Environmental Issues in Canada

environmental issues canada

With its abundant forests, natural resources and surrounding oceans, environmental issues in Canada are a hot topic.

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Here is a summary of our latest news coverage on environmental issues in Canada:

Killer whales eye oil tanker in Salish Sea

Underwater shipping noise in the Salish Sea is likely making it difficult for endangered southern resident killer whales to find food and could threaten their survival, according to a team of U.S. scientists.
 
A new, two-year study, published in the academic journal Peer J, used underwater microphones to take 3,000 noise measurements as 1,600 individual ships passed through the Washington State side of Haro Strait.
 
The study site is in the middle of critical habitat for the fish-eating southern resident killer whales and researchers found shipping noise extended to middle and high frequencies used by killer whales to echo-locate prey. Killer whales emit a series of clicking sounds and then listen for the bounce-back echoes in order to find fish.
 
The researchers found the growth in commercial shipping has raised the intensity of low-frequency noise almost 10-fold since the 1960s and there is growing evidence that it is affecting the communication ability of baleen whales, such as humpbacks, gray whales and right whales.

Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan

The review of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion has been plagued by a critical lack of evidence, members of a National Energy Board panel heard in Burnaby last week.

Chris Tollefson, lawyer from the Environmental Law Centre representing intervenors BC Nature and Nature Canada, said the evidence presented in the hearings is insufficient to prevent the panel from discharging its duty under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

Fundamentally we say there is a lack of evidence for you to do your job,” he said.

TransCanada Keystone Pipeline

This is a guest post by David Suzuki.

With the December Paris climate agreement, leaders and experts from around the world showed they overwhelmingly accept that human-caused climate change is real and, because the world has continued to increase fossil fuel use, the need to curb and reduce emissions is urgent.

In light of this, I don’t get the current brouhaha over the Trans Mountain, Keystone XL, Northern Gateway or the Energy East pipelines. Why are politicians contemplating spending billions on pipelines when the Paris commitment means 75 to 80 per cent of known fossil fuel deposits must be left in the ground?

Didn’t our prime minister, with provincial and territorial premiers, mayors and representatives from non-profit organizations, parade before the media to announce Canada now takes climate change seriously? I joined millions of Canadians who felt an oppressive weight had lifted and cheered mightily to hear that our country committed to keeping emissions at levels that would ensure the world doesn’t heat by more than 1.5 C by the end of this century. With the global average temperature already one degree higher than pre-industrial levels, a half a degree more leaves no room for business as usual.

Montreal Mayor Denise Coderre announced Thursday the city's formal opposition to TransCanada’s proposed Energy East pipeline. The 4,600-kilometer west-to-east oil pipeline project would see 1,600 kilometres of new pipe built along the St. Lawrence River in Quebec and in New Brunswick.

“We are against it because it still represents significant environmental threats and too few economic benefits for greater Montreal,” Coderre said in a press conference.

Groups opposed to the 1.1 million barrels-a-day project, which is significantly larger than TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline, welcomed the announcement.

Today, 82 municipal counsellors, representing 3.9 million citizens in the greater Montreal region, have issued a resounding ‘no’ to the Energy East project and to TransCanada Corporation,” Steven Guilbeault, Senior Director at Équiterre, said in a media release.

Coderre’s announcement came after 82 municipalities comprising the Communauté Municipale de Montréal (Montreal Metropolitan Community) voted this morning on whether to approve or oppose the project. Energy East’s proposed route would go through the northern municipalities of the greater Montreal-area.

We’re really happy,” Audrey Yank, spokesperson for Montreal-based citizens-group Coalition Vigilance Oleoducs told DeSmog Canada. “It feels like a another small victory to give us hope.”

The next round of the National Energy Board’s (NEB) hearings for the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline are scheduled to begin January 19 in Vancouver, B.C.

Climate advocates and critics of the National Energy Board are disappointed the review process will continue on under rules established by the previous federal government, especially since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau campaigned on a promise to make the process more credible and evidence-based.

The Liberal party platform promised to immediately review the process, restoring “robust oversight and thorough environmental assessments” as well as restoring “lost protections” eliminated during the former government’s sweeping changes to environmental law. 

At a campaign stop in August 2015, Trudeau told Kai Nagata, energy and democracy director at the Dogwood Initiative, that the NEB overhaul would apply to the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline.

Yes. Yes,” Trudeau said. “It applies to existing projects, existing pipelines as well.”

For the second time in two days Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been called on to suspend the regulatory review process for Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline project in British Columbia. Final hearings for the project begin next week.

You are going to break your campaign promise to overhaul Canada environmental regulatory regime because of your refusal to suspend or cancel the reviews of the Kinder Morgan Trans-Mountain pipeline and TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline,” Cam Fenton, 350.org’s Canadian tarsands campaigner, said in a letter sent to Trudeau Wednesday.

If you will not show the necessary leadership to stop these reviews, people will.”

Yesterday, Burnaby, B.C. Mayor Derek Corrigan made headlines with his letter to Trudeau requesting the review of the Trans Mountain project be suspended on the grounds the current federal regulatory framework is “deeply flawed” and “inadequate.”

This is an interview between Max Fawcett, editor-in-chief of Vancouver Magazine, and Kai Nagata, energy and democracy director at the Dogwood Initiative. The interview originally appeared on Vancouver Magazine

Max Fawcett: What are your thoughts on B.C. saying no to Trans Mountain? Is that game, set, and match for the project?

Kai Nagata: It’s actually entirely consistent with what they said in 2013 about Enbridge, which is basically if you want to come and build a heavy oil project in B.C. you have to follow the campsite rule — you have to leave the province at least as well-off as you find it. It’s actually pretty hard for anyone who proposes to ship dilbit [diluted bitumen, the stuff that’s produced in the Alberta oil sands] to either convince the province that they can clean it up if it spills in the ocean or that it will deliver a financial reward with commensurate with that risk.

Based on those criteria, Trans Mountain and Enbridge are not that different in terms of the characteristics of their projects, so it’s not that surprising to see the environment minister [Mary Polak] say they haven’t met the five conditions.

Three prominent First Nations organizations are calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to cancel the regulatory reviews of three major oilsands pipelines as a step towards reconciliation between Canada and First Nations.

First Nations and Canada have a lot of work to do regarding measures needed to finally put us all on the path of reconciliation and partnership,” the joint letter to Trudeau, signed by the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador, Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, states.

We focus here on one such measure — the overhaul of the review and assessment process for tar sands export pipelines.”

Earlier this week, Trudeau was on hand as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada unveiled its final report on the Indian Residential Schools. During the closing ceremony, Trudeau gave his word to “renew and respect” Canada’s relationship with indigenous peoples in the country.

Our First Nations in British Columbia, Manitoba and Quebec call for the establishment of a new pipeline review and assessment process, to be developed and implemented in collaboration with First Nations, that will enable a thorough and objective environmental assessment of these pipelines,” the letter adds.

Burnaby Mountain protest against Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline.

An article published last week in the National Post that claims a “secret” deal was struck between oil companies and environmentalists has ruffled many feathers — from corporate big wigs in Calgary to environmental activists on the West Coast.

According to Claudia Cattaneo’s story, Alberta’s climate change plan — which introduced a carbon tax, phased out coal-fired electricity and put a cap on oilsands emissions — was “the product of secret negotiations between four top oilsands companies and four environmental organizations.”

I’m not sure how secret any of that was given that all of those players could clearly be seen on stage with Alberta Premier Rachel Notley when she announced the plan, but the story goes on to state: “The companies agreed to the cap in exchange for the environmental groups backing down on opposition to oil export pipelines, but the deal left other players on the sidelines, and that has created a deep division in Canada’s oil and gas sector.”

The remainder of the story goes into how various oil companies have their knickers in a twist over the deal.  You’d think environmentalists would be dancing in the streets about that, but no — it’s actually hard to say who’s more outraged: environmentalists, who bristle at the idea of a secret deal and who don’t think the agreement is strong enough, or oil companies, who don’t think the new regulations will help them gain the market access they’re so desperately seeking.

Let’s just all hold our horses for a second.

This article originally appeared on Climate Access.

Those who work on climate change were both chuffed and chagrined by its role in Canada’s federal election campaign, which peaked last week with the victory of Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and defeat of Conservative incumbent Stephen Harper.

The environment” — a catch-all concept that often encompasses concern about climate change — consistently ranked close to economy and healthcare on voters' list of top priorities. Oilsands and climate change issues took up nearly a quarter of the first leaders debate, commanding more than twice the airtime they did in 2011. Several media outlets ran editorials calling on all parties to take a strong stance on reducing GHG emissions or put a price on carbon.

To quote professor and commentator George Hoberg, “energy and environmental issues have become central to Canadian electoral politics.”

Despite all of this, climate change didn’t have a significant impact on the election’s outcome. Fundamentally this was a campaign about values where action on global warming was bundled into a broader set of aspirations and ideas that Canadians said yes to on October 19th. 

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