annual emissions down to 534 mega tonnes. Current trends suggest we will be somewhere around 750. Thus, the provinces must act.

Trudeau was not able to secure a carbon price from the provinces. This is disappointing, but not surprising. What we have is more promises but little action. Ontario and Alberta have announced new climate strategies. BC, MB, and QU already have strategies in place (albeit it might be time for BC to update its carbon tax). But that leaves us with 5 provinces out of 13 – that won’t be enough. Of particular concern is Saskatchewan, which has the highest GHG emissions per capita and Wall refuses to entertain any strategies other than “off-setting” the status quo through carbon sequestering.

In the next six months the provinces have a lot of homework. In October, Trudeau better circle the provincial wagons and get everyone facing the same direction. We don’t need new declarations – we need leadership and action.

EC has a new name & new webpage!

When Justin Trudeau became Canada’s Prime Minister and head of the executive branch he renamed some of Canada’s institutions. Environment Canada is now Environment and Climate Change Canada. That name change is meant to signify how serious Trudeau is taking the issue of climate change. And it is also supposed to signal the central mission of Environment Canada in the coming decade.

Environment and Climate Change Canada now has a new website – and it is one worth visiting.


As you can see, there are up-to-date news stories (headlines) as well as tweets and real information about different issues and priorities. There is also – smack on the front page – a tab for public consultations. This is a very different webpage than Environment Canada under Harper. That old Environment Canada had a stale page with mostly dead links. It is was frustrating and disappointing.

I encourage all students and scholars of environmental policy to peruse the website. There is a lot of good information in there. For example, today I found some frank data about our climate targets. Here is the graph from the website:


What you see is that Canada is no where near on track for meeting our 2030 Paris Protocol commitment. That is the little orange dot in the bottom right hand corner beside 534 megatonnes of CO2 emissions. Umm. Instead, we are track to be somewhere between 765 and 876 megatonnes. In the book, I present a similar table on page 276. This is an update. On that graph the government didn’t suggest where we might be in 2030 – it was left to the reader to connect the dots in an upward fashion.

We have a new Environment and Climate Change Canada, but we face the same problems. How Minister McKenna is going to get from reality to promise is yet to be determined. Stay tuned for updates on the First Ministers meeting for climate change!

Citizens, Accountability, & Government

Throughout The Canadian Environment in Political Context I try to focus on what citizens can do to improve the environment. Specifically, what role do citizens have in the political sphere that can influence environmental policy? There are many examples – from the obvious, like voting, to the more time consuming, shopping green. There are virtually hundreds of ways an individual can involve him/herself in the dirty work of politics – even without ever running for office.

I have recently come across the website This is a website intended to hold the Trudeau government responsible for promises made during the 2015 election. It is run by four men in Alberta who are self described data-junkies. But anyone can participate in the tracking of promises made or broken. The idea is not be partisan – it is just for citizens to check and see if the government is really doing what it promised to do.



 The authors/information trackers/founders.


In total there are 214 promises divided into 7 issue areas: culture, economy, environment, government, immigration, indigenous peoples, and security. You can click any tab and see a list of relevant promises. Each promise is tracked by “not started,” “in progress,” “achieved,” or “broken.” As of today, there are 25 promises in progress, 12 achieved, and 3 broken.


If we look just at the environment section there are 28 promises in 4 subcategories: clean tech, climate change, national parks, and water. Thus far there have been no broken promises. Are broken promises always a bad thing? Not necessarily – it depends on where you stand on the issue! It might be a bad thing that the government promised to do something and didn’t, but there may be good reason (like new information, new technology, or a different economic context). You can decide for yourself how you want to use the information provided. Ultimately, it is you who will stand alone in a ballot box in 5 years and help decide which party to elect. It may matter to you a great deal that promises were broken (could be a sign of no integrity) or you may be happy that he broke the promises he did. Or you maybe willing to overlook broken promises because other issues, ones more important to you, were addressed during Trudeau’s tenure in office.

This website is an excellent example of the “watch dog” function that citizens can play. In 5 years when people go back to the polls, it is important to have data like this to reflect upon and evaluate the government (as discussed in Chapter 12). The website is free and open to all. As long as they are careful to fact-check the information, it will be a reliable source of information for citizens to use to hold their government accountable. I know I will continue to check-in with the website and measure the progress of the Trudeau government.