Posted by: Vicki Burns | October 24, 2016

Pipelines and Oil Sands Expansion: Are They Really the Way to a Healthy Economy?

Recently I attended a town hall meeting in Winnipeg put on by the Honourable Jim Carr, Minister of Natural Resources for Canada. I happen to one of his constituents but attended because of my interest in conservation and environmental stewardship as well as my hope for a healthy economy and job opportunities for Canadians now and in the future. The current focus on building pipelines to ensure jobs just seems so short-sighted that it compels me to express my views.
I was gratified to see standing room only at the meeting and to see many others of my vintage along with many younger folk who are part of the Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition. As people were expressing their concerns and Minister Carr expressed the government’s view on this

pipeline close-up

TransCanada pipeline crossing Winnipeg River near Kenora

(primarily that pipelines will bring jobs and money) it occurred to me that we’re not doing workers a favour by continuing to promote expansion of an industry that is in conflict with global goals of carbon reduction. It feels like an attempt to keep dinosaurs alive even though what sustains them no longer exists.
Why are we not jumping on the bandwagon to gear up our use of natural resources of sunlight, wind, tidal power, and geo-thermal as many other jurisdictions are doing? The recently formed organization of oil sands workers Iron and Earth have recognized that their future doesn’t lie solely in oil sands work but rather in developing and maintaining the renewable energy technologies so they are calling on government to ramp up training in these areas. One example of a project they’ve promoted is a 100% renewable energy greenhouse in St. John’s Newfoundland that will offer local employment.
The government’s continued support for oil sands expansion in Canada does nothing to encourage the diversification that will facilitate Canadians’ having healthy communities, job opportunities and solid finances in the future. This story comparing the current state of 2 North American cities, Denver and Calgary, is a concrete example of how diversification rather than focus on short-term profits can be of such benefit in the long term. Denver and Calgary both had beginnings in the mid-1800s and both were built on agriculture, railroads and energy. But after the energy crisis in the 1970’s their paths diverged as Denver leaders chose to diversify its economy while Calgary continued to be lured by oil profits. Today Denver has a thriving economy while Calgary is struggling.
I usually write about water related issues and this issue does relate to water in that the threat of pipeline spills is very real. However, overall the move towards a more diversified economy based on renewable, green energy and technology, will ultimately provide greater protection to our rivers and lakes.

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