OTTAWA – Five things to know about the parliamentary debate over pipelines and the environment:
— The Liberal majority, supported by New Democrat MPs, planned to vote against a Conservative party motion in the House of Commons seeking an endorsement of the Energy East pipeline project. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the motion “simply a rehash of their failed (Conservative) policies of the last 10 years.”
— The government announced late Wednesday that pipeline projects currently under review will also have to undergo an additional examination of the greenhouse gases emitted during the “upstream” extraction and production of the oil and gas those pipelines propose to carry. The government says those GHG assessments will be made public, but did not set any benchmarks for how emissions will be weighted against a project approval. That prompted NDP critic Nathan Cullen to say the government can’t tell “what a pass or fail would actually look like. A test only matters if you know how you are being graded.”
— The official Opposition Conservatives continue to compare current Liberal pipeline policies to the controversial national energy program of the early 1980s under then-prime minister Pierre Trudeau, which coincided with a global economic downturn to have a devastating impact on Alberta’s oil and gas industry. Conservative House leader Andrew Scheer opened Thursday’s question period in the House of Commons by saying the younger Trudeau plans to “devastate the western economy with his own NEP — the ‘no-energy program.'”
— Provincial environment ministers arrived in Ottawa on Thursday for talks and a working dinner with federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna. The federal-provincial talks continue Friday on a national climate change plan, which is to be finalized at a first minister’s meeting with Trudeau a month from now.
— Most of the greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels result from burning them at the consumption or “downstream” end of a pipeline, rail line or tanker route. The new environmental assessments don’t assess downstream emissions. McKenna says her talks with provinces on a national climate policy “will include consideration of downstream greenhouse gas emissions.”