Line 5 should be a Wake Up Call for Canadian Energy Security

On 13 November 2020, the State of Michigan revoked the easement that allows the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline to travel underwater through the Straits of the Makinac, between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. Unless reversed, this decision requires Enbridge to cease operations of this section of the line by 12 May 2021. Any disruption to Line 5 will be devastating for Canada’s energy security and economic wellbeing.

I am pleased to serve on the special House of Commons committee on the economic relationship between Canada and the US that is currently reviewing the impact on Canada of the closure of Enbridge line 5. Witnesses at committee have outlined the far-reaching impact that the suspension of Line 5 would have on Canada’s energy, agricultural, transportation sectors and supporting industries.

Enbridge Line 5 carries up to 540,000 barrels a day of petroleum products, including light crude oil and natural gas liquids from Alberta and Saskatchewan. It supplies over 53% of Ontario’s crude oil and 66% of Quebec’s. Line 5 provides an estimated 4,900 direct jobs and up to 23,000 indirect jobs in the supported industries. It supplies significant portions of diesel fuel, propane for Canada’s East and much of the jet fuel that supports Pearson Airport. Line 5 generates over $65 billion of direct and $28 billion of indirect revenue in annual trade.

Closure of the section of the pipeline under the Straits of Makinac would require 2,000 tanker trucks or 800 railcars a day to keep pace with the demand. Estimates indicate there would not be enough surplus truckload and railcar capacity to support this increase. Furthermore, a rise in the volume of trucks on Canada’s roads and at the border, would dramatically increase congestion, vehicle emissions, and the risk of serious traffic accidents.

This should be a wake-up call for Canada.

Citizens in Ontario, Quebec and the maritime provinces heat their homes, support their families, keep planes and trains moving and crops growing because of western Canadian oil and gas that travels to eastern Canada through Line 5.

A unilateral decision made outside of Canadian jurisdiction threatens the very health and security of millions of Canadians. Even if it weren’t a US political decision, but instead a natural disaster or equipment failure, that threatened the delivery continuity of this pipeline, Canada’s overwhelming dependence on this one infrastructure asset is too great. Canada must have an alternative, preferably one that transits from west to east entirely within Canada.

COVID 19 has made every Canadian increasingly aware of the risk of dependence on other countries for critical health, safety and security supplies. As a trading nation, being a part of global supply chains is central to Canada’s economic prosperity. However, this must be balanced with domestic self-sufficiency for critical items that Canadians can’t live without; items like PPE, vaccines and critical drug supplies. With the threat to Enbridge Line 5, Canada’s self sufficiency should also include the supply of oil, gas and propane that supports the agriculture that feeds us and the energy that keeps us warm.

Climate change is real, and as Canadians we must do our part to reduce green house gas (GHG) emissions and contribute to sound environmental stewardship. Canadian oil and gas meets the highest environment regulations and standards in the world. Other countries look to Canada to achieve a higher standard in environmentally responsible resource production.

If all of the oil and gas producing nations around the world adopted Canadian standards the worldwide GHG emissions would be reduced by a substantial 25%. Canadians can be proud of the current standards that have been achieved and the research that is underway to further push the boundaries of GHG reductions. Despite being the world’s sixth largest oil producing nation, Canadians get 44% of their supply from foreign producers rather than domestic supply. Increased use of Canada’s domestic oil and gas supply would reduce both Canada’s energy vulnerability, and the nation’s total GHG emissions.

The future of Line 5 is in the hands of the US courts and with it Canada’s fortunes. Canada’s energy security, economic recovery and commitment to climate change requires an oil and gas pipeline that connects West to East entirely within Canada. It’s the right thing for Canada and it’s the right thing for the contribution we make as global citizens to the world.