Canadian realpolitik imposes its law on Minister Guilbeault

(Ottawa) The Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Steven Guilbeault, was fundamentally against the idea of ​​approving the Bay du Nord oil project. Most of his ministerial colleagues from Quebec were in the same boat.

Posted at 5:00 a.m.

But the majority of the cabinet decided. The controversial project, which is led by the Norwegian company Equinor and which should make it possible to extract up to 1 billion barrels of oil over a period of 30 years thanks to the construction of a floating platform in the Atlantic Ocean, will go so forward.

Finance Minister and Deputy Premier Chrystia Freeland was strongly supportive of the project, as was Labor Minister Seamus O’Regan, Newfoundland and Labrador’s leading voice at the cabinet table. Ditto in the case of the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Dominic LeBlanc, who has the ear of Justin Trudeau. The war in Ukraine has brought the importance of energy security back to the fore, while the oil project will give a financial boost to a province on the verge of bankruptcy. In addition, the Liberals hold six of the seven seats in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Result: ministerial solidarity forced Mr. Guilbeault and the other Quebec ministers to fall into line. Canadian realpolitik has imposed its law.

Other options had been considered, including one that would have seen the federal government pay Newfoundland and Labrador financial compensation of more than $3 billion, equivalent to the revenue expected by the province during the exploitation of the petroleum project. According to information obtained by The Presstwo ministers, Dominic LeBlanc and the Minister of Natural Resources, Jonathan Wilkinson, went to meet the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, Andrew Furey, last winter in St. John’s, in particular to discuss this option which ultimately discarded.

The timing of giving the green light to this project is particularly embarrassing for Minister Guilbeault, who had the thankless task of rendering a decision on behalf of the Trudeau government.

The malaise burst the screen during the series of interviews granted by the former environmental activist to the various information networks.

The decision came a week after the unveiling of the new federal climate change plan, which will cost the federal treasury $9 billion. The plan aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% below 2005 levels by 2030. Ottawa intends to achieve this in particular by imposing an emissions cap on the oil and gas industry.

The decision also fell two days after the publication of the last disturbing report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which calls on the planet to redouble its efforts to reduce GHG emissions in order to prevent a catastrophe. climatic.

In its report, the IPCC estimates that global GHG emissions must absolutely stop increasing no later than 2025. Then, they must be halved by 2030, compared to their current level, so that the increase in the Earth’s temperature does not exceed 1.5°C.

Finally, the decision came almost four years after the Trudeau government announced that it was buying the Trans Mountain pipeline from the American company Kinder Morgan, for the sum of 4.5 billion dollars, in order to expand it and triple its capacity.

In February, we learned that the costs of expanding this pipeline had jumped almost 70% since its acquisition, from $12.6 billion to $21.4 billion. This forced Minister Chrystia Freeland to announce that Trans Mountain Corporation, the Crown corporation that owns the pipeline, could no longer rely on taxpayers’ money to fund the work, and would have to secure third-party funding to complete the project, either through banks or through public debt markets.

Lambasted by his former allies

A longtime activist for environmental causes before entering politics in 2019, Mr. Guilbeault has obviously been forced to make the most heartbreaking decision since his arrival at the Ministry of the Environment six months ago.

On the airwaves of RDI, the minister admitted that this decision had been “very difficult” to make.

“You have to be aware of the reality: we will continue to consume oil for many decades, even until 2050. […] Do we want to consume oil that emits 10 times more greenhouse gases per barrel than that of Bay du Nord? This is the case with the oil sands. »

I’m not saying it’s a green project. But we must govern for the whole population. That’s what we seek to do.

Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change

His former allies strongly condemned his decision. “Last Monday, the UN Secretary General said investing in new fossil fuel infrastructure was ‘immoral and economic folly’. The only truly viable option is to phase out fossil fuels as quickly as possible while supporting communities, regions and workers through the transition,” blasted Patrick Bonin, Climate-Energy Campaigner at Greenpeace Canada.

The New Democratic Party, which has just reached a parliamentary agreement that should allow the minority Liberal government to survive the next four budgets, until 2025, has also released its claws.

“Liberals endorse new fossil fuel project and continue to dish out billions to oil and gas companies. It shows exactly what is wrong with this government. They listen to their buddies in the oil and gas industry instead of listening to climate scientists,” lamented New Democrat MP Laurel Collins.

The Bloc Québécois went to the barricades on Wednesday. “The approval of Bay du Nord is a catastrophe announced on a planetary scale,” insisted the leader of the Bloc, Yves-François Blanchet.

In the Liberal ranks in Quebec, we still remember today the harsh attacks received during the 2019 federal campaign following the government’s decision to buy the Trans Mountain pipeline. Since Wednesday evening, they have feared the sharp arrows that will inevitably come during the next electoral battle following this decision.

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