Unanswered questions on GHG emissions and the oil and gas industry

Interviews with Thomas Mulcair and Andrew Leach


Before the House of Commons adjourned, the New Democrats piled up a few questions on the government’s newly enunciated view that regulating the greenhouse-gas emissions of the oil and gas sector would be “crazy.” To wit:

In February 2013, the then-minister of the environment said, “We are now well into, and very close to finalizing, regulations for the oil and gas sector.” Could the Conservatives tell us if that was true, or were they deliberately misleading Canadians when they said that?

Could the Prime Minister, or anyone over there on the government side, tell us the last time he spoke with [U.S.] President Barack Obama about creating harmonized oil and gas regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister thinks there should be a continental-wide regulatory system for oil and gas. Given that he used that as an excuse for Conservative inaction, could the minister of the Environment tell us about any proposals that she has given to the Americans for such a regulatory system? Where are these proposals, or are they just made up, as well?

The Prime Minister says he wants to align Canada’s oil and gas rights with the U.S., but neither the minister nor the parliamentary secretary could say if he has proposed continent-wide regulations to the Americans. Therefore, I will ask again: What regulations has the government proposed to the United States?

That first question has been answered by Peter Kent in an interview with our John Geddes. The rest are the sorts of questions that should be asked and answered about the government’s policy stance.

Alas, neither the Prime Minister nor the Environment minister was present on Wednesday or Thursday to answer these questions, and no member of cabinet was sent up to answer, and the poor parliamentary secretary who was sent up to respond was apparently not provided with the information necessary to answer.

So what about the NDP? I sat down with Thomas Mulcair on Friday for a year-end interview and spent some time dwelling on this issue of regulating greenhouse-gas emissions. I’m not sure how many answers I received, but here is the audio.

I think maybe the closest I got to something particularly useful was in the final 40 seconds or so, when the discussion turned to what the oil industry could afford. Ultimately, the NDP (and the Liberals) should need to answer necessary questions themselves: What precisely would they do? What reduction targets would they aim for? How would they meet those targets? At what price and cost?

For the sake of clarity, I also spoke with Andrew Leach, the University of Alberta professor and Maclean’s contributor.

But, so far, as our major political actors, it appears we will end 2014 with only the vaguest outlines of a debate in this regard. Perhaps 2015 will be more useful. A new international agreement that asks countries to publish new targets, a promised federal-provincial meeting in February and a summit in Quebec in the spring offer at least some excuse for optimism.

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