This letter to the editor originally appeared on National Observer. We’re republishing it verbatim with permission.
Dear Catherine McKenna:
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I am on the horns of a dilemma I hope you can help me solve. I campaigned for Justin Trudeau, and was thrilled when, after years of Stephen Harper’s negligence on climate change, Trudeau’s new government made it an early priority to create a national plan to meet our Paris Climate Accord commitments. I understand horse-trading is a necessary part of politics, and that Prime Minister Trudeau also had a responsibility to look out for Alberta’s economic future.
But at the same time, comments like ‘no other country would leave it in the ground,’ with regard to oil sands oil, give me pause. It is my understanding that if Alberta takes all the Fort McMurray bitumen out of the ground, we will use 16 to 17% of the world’s entire carbon budget, a budget based on capping the rise of global average temperature to below [2.0°C] by the year 2030.
Surely this cannot be our plan as a nation. Can you tell me what our plan is going forward? I haven’t heard any talk of helping Alberta switch to renewable energy, any timetable to wean them off the oil sands, any discussion of how much oil will be left in the ground. I want to support the Liberals in the next election, but I need a better look under the hood. We can’t meet international climate change standards long term if we extract this dirty resource.
So, again I ask, what’s the plan? Until I hear one, I must join the protests at Burnaby Mountain and do what I can to stop the Kinder Morgan pipeline. While I honour the concerns of many of my fellow protesters, about oil spills, about tanker traffic risking our last resident killer whale pod, and First Nations’ rights to determine what happens on their lands, and their powerful push to stop the desecration of this country’s natural harmony and beauty, my main concern is climate change.
Minister McKenna, please show me your government’s long-term plan for the tar sands. Show me how it all works out in the end, show me how Albertans can thrive as they wind down fossil fuel extraction. I want to continue to support you and your government.