Last week, I attended a town hall hosted by Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr here in Winnipeg. Alongside more than 60 other people, we delivered a clear message for the minister and Member of Parliament for Winnipeg South Centre — he needs to reject the Kinder Morgan pipeline.
During the town hall, Carr was booed by a number of people in the crowd for defending the fossil fuel industry, to which he retorted, “Are you booing working people?"
No, people weren’t.
They were booing the narrow view that appears to be held by this government, and shared with fossil fuel lobbyists, that the best — or even the only — pathway to economic stability and good jobs is the fossil fuel industry. This is just flat out wrong.
First of all, right now there is no need for any new pipeline capacity in Canada. According to a federal government memo released earlier this year, Canada won’t need any new pipeline capacity until at least 2025. And that calculation was done without consideration for how global climate action between now and then will reduce demand for tar sands and strand fossil fuel assets.
Second, renewable energy is a far better job creator than fossil fuels. While fossil fuel companies struggle to grapple with the reality that the world needs to leave oil, coal, and gas in the ground, renewable energy is soaring. In the U.S., the solar industry has increased its output by nearly 100 per cent in just one year, outpacing both natural gas and coal. With the cost of solar falling and investment rising, that trend is projected to continue. And when you remember that, here in Canada, renewables outpace fossil fuels by a rate of 15 to 2 when it comes to jobs created per million dollars invested, you have to wonder why politicians like Carr are putting almost all their chips on what looks like a losing bet.
Third, the fossil fuel industry has a history of screwing over workers and communities. A lot of people heard about Peabody Energy, one of the largest coal companies on earth, when it filed for bankruptcy earlier this year. What most people haven’t heard about is that Peabody and its subsidiaries have a history of using bankruptcy filings to find legal loopholes to stop paying pension and health benefits to hundreds of workers, something they seem to be doing again this time around.
Whether it’s abandoning workers, screwing over Indigenous peoples, or lying to the public about climate change, the fossil fuel industry has clearly shown that they put profits over people, even those people who work for them.
The Kinder Morgan pipeline would add the same amount of emissions as putting over 30 million new cars on Canada’s roads, and make it impossible for Canada to meet our Paris climate commitments. Building it would require violating Indigenous rights, breaking this government’s promise to renew the nation to nation relationship and going up against dozens of communities that have signed a continental treaty alliance against tar sands pipelines. Is this all worth it? That’s the question we have to ask ourselves, and that Jim Carr needs to think long and hard on during his next trip between Ottawa and Winnipeg.
Kinder Morgan won’t create long-term economic stability. Only a just, renewable energy economy can do that, and building pipelines is the wrong way to get there.
That’s why next week, I’ll be seeing Minister Carr again in Ottawa at Climate 101, where youth and students from all across Canada are descending on the capital with a simple message: Climate leaders don’t build pipelines.