If there’s been one constant tension in Confederation in the last 20 years, it has been the struggle between those who believe Canadian federal and provincial governments should do all they can to exploit Canada’s vast energy resources and those who insist fossil fuels must stay in the ground so that Canada can lead the world in reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions.
It’s a tension that has led to an economic and policy paralysis. Through the years of the Harper government and now the Trudeau government, some big energy projects struggled to find their footing even as Canada missed one international commitment after another when it comes to fighting climate change.
Is that tension and the resulting paralysis a permanent feature of the Canadian condition? Or could Canada really be an energy superpower and be a global leader on climate change?
The answer to some is: Yes.
“So I think it’s true that Canada is an energy superpower, and it’s true that I think Canada needs to do more on climate change. And I think it’s also true that we can do both,” said Christopher Ragan, an economist and director of the Max Bell School of Public Policy at McGill University in Montreal.
“I think we should actually have more aggressive climate policy than we currently have. And I think it’s also possible that we can continue to produce fossil fuels. And I think we should, because the world will continue to use fossil fuels for a long time.”
The Russian invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent disruption to global energy markets have moved this seemingly conflicting objective — producing more energy while cutting emissions — to the top of Canada’s national agenda.
As many of Canada’s Western European allies, notably Germany, are starved of gas and oil, Canada, despite its fossil fuel wealth, can do almost nothing. Those years of economic and policy paralysis left it without the infrastructure to move, for example, liquified natural gas from eastern Canadian ports to German homes and businesses.
But Russia’s invasion may have cured Canada of that paralysis.
“I sense that there is a…