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Donald Trump win raises questions about Canada’s aggressive off-carbon agenda
Nov. 9, 2016
By Claudia Cattaneo

At a party on the top floor of Calgary’s iconic Bow skyscraper Tuesday night to watch the U.S. election results roll in, Calgary’s business elite was rooting for Hillary Clinton.

That’s right. Even in the heart of Canada’s oil country, and despite Clinton’s opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline and hostile view of Canada’s oilsands - like President Obama, she referred to Alberta’s deposits as ‘dirty oil’ - many just wanted a steady hand back in the White House.

“I think the volatility of Trump is an issue,” explained Randy Pettipas, president and CEO of Global Public Affairs, who hosted the event with U.S. consul general in Calgary Tom Palaia and Encana Corp. president and CEO Doug Suttles.

“We will be paying for that pipeline from now to the end of time,” due to Donald Trump’s anti-trade agenda, said Carlo Dade, director of trade and investment policy at the Canada West Foundation, referring to Trump’s pledge to approve the Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta to the U.S. Gulf.

Canada’s energy sector has become so convinced that its right to exist hinges on accepting Alberta’s, and Canada’s, aggressive climate change policies - in may ways a response to Barack Obama’s pressures - that continuation of those policies under Clinton just seemed inevitable.

Alberta’s environment Minister, Shannon Phillips, re-enforced as much when she said last week that for the Canadian fossil fuel industry there is no turning back. “There is no nostalgic previous era where no one objected to greenhouse gas pollution or the climate change it causes,” she said. No wonder some say Canada’s oilpatch is suffering from Stockholm syndrome.

Politically, Alberta and Ottawa will need to be quite adept at maintaining a competitive position
Actually, that era returned fast and furious Tuesday night with Trump’s decisive win.

Trump wants to back off the Paris climate change deal, approve KXL but take a share of the profits, promote oil and gas production to make America energy independent. He has vowed to push away OPEC oil imports and go to town on domestic shale gas and oil, as well as clean coal.

Already, questions are being raised about whether Canada’s aggressive carbon reduction agenda still makes sense.

The policies were meant to position Canada as a leader in a world heading inexorably toward de-carbonization. Now they look like Canada jumped the gun while the U.S., its biggest energy competitor and a top carbon emitter, is putting fossil fuels back on its front burner.

“Politically, Alberta and Ottawa will need to be quite adept at maintaining a competitive position,” said Glen Schmidt, president and CEO of Laricina Energy Ltd., a Calgary-based oilsands developer. “Carbon taxes and heavy regulation will certainly drag down our economic performance in a trade-exposed world.”

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall said the U.S. vote shows “we will not see a carbon tax in the U.S. any time soon.