"Irresponsible and unsustainable": Allegiance to Big Oil is undermining Canada's international reputation

Canada’s international reputation suffered another blow with the short-sighted endorsement by its energy ministers of continued expansion of the tar sands oil industry. This “non-strategy” from Canada’s energy ministers shows how out of step Canada is with the United States – a country that should be a marketplace for Canadian clean energy as it works to implement President Obama’s new Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future.

The outcome of this week’s meeting of federal and provincial energy ministers shows just how much Canada has changed from the days where it was a leader in fighting climate change internationally. Now, it is falling behind countries such as Germany and China who are investing millions in clean energy solutions in order to shore up an industry that will devastate its Boreal forest, critical freshwater resources, the health and safety of people throughout North America, and our global climate.

The ministers were gathered to talk about a national energy strategy. There was actually some excitement that Canada might move forward with a progressive strategy for building economic prosperity across the country on clean energy solutions. This strategy was supported by a high powered lobby of businesspeople, investors, municipal leaders, scientists and non-profit organizations who called on the ministers to move away from oil, gas and coal towards a greener economy.

Instead, the ministers produced a statement that makes Canada look like it is in the pocket of the oil industry. In fact, the meeting was heavily sponsored by oil companies and, unfortunately for us, they got what they paid for.

The minister’s statement calls the tar sands “responsible and sustainable.” Ironic when from a climate, health and long-term security perspective, the tar sands are irresponsible and unsustainable.

A voice of reason in the debate, Ontario, the most populous province flatly rejected this approach. It refused to sign the statement noting concerns about calling tar sands ‘responsible and sustainable.’ Instead, the Premier of Ontario is calling on the federal government for increased support for renewable energy. Ontario as an energy powerhouse in Canada is already taking strong steps to build its clean energy economy and the ever-increasing greenhouse gas emissions from the tar sands industry put a burden on Ontario and other provinces to do even more than its fair share. 


While the tar sands province of Alberta and the Canadian federal government have marched to Big Oil’s tar sands tune in recent years, other provinces have been leading the way in clean energy. Again with their calls for a national focus on clean energy, Ontario and clean energy industry and investors are showing that there is hope for clean energy action in Canada. When the United States engages with Canada on energy issues, we need to look at provinces such as Ontario for partnership and not endorse the blind allegiance to the oil industry shown at this recent energy ministers meeting. 

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