KING CITY, ONT. — Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole said Monday he supports building the cancelled Northern Gateway oil pipeline largely because it would provide Indigenous communities in favour of the project with economic opportunities.
While he honed in on First Nations who inked agreements to get 33 per cent ownership in the Enbridge pipeline — which proposed carrying oil from Alberta's oilsands to British Columbia's coast — he didn't explain how he would get the project built, given the fierce opposition it faced from those worried about potential environmental harms.
Eight First Nations, four environmental groups and one labour union challenged the project in the Federal Court of Appeal, which overturned Ottawa's approval of the pipeline in 2016 due to lack of Indigenous consultation.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau permanently shelved the project later that year, while approving the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
“I would like to see intergenerational transfer of wealth and opportunity after generations of trauma-transfer," said O'Toole, standing in front of fields at an animal rescue after announcing plans to ban puppy mills in King City, Ont.
The Conservative leader characterized Northern Gateway as a way to bolster "economic reconciliation" with Indigenous communities.
Besides reviving the failed project, O'Toole reiterated his support for Trans Mountain as he entered the third week of the federal election campaign, where tackling climate change has emerged as an issue.
O'Toole faces criticism from environmental and other climate groups for sticking with a goal of reducing Canada's greenhouse gas emissions to 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, rather than adopt a target recently increased by the Liberals to between 40 and 45 per cent. The government submitted the new goal to the United Nations ahead of an international climate change conference this fall.
Even with a lower upfront target, O'Toole confirmed he believed in getting Canada to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, a goal recently enshrined into law by Parliament before it broke for summer.
“I want to see a made-in-Canada solution for net-zero by 2050, yes," he said.
His position appears to run counter to findings from the Paris-based International Energy Agency that called for no new oil, gas or coal projects from countries if they want to slash emissions to hit net-zero by mid-century.
O’Toole argued that Canada's energy sector is an environmental and social leader, so "over time" as a lower-carbon future materializes, democratic countries should be using Canadian resources, not those from Saudi Arabia, Venezuela or Russia.
The Conservatives voted against putting the Liberals' net-zero goal into legislation, citing concerns it could have consequences for Western Canada's oil and gas sector. The Liberals haven't yet detailed how they would meet their objective.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 30, 2021.
Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press