I find myself in the unusual position of publically agreeing with Patrick Bonin, head of Greenpeace in Quebec. He supports the seven conditions set by the Government of Quebec together with Ontario to gain their support for Energy East’s application to the National Energy Board (http://ici.radio-canada.ca/nouvelles/politique/2014/11/19/004-port-petrolier-cacouna-conditions-heurtel-quebec-transcanada.shtml). I also agree the conditions are based on reasonable principles to gain local support.
Premier Brad Wall of Saskatchewan makes a well argued case for federal jurisdiction and also for the simple common sense of this project. However, in my view, that is only the foundation for approval. Local acceptance meets the higher standard expected by the population in today’s internet and social media driven world.
To reassure you, the world has not totally been turned upside down: Mr. Bonin and I do disagree about the pipeline project itself. I support Energy East because it’s good for Quebec refineries and those refineries are good for future local oil production. Moreover, it seems perverse to have more democratic and cheaper Canadian oil refined in the United States while Quebec refines foreign oil brought long distances by oil tanker at the same time. Moreover, in a situation where much of this oil comes from countries that don’t share Quebec’s values in regard to human rights, freedom and equality for women.
Mr. Couillard set the principles for local acceptance, or what is popularly known in the lexicon as ‘social acceptability’. Establishing these principles in advance doesn’t move the goal posts as Mr. Wall argues. It rather defines them for the first time. Social acceptability is an amorphous thing and all projects across the country would benefit from a clearer road map.
The other thing I particularly like about the seven conditions is that the Government, Mr. Bonin and I, all agree on condition seven. Quebec should have a secure supply of natural gas. Natural gas plays an essential role in Quebec society. It heats schools, hospitals and many homes and much of Quebec industry can’t survive without it. The Plan Nord and many new projects won’t go ahead without competitive and secure supplies of natural gas, especially during winter.
Finally, as the report of the Pembina Institute and Suzuki Foundation acknowledged, natural gas can significantly reduce emissions.
Newsflash: condition seven (on secure natural gas supply) is already met but for local acceptance. There is more than enough discovered natural gas beneath Quebecer’s feet to supply winter gas needs. All we lack is a road map for social acceptability. Our industry would be so lucky as to help meet Quebec’s condition seven on Energy East.
You just can’t get more secure than local. Improved air quality, competitiveness, and taxes will be a bonus. If only Mr. Bonin will agree with that too, we might be there already.