OTTAWA — A tense political atmosphere has persisted in Ottawa ever since Kinder Morgan Canada Ltd. threatened to halt its highly contentious pipeline project earlier this month, as policymakers wrestle with thorny questions over how to build major infrastructure projects while also addressing environmental concerns.
On Monday evening, First Nations protestors interrupted Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr during a speech at the University of Ottawa, forcing him to cut short his remarks. Carr had said public confidence in Canada’s regulatory regime has “slipped” in recent years due to weak regulatory policy in years past.
The Indigenous activists were joined by a gathering of protestors on the campus grounds, who called on the Liberal government to back off its support of the Trans Mountain pipeline, which it approved in November 2016.
The protest was a stark reminder that Ottawa’s attempts to strengthen the regulatory regime around energy projects is unlikely to diffuse fierce opposition to fossil fuel development in Canada. It also points to potentially insurmountable challenges for oil and gas producers, as worries over climate change impacts take greater precedence in public discourse.
“We’re still operating in a world with two competing and contradictory narratives: one of climate change and our Paris commitments… and on the other hand the realities of the Canadian energy economy,” Michael Cleland, a senior fellow at the University of Ottawa said on Tuesday.