Many members of Trudeau’s caucus were desperately trying to sway the Prime Minister from the approving the massive $20 billion dollar Frontier Oil Sands Project. The mine would be located just north of Fort McMurray, Alberta and run by Teck Resources Limited. There are a lot of MPs that are adamantly opposed to such an approval as they had previously promised to operate under a more environmentally focused government during their campaigns.
This approval would mean the mine would operate for the next 41 years, covering more than 29,200 hectares and produce approximately 260,000 barrels of bitumen daily according to the Huffington Post.
Pushback from constituents was a common theme along the campaign trail after the Trudeau government approved the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project on two separate occasions. When candidates would mention the carbon tax and reducing methane emissions they were often met with comments like, “Yeah, but you guys bought a pipeline.”
“If we are truly committed to net-zero by , and to the science, and to the world, and to our future and tackling climate change,” Beaches–East York’s Nathaniel Erskine-Smith told HuffPost Canada, “there is no explanation sitting here today as to how this project fits within that commitment. So should it proceed as it stands? I think it’s a pretty easy no.”
“I think we have made significant commitments to achieve net-zero by 2050,” he said. “I think we’ve made significant commitments to achieve our Paris climate commitments. … we have to meet those and my constituents demand that we meet those, and our grandchildren demand that we meet those.” said Pontiac MP Will Amos.
Amos pleaded with his cabinet to have “regard for the science, have regard for climate science, have regard for the science laid out quite clearly in the joint panel report.”
Joint Review Panel released a report last year that found the project would result in 7,000 jobs during its construction phase and 2,500 thereafter, as well as about $70 billion in taxes and royalties for all three levels of government. The downfall is that project would have “significant adverse environmental effects” on wildlife, wetlands and old-growth forests. Certain species affected in particular would be the Canada lynx, woodland caribou and the Ronald Lake bison herd. There are also affects to certain Indigenous groups and their land rights. The project will also make reaching Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets very difficult.
MP Jennifer O’Connell stated that the environment was the biggest concern in her riding and while she acknowledged the importance of economic growth she stated, “I just know that if we are going to be serious about climate change and hitting our emissions, then that is what we need to factor [into] any project and any policy we consider as a government.”
Don Lindsay, CEO of Teck Resources Limited, said in a press release that the company hoped to be carbon neutral by 2050 although he did not provide any details on how such a goal could be achieved. He also noted that due to the recent weak energy prices the project may not get built at all, even with federal approval.
Some Liberal MPs are still undecided such as John McKay who has been open about his uncertainty surrounding the issue. “I’m at sixes and sevens; I haven’t come around to it.”
MP Adam van Koeverden, from Milton, Ont., said he did not want to comment on the Teck mine. “I’m listening with my ears and gathering as much information as I can,” he said.
Peter Schiefke said the cabinet will take “everything under consideration.” Schiefke is the parliamentary secretary to the minister of the environment and climate change. “I think it’s a challenge, I think one of the things we have to do as a government, which we’ve pledged to Canadians, is find that balance between economic growth and environmental protection, and the decision rendered by cabinet is going to have to be one that finds that balance.”
Schiefke says he will support the cabinet whatever it decides. “I know that they’ve listened to all of us and also looked at all the options on the table in rendering that decision.”