Lelu Island: Trudeau Selling Canada Out

By Roy L Hales

screen-shot-2014-03-18-at-3-43-47-pmEven Canada’s public broadcaster, the CBC, was critical of the government’s approval of Lelu Island.  Environment reporter Margo McDermid called the Pacific Northwest LNG project the “first real test of the Liberal’s approach to the environment and energy.” Her colleague, Chris Hall, added that approving this project “is going to put an enormous amount of pressure on Justin Trudeau to explain how approving a project that will generate millions of tons in greenhouse gas emissions can also help them meet (the) climate change targets they agreed to in Paris.”[1. The National, January 27, 2016] Few doubt that Canada’s 23rd Prime Minister started out with good intentions. The Globe and Mail recently called Trudeau’s attempt to please environmental groups and the fossil fuel sector “mission impossible.” For many environmentalists, the honeymoon lasted for around three months. This is just the latest example of what many perceive as Trudeau selling Canada out.

Trudeau Selling Canada Out

Screenshot from the video Skeena Estuary: Heart of the River
Screenshot from the video Skeena Estuary: Heart of the River

“PNW LNG is poised to cause irreparable damage to the second largest wild salmon run in Canada, and potential catastrophe for the fisheries economy thousands of people depend on,” wrote Lax Kw’alaams Hereditary Chief Yahaan, in a joint letter from over 70 First Nations and environmental leaders.

“Pacific NorthWest LNG is slated to be built on top of an eelgrass bed that supports 88 per cent of the salmon in the Skeena River and all those who rely on them. It would also produce 11 million tonnes of carbon pollution – singlehandedly blowing BC’s climate commitments,” wrote Peter McCartney of the Wilderness Committee.

The Dogwood Initiative calculated that the project’s emissions ” … would be equivalent to all of B.C.’s air and railway transportation, petroleum refining, aluminum smelting, electricity production, sewage treatment and garbage incineration combined,.”

“If this project is built as currently approved, it will be one of the single biggest sources of carbon pollution in the country,” said Merran Smith, of Clean Energy Canada.

“The harsh reality is that it is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish the Trudeau government’s actions on climate from those of the Harper government,” said Caitlyn Vernon, of Sierra Club B.C.

“A Major Opportunity”

Justin Trudeau in Sunnier Days (2013) by Joseph Morris via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)
Justin Trudeau in Sunnier Days (2013) by Joseph Morris via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

Three Federal cabinet ministers flew to Vancouver to make the announcement. Catherine McKenna, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, Jim Carr, Minister of Natural Resources, and Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, issued a joint press release stating:

“The Pacific NorthWest LNG Project is a major opportunity to grow the economy. The project represents one of Canada’s largest resource development projects with a total capital investment of up to $36 billion when accounting for upstream natural gas development. During construction, the project will create an estimated 4500 jobs and an additional 630 direct and indirect jobs during the operation of the facility. As well as benefiting from job creation throughout the region, local First Nations communities will also benefit significantly through agreements reached with the proponent.

The project is subject to over 190 legally binding conditions, determined through extensive scientific study, that will lessen the environmental impacts of the project.”

“This is a significant milestone, and the last major requirement for Pacific NorthWest LNG before a final investment decision can be made. As the largest capital investment proposal in British Columbia’s history, Pacific NorthWest LNG represents an unprecedented opportunity to create thousands of jobs and new economic prospects for First Nations and communities throughout our province,” said British Columbian Premier Christy Clark.

Expect Fierce Opposition

Photo of Lelu Island Courtesy Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition
Photo of Lelu Island Courtesy Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition

It has been six months since more than 130 scientists condemned the project. They cited  “misrepresentation,” “lack of information” and “disregard for science that was not funded by the proponent.”

“Despite this approval, there is no guarantee that Pacific NorthWest will be built. As the cost of renewable energy continues to fall, it is increasingly uncertain that LNG exports can compete in Asian markets,” said Merran Smith.

The Federal and provincial governments can also expect fierce opposition from First Nations, citing aboriginal title issues, and environmentalists.

Once again, the Supreme Court will probably be called upon to  decide whether this project goes forward.

Top Photo Credit: Canada’s approval of Pacific NorthWest LNG announced.  Pictured L-R: Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr, Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, Premier Christy Clark, and Fisheries Minister Dominic Leblanc- courtesy province of British Columbia via Flickr (C BY SA, 2.0 License) 

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