Latin America Advisor

Energy Advisor

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What is Holding Up Canada’s Oil and Gas Development?

Protests have cast doubt over the construction of a pipeline crossing British Columbia in Canada. A pipeline in Alberta, Canada, is pictured above. // File Photo: Canadian Government.

Nationwide protests erupted in Canada in recent weeks in support of some members of the Wet’suwet’en indigenous community who oppose the $6.6 billion Coastal GasLink project. The plan entails the construction of a pipeline linking British Columbia’s gas fields to Canada’s northern coast, from where natural gas would potentially be exported to Asia. Supporters of Coastal GasLink point to the labor opportunities and long-term economic benefits the pipeline’s construction brings. Is the project likely to move forward? What are the most important advantages and disadvantages that the Coastal GasLink pipeline—and, more broadly, the development of oil and gas fields—would bring to British Columbia and to Canada? How does the recent plunge in global oil prices affect Canada’s oil sands and energy future?

Carlo Dade, senior fellow at the School of International Development and Global Studies at the University of Ottawa: “The pipeline should be built; government and most citizens of British Columbia (BC), including the Wet’suwet’en, support it. But it is still not beyond all doubt that it will happen. The sobering essence of the problem with development of natural resources and major infrastructure projects in Canada, and a warning for others, is that a ‘good’ or even an ‘extremely good’ project in terms of economic benefits for affected communities, consultations, environmental safeguards and other components of ‘social licensing,’ is not good enough. What is required is a ‘perfect’ solution, one that is perceived as such by all parties. By this yardstick, in Canada, consultation has become right to veto. Part of this stems from the lingering effects of a history of, to put it mildly, Canadian institutions’ mistreatment and abuse of first nations. Part of the problem in BC is the complexity and lack of clarity over the governance structure with the Wet’suwet’en and other bands that did not cede territory through treaty, not to mention stark divisions within the community over the pipeline, which corporate and environmental interests are exploiting for their own purposes. Yet, most analysts agree that…”

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About the Energy Advisor

A sister publication of the Inter-American Dialogue’s daily Latin America Advisor, the weekly Energy Advisor captures fresh analysis from business leaders and government officials on the most important developments in oil and gas, biofuels, the power sector, renewable energies, new technologies, and the policy debates shaping the future of energy in the Western Hemisphere. To subscribe or for more information, contact Erik Brand, publisher of the Advisor, at

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