Danielle Smith: Environmental extremism has won in Canada

File: An oilsands facility is seen near Fort McMurray, Alta.
File: An oilsands facility is seen near Fort McMurray, Alta. Jeff McIntosh, The Canadian Press

Remember this 2012 comment from former Word Wildlife Fund Canada (WWF) CEO Gerald Butts?

“Truth be told, we don’t think there ought to be a carbon-based energy industry by the middle of this century. That’s our policy in Canada and it’s our policy all over the world…

We think the oilsands have been expanded too rapidly without a serious plan for environmental remediation in the first place. So, that’s why we don’t think it’s up to us to decide whether there should be another route for a pipeline because the real alternative is not an alternative route – it’s an alternative economy.”

Butts is now the principal secretary, main advisor and long-time friend of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

WATCH BELOW: Justin Trudeau says he ‘misspoke’ after commenting Canada should phase out oilsands

Click to play video: 'Justin Trudeau says he ‘misspoke’ after commenting Canada should phase out oilsands'
Justin Trudeau says he ‘misspoke’ after commenting Canada should phase out oilsands

Somehow, I can’t imagine Butts saying there shouldn’t be an aerospace industry in Canada by the middle of the century, or an auto manufacturing industry in Canada, or a cement, steel or aluminum production industry in Canada.

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Those industries are centred in Quebec and Ontario, whereas the beating heart of the energy industry is in Alberta. But Perhaps not for long.

I couldn’t help but be reminded of Butts’ comments after listening to Canadian Energy Pipeline Association president and CEO Chris Bloomer’s startling testimony to the Parliamentary Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development last week, on the effect Bill C-69 will have on the energy industry.

You will recall this bill was touted as a measure to streamline, clarify and restore confidence in the regulatory process by creating two new agencies to replace the National Energy Board (NEB).

I was willing to keep an open mind on whether it would work.

LISTEN: Chris Bloomer’s statement on Bill C-69

After all, if you are going to use political reasons to reject the construction of a pipeline, a government should decide that upfront and not waste everybody’s time. If government decides to proceed then move on to the technical review and get it done. At least, that’s how I thought it was supposed to work.

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But Bloomer’s description of current investor sentiment in Canada is alarming.

The tanker moratorium, methane emissions regulations, clean fuel standards, carbon taxes, B.C.’s sabre rattling on restricting bitumen and First Nations’ policy uncertainty has already created a bleak environment for Canadian investment in pipelines. Bill C-69 –  with its upstream and downstream emissions assessments, “gender lens” and multiple pathways for activists to obstruct and delay – will make it even worse.

According to Bloomer, new project development is at “a grinding halt”; the industry is “suffocating”  and the regulatory environment is “toxic”. It is “preposterous” to think a pipeline proponent would commit billions with no certainty of the outcome. And here’s the kicker: “If the goal is to curtail oil and gas production and to have no more pipelines built, this legislation may have hit the mark.”

LISTEN: CEPA President and CEO Chris Bloomer talks to Danielle about Bill C-69

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So much for Premier Rachel Notley’s Climate Leadership Plan buying us social licence.

Remember the Leap Manifesto that was presented at the NDP federal convention last year?

In case you forgot, one of the things it said was, “there is no longer an excuse for building new infrastructure projects that lock us into increased extraction decades into the future. The new iron law of energy development must be: if you wouldn’t want it in your backyard, then it doesn’t belong in anyone’s backyard. That applies equally to oil and gas pipelines; fracking in New Brunswick, Quebec and British Columbia; increased tanker traffic off our coasts; and to Canadian-owned mining projects the world over.”

Just like that, the Leap Manifesto has been implemented in Canada without debate; without discussion; without a vote of the electorate. I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. Gerald Butts told us this was the plan.

Danielle Smith can be reached at



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