An estimated 25,000 took to the streets of Quebec City Saturday to protest the federal government’s lack of leadership on climate change and unfaltering support for increased production in the Alberta oilsands.
“Our message is simple — yes to climate equals no to the tar sands,” Christian Simard, executive direct of Nature Quebec, said. Nature Quebec along with Greenpeace, Equiterre and the David Suzuki Foundation and other eastern Canadian environmental groups organized the demonstration — already being called the largest climate protest in Canada's history.
Demonstrators filled the streets of Quebec City’s historic quarter demanding the nation's premiers be climate leaders and reject proposed pipeline projects like TransCanada’s Energy East and Kinder Morgan’s TransMountain.
“We don’t want to see the premiers under the cover of a national energy strategy agreeing to help Alberta expand the tar sands. A national energy strategy needs also to be a climate strategy,” Adam Scott, climate and energy program manager at Environmental Defence Canada, told DeSmog Canada.
All premiers will be in Quebec City next week, save Nova Scotia's Stephen McNeil, for the annual premiers’ summit.
Update April 15: B.C. premier Christy Clark and Alberta premier Jim Prentice also declined to attend the climate summit. For details on the province's role in the summit read our DeSmog Canada Primer: How is Your Province Acting on Climate? A Primer for the Premier's Climate Summit.
Discussions on new oil pipeline projects will feature prominently during this year’s meeting which has the sole focus of addressing climate change. The oilsands and pipeline industry has run up against roadblocks in recent years in British Columbia, the United States and now Quebec while seeking public approval for major projects designed to export oilsands bitumen to international markets.
Thousands march on the streets of Quebec City. Photo: Derek Leahy
“Quebec and Ontario are facing the prospect of the largest tar sands pipeline in North America in Energy East. Ontario and Quebec need to decide if they will take climate change seriously and say no to Energy East,” Scott told DeSmog Canada.
Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne and Quebec premier Philippe Couillard have both professed a desire to be ‘climate leaders.’ Both also support the 1.1 million barrels-a-day Energy East pipeline expected to travel through their provinces.
The turnout in Quebec City for the ‘Act on Climate’ march may be an indicator Wynne and Coulliard, by supporting Energy East, may find their positions offside in their respective provinces. According to a recent poll, one in two Canadians are against the west-to-east pipeline project.
“There is no compromise between climate change and tar sands expansion — it is just not possible,” Simard told DeSmog Canada.
A new report released this week by Environmental Defence and Greenpeace argues it is highly unlikely Canada can meet any greenhouse gas emission reduction targets and grow the oilsands at the same time. If the oilsands continue to grow, by 2020 Alberta will produce as much greenhouse gas emissions as B.C., Ontario and Quebec combined. Alberta compromises only eleven per cent of Canada’s total population.
“It’s ridiculous that politicians claim to want to address climate change while also wanting tar sands production to grow. These are totally incompatible goals,” Dale Marshall, national program manager at Environmental Defence and co-author of the report, said.
Act on Climate rally. Photo: Derek Leahy
As part of the upcoming United Nations climate talks in Paris this year, Canada was suppose to table plans on how the country will make deep reductions in emissions output. No such plans surfaced from Ottawa. South of the border, the U.S. and Mexico agreed to a joint task force on climate policy. Canada decline to participate in that agreement.
“We march today for a Canada we can be proud of again. It’s time for climate policy to be developed in Ottawa, not in the oil patch,” Tzeporah Berman, co-founder of ForestEthics, said.
Photo: Derek Leahy
Students groups, First Nations, unions and other segments of civil society all participated in today’s march.
Image Credit: Derek Leahy