Canada’s environment department didn’t think the Trans Mountain purchase was a fossil fuel subsidy


Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna speaks at a news conference in Halifax on Sept. 19, 2018. File photo by Alex Tétreault

Julie Gelfand says she’s never clashed with a federal department over one of her recommendations in the five years she’s been Canada’s environment watchdog.

On Tuesday, when the commissioner of environment and sustainable development tabled her final reports in Parliament before she leaves the position this fall, that streak ended.

Finance Canada rejected her recommendation that, in its hunt for favourable tax measures for the oil and gas industry, the department take into account evidence that integrates economic, social, and environmental sustainability on an equal basis.

“Disagreed,” the department retorted. Some of those considerations, it argued, may be more “relevant” than others.

She also found that the federal Environment Department did not consider the Canadian government’s $4.5 billion purchase of the Trans Mountain oil pipeline and expansion project in its ongoing assessment of corporate handouts to the oil and gas sector.

The pipeline purchase, completed by the Trudeau government last summer, is among a series of federal investments, including some “that were designed to increase production of fossil fuels and manage waste from oil sands production” that should have been on a list of subsidies, said Gelfand’s audit.

Oil and gas subsidies punish clean technology companies by tilting the market in favour of carbon polluting energy sources that hurt Canada’s chances at tackling climate change. MORE

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