Sparking outcry from environmentalist and Indigenous groups, Justin Trudeau took a pro-oil stance and argued for more controversial pipelines to carry Canada’s dirty tar sands oil to coastal ports, in comments at a sustainability conference in Vancouver on Wednesday.
“We want the low-carbon economy that continues to provide good jobs and great opportunities for all Canadians,” said Canada’s Liberal prime minister, as Elizabeth McSheffrey reported in the National Observer. “To get there, we need to make smart strategic investments in clean growth and new infrastructure, but we must also continue to generate wealth from our abundant natural resources to fund this transition to a low-carbon economy.”
However, Green party leader Elizabeth May charged back at the same conference, “If you have an economic strategy for the oilsands that’s premised on high volumes of export on low-value product, you both ship jobs off-shore and drive up greenhouse gases. Those are inconsistent aims.”
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The Global Series 16 conference centers on sustainability and business, describing itself as “North America’s Largest Environmental Business Summit.” All of Canada’s premiers are attending the talks on sustainability and business taking place March 2-3.
In contrast to the prime minister’s attempt to make an economic argument for pipelines, social justice group the Council of Canadians noted that “the average renewable energy investment creates four times as many jobs as the same investment in the fossil fuel economy,” as the group called for more renewable energy jobs on Thursday.
The prime minister’s statements were made only months after he declared “Canada is back, my good friends,” to delegates at the COP21 climate conference in Paris in November, signaling what activists hoped would be a transition to a more sustainable Canada as he signed the historic commitment to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Trudeau’s party’s campaign was built on the Liberals’ opposition to his pro-oil predecessor Stephen Harper, who heartily supported the nation’s controversial tar sands industry that critics saw as largely responsible for the country’s failure to uphold the terms of previous climate change agreements.
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