Canada’s youthful Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will meet next week with President Barack Obama. There are plans for them to discuss both climate change and the economic ties between the two neighboring countries. This week, Canada’s trade minister said that she expects the two leaders will make considerable progress on key issues. In an interview with the Globe and Mail, Minister Chrstia Freeland said “The visit is still coming together but I am very hopeful there will be some real accomplishments on the environment and climate change.” Freeland added, “We are still 10 days away and negotiations are very intense right now and I am not going to get ahead of where negotiators are.”
Trudeau is seen as a environmentalist, while his predecessor pushed for energy independence for Canada but also offered a deal to Obama as an inducement to approve the Keystone XL pipeline project. While in office, former premier Steven Harper wrote to Obama that Canada would offer “joint action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the oil and gas sector” should the pipeline project go through. Obama rejected the offer. Trudeau believes that no country would sit on the 170 billion barrels of oil discovered in Canada's oil sands without pumping them. So he is embarking on his Energy East scheme to build a pipeline to Canada's western shore in order to supply Asian markets thirsty for oil. He, like his predecessor, is a supporter of the failed Keystone XL project.
Obama was outspoken in his criticisms of Canada for rejecting agreements to curtail carbon emissions. During his junket to Alaska in September 2015, Obama criticized Canada's foreign minister who skipped out of the international climate summit in Paris. Obama said, “Any leader willing to take a gamble on a future like that, any leader who refuses to take this issue seriously or treats it like a joke is not fit to lead.”
Under Trudeau, Canada appears ready to toe the climate change line otherwise. On March 3, provincial premiers met with the Trudeau administration to talk about energy and climate issues. The prime minister’s conference with provincial leaders had been an electoral promise to meet with them no later than 90 days after the Paris climate talks. Progressives and environmentalists are pleased. For example, Erin Flanagan of the Pembina Institute has said that the U.S. and Canada are “quite aligned” on environmental policy.
Last month, Canada, Mexico, and the United States signed a memorandum on energy that seeks to foster the sharing of information on electric girds, clean technology, the reduction of emissions, and other issues related to energy. Flanagan expects that the three governments, who are part of the North American Free Trade pact (NAFTA), will soon announce new directives. She told ThinkProgress, “There are a lot of areas of synergy.”
Among the energy issues that Obama and Trudeau may discuss is the exploitation of oil and gas in the Arctic region, as well as clean energy.
Under NAFTA, the U.S.-based Lone Pine Resources company has filed a claim for damages that came as a result of Quebec’s moratorium on fracking. Canada filed its argument in February and argues that giving compensation to Lone Pine Resources would reduce the government’s ability to regulate activities such as fracking under the St. Lawrence River. In another case, TransCanada filed a claim against the United States for denying its Keystone XL permit.
An area of discord between Canada and the U.S. is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which has been opposed by environmentalists, labor unions, and leftists. Among the Democrats opposed is Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont Democrat who is running for president. Obama concluded the deal with a score of countries that include China, Chile, and other countries of the Pacific Rim, and secured Republican support for it. However, Prime Minister Trudeau says he will push for “full and open debate in Parliament” on TPP.
Critics of energy taxation and environmental regulation have pointed out that ordinary Americans are among the hardest hit. For example, the Tesla electric automobile costs approximately $70,000 and receives a $7500 tax abatement, thus burdening taxpayers who are not able to purchase such an expensive vehicle. Energy and environmental regulations finalized by the Obama administration since 2010 have cost at least $460.5 billion, according to data compiled by the American Action Forum. The group’s Regulation Rodeo database shows that the Obama administration promulgated 275 energy and environment regulations between 2009 and 2014. The cost of each averaged $1.75 billion.
AAF also shows that completing the required paperwork costs Americans more than 24.3 million paperwork hours. Americans have to complete an additional 3.95 million hours of paperwork because of energy regulations.