Lorraine MooreIt’s often said that you can have it all, but not all at once. The key to finding work/life balance is to measure success not by the day or week, but over the longer term. So it is with our choices for Canada.

We are often told that we have to choose between being socially just and having a competitive economy; between maintaining social programs and reducing government spending and debt; and between having clean air and water and a robust energy sector. These ominous black and white trade-offs have contributed to confusion, finger pointing, anger, and in some cases apathy. And when these broad trade-offs are enacted as policy, no one wins.

Perhaps no issue in Canada has been framed as more black and white than pipeline development. But like most complex issues, the best answer has shades of grey. As a business executive who has worked in both Ontario and Alberta, I’ve been inspired by the work of Canada Powered by Women – a initiative to engage more women in conversations that matter. Right now, an honest conversation about the future of our energy industry is critical.

Just over half of Canadians want the next federal government to expand the Trans Mountain pipeline. But in what appears to be a misinformed wish to please absolutely everyone, the project has stalled – and everyone is paying the price. Canada is now viewed as a country that can’t get anything done. This negative reputation effects every sector and every province through lowered investor confidence, fewer infrastructure projects, and a loss of jobs.

Pipelines are at the nexus of the tug of war between climate change, the environment, and the economy. The oil and gas sector is perceived by some as a sunset industry. But the proposal to shut down the oilsands and stop building pipelines ignores several important facts:

  • Worldwide consumption of oil and gas products is going up, not down. Since consumption of oil is rising, we will have to meet consumer demand another way: by importing oil from other countries with lower environmental, regulatory, and human rights standards.
  • Canadian companies such as CNRL are close to achieving zero emission Using these lower carbon products to displace poorer quality products worldwide means Canada can drive a substantial net decrease in global GHG emissions – and have a much bigger impact on carbon reduction than through a carbon tax.
  • Canada’s energy sector is not only one of our most technologically advanced sectors – it’s also one of the biggest investors in renewables. Shutting it down would actually hamstring the transition to renewables, not speed it up.
  • The people who most need safe and reliable energy are the world’s poorest. By providing Canadian oil and gas to the world, and displacing coal-fired energy, we can continue to help lift millions out of poverty and reduce pollution.
  • Economically, the Canadian energy industry has been the single biggest contributor to GDP for decades. The industry has provided paycheques and transfer payments to Canadians from coast to coast. All of us have benefited from the well-paying jobs in the energy industry. In the last four years, tens of billions have been lost while the US energy sector has rocketed.
  • Transporting oil and gas through pipelines is much safer than rail.

If Canada wants to be a leader in addressing climate change, our federal government should stop talking about closing down the industry that represents our best chance for climate leadership, environmental stewardship, and economic growth – not only for our citizens, but many of the poorest people of the world. When it comes to common ground on the environment, the economy, and climate – maybe there really is a way to have it all.

Lorraine Moore is the founder of Accelerate Success Group and strategic advisor, executive coach and consultant to CEOs, boards, leadership teams and individuals. She has been a senior executive at TC Energy (formerly TransCanada) and TD Bank.

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