The Mowat Centre, “Ontario’s voice on public policy”, has published a frank discussion on how Canada’s largest province should respond to pipeline proposals like Line 9. Recent revelations of an Enbridge spill not being reported to the affected municipality and of oil sector control over federal policies add to the concerns.
The review by the Mowat Centre – established five years ago by the Ontario government – is co–authored by founder and director Matthew Mendelsohn. It cites severe climatic impacts, damage to Ontario manufacturing and the minimal economic benefits of oil sands expansion as reasons to challenge pressures from Alberta and the federal government.
While noting Ontario’s support for “Alberta’s continued prosperity” and inclination to therefore support pipelines, the review points to “legitimate concerns regarding [their] environmental safety” that are “real and should be treated as such”. It also contends that “new oil pipeline infrastructure is only needed if expansion in the oil sands is envisioned” which it says is completely undermining efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“For nearly a decade, Ontario has confronted a federal government that refuses to recognize the contribution that Ontarians are making to reducing emissions while allowing the emissions from the oil sands to continue increasing unabated. So long as the federal government – and the government of Alberta – support a climate change policy that asks Ontarians – and other Canadians – to carry the largest burden and pay the biggest financial cost for reducing emissions, there are good reasons for Ontario to oppose pipeline development that will only exacerbate climate change.”
The review is equally blunt about the direct economic impact of tar sands expansion where “almost all of the economic benefits flow to Alberta” – 94 per cent by some estimates” while Ontario industry pays a steep price in lost exports and jobs.
“There is a wide consensus that developments in Canada’s resource sector, particularly in oil and gas, have contributed to a rapid escalation in Canadian exchange rates, and that these have had a negative impact on the Ontario manufacturing sector.”
The Mowat Centre also believes “unreasonable restrictions on public input” to the NEB “do not serve the interests of Ontarians.” New restrictions imposed by the Harper government last year required individuals and groups concerned about Line 9 to fill out an application form to get permission to even send a letter to the NEB.
Those changes and similar ones introduced to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act “were taken directly from an August 2012 oil industry report” according to an expose by Forest Ethics Advocacy Association.
“The energy industry told the government what to do, and the government did it. It's as simple as that,” said their chair Clayton Ruby in a media release earlier this month.
Revelations at provincial hearings underway in Quebec indicate municipalities have reason to worry about spill reporting. Hamilton and other Ontario municipalities particularly pushed Enbridge to provide much more information to local emergency response personnel about Line 9.
The city of Terrebonne has only now learned about a 4000–litre spill from Line 9 that took place within its municipal boundaries more than two years ago. It was reported to federal and provincial authorities but not to the municipality.
“We are of the opinion that a 4,000–litre oil spill, even if it was contained within your facilities, is not an insignificant event,” Terrebonne’s director general, Denis Lévesque, wrote in a letter sent to Enbridge last week. “In our opinion, a spill like that should have been officially reported by Enbridge to our municipal services, all the more at this time when citizens are rightly concerned about ecological risks associated with oil transportation.”V