Canada’s breach over oil exports

Monday’s election may force Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to find a better balance between the oil-rich provinces and Canada’s leadership on climate change.

Reuters
Pipelines run at the McKay River Suncor oil sands operations near Fort McMurray, Alberta.

In many Western democracies, the politics of climate change is opening old fractures that require as much attention as climate change. In France, for example, rural folks dependent on cars for a living rioted last year over a government hike in gas prices, forcing President Emmanuel Macron to retreat and then revamp how he governs. Now it is Canada’s turn to deal with its own rupture over carbon issues.

After an election on Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau faces a possible rebellion in two big energy-rich provinces, Alberta and Saskatchewan, which contain the world’s third-largest proven reserves of oil. Mr. Trudeau’s Liberal Party won the election but lost its majority in the House of Commons. It also lost big in the western Canada. The results mean the Liberals will be forced into alliances with smaller – and greener – parties eager to prevent the export of oil from the two provinces.

Until now, Mr. Trudeau has tried to balance Canada’s interest in being a leader on climate change with its vast oil wealth. In a grand political bargain last year, he was able to impose a national carbon tax while at the same time promising to rescue a proposed project to expand an oil pipeline from Alberta to the Pacific coast.

Now that pipeline may not be built as a result of the election, raising talk in Alberta of splitting the province from Canada. The country’s old east-west divide has been revived, requiring the young prime minister to heal this national breach before it grows. One solution lies in helping Alberta better use its oil revenues to diversify its economy – as Norway has done with its petroleum wealth – lessening the need to extract oil for global markets. Expanding a pipeline may then become unnecessary.

Weaning Canada off fossil fuels will take political patience and a renewed interest in harmony among its provinces. Climate change is urgent, but not as urgent as Canada keeping its unity in order to deal with climate change.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.