OTTAWA — Green party Leader Elizabeth May says saving the world from climate change requires Canada to get off oil before the middle of the century.
In the meantime, she wants Canada off foreign oil as soon as possible.
The promise to make Canada energy independent is — perhaps unexpectedly — in line with the economic and climate strategy of Conservative leader Andrew Scheer.
Scheer’s plan calls for Canada to import no foreign oil by 2030, partly by planning an energy corridor across Canada that could simplify the construction of pipelines able to move Alberta oil to any coast. He sees it as a way to find additional domestic markets for Canada’s oilsands, in a bid to increase their production.
Earlier: Elizabeth May delivers impassioned speech on fighting climate change
May’s plan, to “turn off the taps to oil imports” is only a stop-gap measure to keep foreign oil out until Canada can break its oil habit altogether.
By 2050, May wants bitumen to be used in Canada only by the petrochemical industry for plastics, rubber, paint, and other such products.
“As long as we are using fossil fuels we should be using our fossil fuels,” said May.
May’s climate plan is likely to get more scrutiny than its predecessors in past elections.
The Liberals and NDP already proved they are paying close attention to the rising threat of Green support, with both pushing similar motions to declare climate change an emergency in the House of Commons earlier this month. Both motions were tabled less than a week after the Greens elected a second MP in a Vancouver Island byelection, and not long after a provincial wing of the party formed the official opposition in Prince Edward Island.
May said she’s perfectly fine with Green popularity pushing other parties to raise their games on climate. While both the Liberals and NDP claimed their motions had been in the works before the byelection result, May said there is no doubt in her mind that Paul Manly’s winning and the NDP and Liberals finishing distantly third and fourth, “had almost everything to do with” the motions.
The NDP motion failed because it called for Canada to drop plans to expand the Trans Mountain pipeline, a pipeline May also opposes. The Liberal motion hasn’t yet gone to a vote.
The Green climate plan also calls for Canada to double its cuts to greenhouse-gas emissions by 2030 and get emissions to zero by 2050. That plan includes no longer selling combustion-engine cars after 2030 and replacing all existing combustion-engine vehicles by 2040.
Canada imports about a million barrels of oil a day and produces four times that much. In 2017, Canada produced 4.2 million barrels of oil, and exported 3.3 million of those. Domestic refineries handled 1.8 million barrels.
Canada’s oil producers already pump enough product to meet domestic demand but there are two problems: there is no pipeline from the oil-rich west to refineries in the east, and even if there were, those refineries aren’t equipped to handle the heavier bitumen that is the Alberta oilsands’ trademark.
For Canadian refineries in the east, bitumen from the oilsands must be upgraded to synthetic crude. May’s plan is to invest in upgraders to do it.
She acknowledges weaning Canada off foreign oil won’t happen overnight, given existing contracts Canadian refineries have and figuring out how to build the upgraders and then ship the product.
Privately, Liberal government critics suggest there is no way to have Canada’s east coast use Canadian oil without building a new pipeline to get the products there. May does not support a new pipeline anywhere, and argues the raw bitumen could be transferred by rail as long as Canada invests more in its rail services.
The proposed Energy East pipeline to carry diluted bitumen to the east coast fell apart in 2017 amid significant opposition in Quebec, opposition that continues under the new Coalition Avenir Quebec government.
Scheer’s plan is to establish an energy corridor that would allow an Energy East-like pipeline to proceed alongside interprovincial electricity grids, with only one right-of-way required.
May said the Greens are the “only party that have a plan that allows human civilization to survive.”
“It’s not a Canadian lifestyle choice,” she said. “All of humanity is at risk.”