Climate Politics

Not the Liberal Government I Voted For – Millennials Take on Kinder Morgan

December 5, 2016

Recently, in a shocking turn of events, Justin Trudeau and the liberal government made the decision to approve the highly controversial Kinder Morgan pipeline. As a millennial, a political science student, and a huge supporter of Justin Trudeau’s liberal government, my heart aches.

This federal election happened shortly after I turned 18; it was the first one I was able to vote in. I was excited to make a difference, and have a voice in our democracy and vote for someone who I thought was inspiring real change in our great nation. Now I feel as though my voice doesn’t matter at all.

Justin Trudeau was a charismatic and inspiring leader who captured the hearts of millennials around the country. We believed he was the one who was going to light the way to a clear path to a better future. From policies on climate change, post-secondary funding, and Indigenous rights. That’s why we voted for him. We saw a leader who was going to fight for a way forward that does not compromise our future. Only that is exactly what the Kinder Morgan pipeline does.

A generation is approximately 25 years. A pipeline has a lifespan of 175 years. This is not a short-term solution, or a momentary fix until we can invest in clean energy. This is a life sentence for us. This pipeline does nothing but increase our dependence on fossil fuels and lock us into a lifetime of dealing with the consequences.

This is not just about a dangerous pipeline and its potential to destroy already endangered marine life populations, the strong west coast economy, the climate, or the clean drinking water or thousands of Indigenous people living in B.C. This is about leadership and in time when we as millennials needed strong, ethical leadership more than ever, we are being incredibly let down.

The Liberal Party vowed to combat climate change. They made commitments to Canadian citizens and to the world through the recently signed Paris agreement. They need to be held accountable for these promises.

Climate leaders cannot afford to build pipelines. Climate leaders do not build pipelines – period.

This is not the liberal government I voted for.

Amongst my outrage and disappointment, I spoke to fellow students about this decision and found many agreed with me.

“By approving these pipelines, Justin Trudeau has let these corporations know that they have a voice in our democracy, that their needs far outweigh the needs of the Indigenous, who we continue to oppress every single day, as well as the environment. This is not the Liberal plan I voted for.” -Hannah Martin, University of Ottawa

“I definitely feel cheated by this decision. I thought I’d voted for a climate leader, someone who was going to bring great change to our country and set us up for prosperous futures, but this decision back tracks our progress by years. I don’t even know how we’re going to stay under our committed emissions from the Paris agreement with this pipeline in place.” –Student, University of Guelph

However, I also found students with different perspectives. Some who do not necessarily approve of Trudeau’s decision, but felt he had no choice under the circumstances.

Some argued that as long as fossil fuels are still a main source of energy, oil will be exported, and pipelines are simply a safer alternative to transporting it than trucks or rail cars.

“Many people believe the pipeline is a detriment to Canada and our planet as a whole, but to me those people are making one idealist assumption that destroys the foundation of their argument. The fact of the matter is that oil will be dug up whether we like it or not. Global demand for oil is still rising, especially in the Asian markets this oil is set to reach. Whether the pipeline was built or not, the oil would move from Edmonton to Burnaby and onto ships headed for Asia. Pipelines are simply the safest method of transporting this crude oil. This single pipeline would carry the equivalent of 2,800 truck loads or 882 rail cars of oil. Building this pipeline is the equivalent of giving a junkie clean needles. You may not want them to do it, but if they’re going to anyway, it’s best they do it safely.” -Tyler De Sousa, Wilfred Laurier University

Other’s argued that regardless of the decision he made there would be consequences and backlash, and interestingly pointed out that our current liberal government is more equipped to deal with the possible repercussions of a dangerous pipeline than previous governments.

“It did not matter whether or not Trudeau approved or rejected the pipeline, from the beginning of the pipeline issues he was damned if he approved them, and damned if he did not. He was, as you could say, between ‘a bloc and a hard place’. If he and his government rejected the proposals, it would have galvanised the more conservative opposition against him, and appeared as apathy for the struggling western economies. The one silver lining in all this is that at least under the current government, there is more environmental and social accountability, than under the previous government.” –Student, Carleton University

There’s no doubt in my mind this decision was a difficult one; the issue is not simply black and white. There are many environmental, ethical, social, and economic factors to consider and it really does seem like this issue is a double edged sword.

At the end of the day, I still believe this decision was simply about politics. Justin Trudeau tried to reiterate several times in his announcement about the pipeline that it was completely safe and had he thought otherwise he would not have approved it. The truth of the matter is pipelines burst every single day. It is not a matter of if the Kinder Morgan pipeline will burst, but when. The only people this pipeline is safe for is Richard Kinder and his investors. The people of British Columbia are not safe from this pipeline and neither is the ocean and its endangered marine life.

Many commented that this was the only option so long as we continue to rely on fossil fuels. So I ask, why aren’t we investing in eco-friendly infrastructure instead of pipelines? Why are we not putting our money into alternative, clean energy sources?

As I said before, this pipeline is not a short term solution. It is not a band aid until we can invest in something cleaner and safer. It is a lifelong decision that is going compromise not only our futures, but our children’s futures. We need to look beyond the present. While this may have been the best decision now, it’s certainly not the best decision for our futures. The time to be investing in pipelines is done. It is time we focus our efforts on clean energy sources and environmentally friendly infrastructure, before it’s too late.

It’s time to start making real change.

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