As Natural Resources Shadow Minister, my last few weeks have been heavily occupied with the Line 5 issue.
Background: Line 5 has been transporting Alberta oil to refineries in Sarnia since 1953, where it is refined for use in Ontario and Quebec. It also connects with other refineries in Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania. In fact, Line 5 supplies about 50% of the fuel used in Ontario and 66% of that used in Quebec, all of the fuel used at Pearson Airport, and half of the home heating fuel and propane used in Michigan. But the Governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer, has attempted to revoke an easement for Line 5’s passage under the Straits of Mackinac. She issued a deadline of May 12. Although the Straits lie within Michigan, pipelines are regulated in the U.S. by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), which continues to vouch for the safety of the pipeline’s operations. Enbridge intends to continue moving oil and other liquids through the pipeline until ordered to stop by a Federal Court ruling. Enbridge also is in the process of finalizing approval to construct a $620 million concrete tunnel under the lakebed at the straits to house the pipeline, to make a historically safe pipeline even safer. Enbridge has asked the Federal Court to intervene, and the Governor has tried to move the decision to a State Court. As the Federal Court determines what level of Court should hear the matter, it recommended the parties enter into mediation, which is ongoing. Governor Whitmer has publicly stated that she will shut the pipeline, regardless of the mediation outcome.
Slow to Move: The Liberal government says they are on top of the file, but has been surprisingly slow about fixing what is a very serious issue. Canada and the US are signatories to the 1977 Transit Pipelines Treaty – which President Joe Biden supported as a Senator – but has the Prime Minister called the President to remind him of this obligation? There is no evidence that he has. Canada did file an intervention in the current mediation, but not until Tuesday, one day before the order was to come into effect. As I’ve said, it is doing the very least, at the very last moment.
The Implications of a Shut-Down: Why is Line 5 different than Keystone? Cynics say it is because the safety and convenience of Eastern Canadians is at stake, but Line 5 is a pipeline that carries Canadian product from one part of Canada to another (versus Keystone which would carry Canadian oil to a US destination). Line 5 is also part of an energy ‘backbone’ of a supply chain providing inputs to many industries that established operations nearby because of the materials produced from the pipeline’s products. It is the epitome of using resources from various regions of Canada to support industry across Canada. That’s the exact situation contemplated by the Transit Pipelines Treaty. The Line 5 crisis certainly does underline the wisdom of having an all-Canadian pipeline such as was proposed by the Energy East proponents.
Environmental Outcomes: There are also environmental implications here. Oil must continue to move to Ontario and Quebec – more than half a million barrels per day – but without the pipeline, it will travel by literally thousands of daily trucks and rail cars, at a significantly increased environmental price and risk. There are also 30,000 jobs at stake here. This is a Canadian issue, and a wake-up call across the country.
Why are Governments Not Acting? There are reasons the Liberal Government has not acted more forcefully on this file. By sitting on its hands, the Liberal Government has increased risk in our resource supply chain, and that will be reflected in future investment decisions. It is also getting into an uncomfortable position where it will need to take sides between workers in Eastern Canada and the vocal Non-Government Organizations with which it allies. Enforcing a long-standing treaty with the U.S. should be easy work for a Canadian Prime Minister. Not acting decisively on enforcement with our largest trade partner is showing his hand that he does not take these issues seriously: manufacturing jobs, energy security, and real environmental progress.
There are also reasons the Biden administration is being coy on this matter. It has to make a decision whether it acknowledges that the federal regulator of pipeline safety will be allowed to be overruled by a state governor, who is a political friend of the President. It’s clear why they want to kick the can down the road, and allow a ‘Court process’. Perhaps, the new normal for Canada is that we can’t depend on our treaties with the U.S., and that all our trade matters will be subject to parochial legal interventions going forward. As our international agreements become worth less than the paper they are written on, our standing in the world, economically and diplomatically, will continue to fall.
I will continue to be focused on this issue until it is resolved. You can see my interventions in the House of Commons posted on my website at GregMcLeanMP.ca/News.
Calling on the Government to Invoke the 1977 Treaty
My colleagues and I on Tuesday called upon the Prime Minister to urgently telephone President Biden and invoke the 1977 Transit Pipelines Treaty:
Speaking in the House on Line 5
In Question Period on May 10, I continued to press the government to take action to resolve the pending closure of Line 5. This government will fail if the Governor of Michigan succeeds in closing down Line 5. When is the government going to actually recognize that this is something serious it has to deal with? When is the government going to talk to the Governor of Michigan, and also with the President of the United States, and get this problem solved?
Carbonova: Another Calgary Clean-Energy Start Up
I recently met with Dr. Mina Zarabian, CEO and co-founder of Carbonova, one of Calgary’s exciting technology startups innovating at the intersection of energy and environment. Carbonova’s technology converts carbon dioxide and methane into carbon nanofiber, a fiber stronger and lighter than steel but able to be used in applications from automotive to agriculture, replacing metal or even acting as a fabric. All this while sequestering Greenhouse Gases. Dr. Zarabian’s team is scaling up their process with a pilot plant, and a long-term vision of being able to manufacture carbon nanofiber here in Western Canada as a feedstock for other manufacturing. Carbonova is a great example of the solution-oriented entrepreneurship that Calgary was built on, and continues to deliver to the benefit of the world.
From The Economist: “Pedro Pereira Almao is performing industrial magic in his lab at the University of Calgary. Lines from a row of tanks feed two greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide and methane, into a chamber the size and shape of a wasp’s nest. Less than a minute later, the other end spits out carbon fibre, a more valuable material that is used in cars, planes, golf clubs and other useful things. Mr. Pereira says the process, developed with a doctoral student, Mina Zarabian, could turn power plants, steel mills, or anything that burns fossil fuels into clean, green money-makers. Using waste gases to produce cheap fibre could give rise to new uses, such as ultra-strong plywood.”
Bill C-10: Fighting Against Government Scrutiny of Your Social Media Posts
Bill C-10 started with good intentions to put massive multi-national online media companies on the same playing field as Canadian broadcasters, such as by investing in Canadian content and paying equivalent taxes. It had some flaws, but amendments have since changed its course entirely and put ordinary citizens potentially under the scrutiny of the CRTC. Here is an op-ed from Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole in the National Post: The Liberal’s Internet Bill Opens the Door to a Massive Abuse of Power.
“But in the midst of a pandemic, while Canadians are stuck at home and relying on social media for information, connectivity and entertainment more than ever before, the Liberal government is quietly moving to radically change how Canadians can use social media.
“Internet advocates, civil liberties lawyers and academics have been highlighting the problems with last-minute Liberal changes to Bill C-10, and the Conservative opposition is demanding action. But the Trudeau government’s move raises a fundamental question for us to consider in the internet age. It is the same question that Orwell’s works left us asking. What kind of a society do we want to live in?
“Is it a society where our connectivity through social media leads to greater transparency and accountability? Or are Canadians prepared to have their liberty moderated by the CRTC? …
“Regulating the social media platforms of Canadians should never have been on the table and was not at the start of Bill C-10. The original version of the bill had some flaws, but it explicitly exempted everyday Canadian users of social media from regulation. The Liberals changed their mind and quietly opened the door to limiting the freedom of expression online by removing the exemption. Canadians deserve to know why.”
Conservatives continue to work to fix the issues with Bill C-10.