I moved to Ottawa from Calgary four years ago an 18-year-old Conservative. I was indifferent at best to the environment and the economy was far more important to me than anything else. Growing up in Calgary, however, the word ‘economy’ as I knew it was blurred, distorted, and flat-out misused. The economy as understood in Alberta is often tied to the fossil fuel market and nothing else.
Since I moved to Ottawa I have completed a B.A. in Law, Policy, and Government at Carleton University and will be going to law school in the fall. My views on a number of issues gradually changed to where I am now: unaffiliated with any political party and acutely aware of the tremendously harmful impact we can and do have on our environment.
This brings me to one of the main issues that plagues provincial relationships today and, like many others at Ecology Ottawa, motivates me to get involved and do something: the Energy East Pipeline. I was all for new pipelines not too long ago, to be honest. It’s hard not to be when I go home and see downtown Calgary looking like a ghost town compared to the way it was when I was growing up. Or when none of your friends back home can find reliable employment because the economy is in the gutter as a result of oil prices taking a nose-dive. Supporting pipelines, for me, was my reaction to seeing my province struggle for the first time in my life. It would bring jobs and get our oil to the global market, right? It would bring back the glory days of oil production in excess and a strong economy, right? No.
I worked my way past my initial bias, looking at the evidence and the reality of the situation regarding the Energy East Pipeline. As with anything, there are pros and cons associated with pipelines, but, as whole, what I found was disheartening. The chances of an oil spill happening and ruining land and water across the country are far greater than we’re led to believe by TransCanada. The jobs they’re promising are mostly temporary. Oil and gas will not be cheaper on the east coast; if it’s going to a global market, Canada will have to pay global market prices. There's also no need to increase our reliance on oil and gas moving forward, especially with the increasingly devastating effects of climate change continuing to materialize. These are problems that I am not able to ignore.
The solution seems clear: invest in renewable energy instead. Growing the sector will create more permanent jobs in construction, maintenance, administration, and beyond. All provinces can get on board! Gone are the days when you had to be lucky enough to sit on top of massive amounts of oil to be energy rich; by developing renewable energy each province, city, and house can work towards a greener economy without losing the energy and power we need in today’s world. This is a plan that will work for Alberta and for everyone else in the country.
The Energy East Pipeline is set to run from the small town of Hardisty, Alberta right by Ottawa on its way to New Brunswick. As it passes my new home of Ottawa it will cross a number of rivers – including the Ottawa River – threatening the local environment and our drinking water. This is a problem we should not be able to ignore and there are a number of very important things that can be done at the local level to stop the pipeline and transition to a green economy. I’m helping solve this problem by working with Ecology Ottawa over the coming months to - among other things - get the message out that pipelines aren’t a panacea for economic woes and that they have the potential for irreversible harm beyond the implications for climate change. If this also appeals to you, look through our website, sign the petition, volunteer, come to events, talk to your friends and family about it, and help us make Ottawa a better, healthier, and safer place to live! If a born and bred Calgary (former) conservative can do it, so can you!