How would you have Canada step up its support to the EU and Ukraine in particular?
The war between Russia and Ukraine rages on. Canada, like many of its allies, has tried to lend all manner of support to Ukraine while at the same time find ways to help Europe lessen its dependency on Russian energy.
Specifically, as it relates to assistance for Ukraine, Canada has done a commendable job to date. We have provided both lethal and non-lethal military equipment. Recently it was announced that Canada was also working to help train Ukrainian forces to battle the Russians. Canada has also opened its borders to Ukrainians looking to escape the horrors in their homeland. This immigration initiative has not only been a life-saving tool for the people of Ukraine, it has brought new potential workers to Canada – a country desperately in need of all manner of skilled and unskilled workers.
There has been some criticism in Canada from respected former military leaders that Canada needs to take a more aggressive military posture in Europe against the Russians. Some of these critics have also called on NATO, Canada included, to establish a no-fly zone over Ukraine. That has been resisted by NATO leadership right now as too provocative a move against the Russians even though Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky supports this action.
For the rest of Europe, it looks like Canada’s assistance could come in the form of energy provider to the region. Canada was lobbied aggressively by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to get liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Canada via one or two terminals on the east coast to Europe. Germany has stated policy that phases out Russian energy imports and is looking for alternate supply routes and sources of energy.
According to a Reuters news report, Canadian Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson has said that the Canadian government has been in discussions with companies behind two proposed east coast LNG export facilities to see how it could speed up the projects and help boost supply to Europe. Scholz’s visit to Canada in the later summer saw this issue take centre stage, until the Prime Minister clearly signalled he did not want to talk about it.
Since the spring and the commencement of the war, the Government of Canada has been very publicly deliberate in its statements about Canada supplying Europe’s energy and lessening Russia’s stranglehold. If that language translates into actual action, Wilkinson has said Canada could supply LNG to Europe in as little as three years. This is a substantial way to help both Europe and Ukraine while also boosting Canada’s LNG industry.
“Canada could supply LNG to Europe in as little as three years.”
An overarching challenge for the Trudeau government in Canada will be to find accord between its 2050 net-zero commitments and becoming a European energy supplier. Might geo-politics and global security change the timeline for key government priorities? We will all be watching with interest.
Tim Powers, is the Vice-Chairman of Summa Strategies Canada and the managing partner of Abacus Data, both headquarters are in Ottawa. Mr. Powers appears regularly on CBC’s Power and Politics program as well as on VOCM in his home province of Newfoundland and Labrador.
I’ll start by making the admittedly controversial argument that Canada has already taken a significant step to support the EU and Ukraine with the difficult decision to send Gazprom’s gas turbines back to Germany, notwithstanding sanctions against Russia.
On the one hand, this decision has opened the Trudeau government up to harsh criticism from Ukrainian allies and others who suggest this decision rewards the Putin regime and contradicts rhetoric about standing firm with all of Ukraine.
But as someone who has served in the office of a G7 Leader, I can see the other side of this argument just as clearly. Intense pressure from Germany, the EU and even the US was being exerted on Canada to make this move. While it may be a concession to Russia, the truth is that the alternative course was probably worse for Europe and Ukraine, because the EU is barely holding together on its commitment to cut its commitment to Russian oil.
Returning those turbines, even if they eventually go unutilized, will tangibly contribute to holding the Ukrainian consensus firmer and keeping Putin in check. Strategic foreign policy choices always look calculated and cynical in comparison to the pursuit of an uncompromising moral foreign policy. But the hard truth is that by taking this particular punch, the federal government has helped to sustain the coalition of EU opposition to Russia. And that is vital.
Beyond this immediate controversial move, what more can be done? The answers are apparent, even if not easy. Canada suffers from an inability to get its energy to market – including the EU. In this context, LNG export capacity fairly screams to be addressed. But it’s been stymied for years by a combination of policy, regulatory and political hurdles – along with a concerted need to secure the sort of social license with Indigenous communities that must be had if projects are to proceed. But to all of this we must add the reality that our policy imperatives are currently in conflict. Higher emissions will follow from many of these choices. How to reconcile that outcome with the climate crisis, net zero and the drive for decarbonization? Answer: You probably can’t. Choices will have to be made. And they’ll be unpleasant, highly charged and deeply political.
All of which elevates our hopes for LNG, hydrogen and nuclear small modular reactors – or SMRs. How do we help Europe, sustain Canada’s world-leading position as an energy powerhouse, decarbonize and secure economic growth? One answer is to leapfrog other nations in the development of these energy sources. But the risks are high. And leadership is required from the private sector, the investment community, regulators and policymakers. But if you want to square this painful energy circle, an aggressive commitment to hydrogen and nuclear in addition to LNG is inescapable.
Scott Reid was director of communications to former prime minister Paul Martin, and is the co-founder of Feschuk.Reid.
Canada has been a strong advocate around sanctions from the outset of Russia’s war on Ukraine and continues to play an important role in efforts to hold Vladimir Putin and Russia to account. But the controversy around the turbine repair work completed in Canada for Nord Stream 1 has underlined how energy issues complicate the politics around sanctions. According to Ukraine’s President Vlodymyr Zelenskyy, the state-controlled energy behemoth Gazprom’s drastic cuts to European gas deliveries was more evidence of Russia engaging in “gas blackmail of Europe.” Indeed, the European Union’s executive urged member states to reduce natural gas consumption by 15% to blunt Russia’s future ability to play politics with Europe’s gas supply.
In terms of what we can do, Canada should first and foremost play a leading role in addressing the humanitarian crisis that Russian aggression in Ukraine has caused. Help displaced Ukrainians and make sure that services for them, and all refugees, are properly funded.
Canada can also play a leading role in diplomatic efforts and energy security. While some suggest the answer is simply shipping more of our oil and gas to Europe, this is much easier said than done. Building new pipelines to export Canadian oil to help Europe is neither practical, nor does it meet the future needs of European countries for more clean and renewable energy. Indeed, Conservatives arguing for this completely miss the fact Europeans have already rejected their narrowminded approach of ignoring the climate crisis. Additionally, experts like Bruce Lourie, from the Ivy Foundation, have explained how Canada isn’t positioned to deliver this energy, certainly not in the timeframe Europe would need it. There are no simple solutions when it comes to dealing with the inextricably linked issues of supporting Ukraine while helping Europe with its energy crisis.
Where we could find common ground is around investing in energy efficiency, renewables, and alternative fuels. Social Democratic Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) – like the NDP here in Canada – have suggested a windfall tax on energy companies and using these funds to invest in alternative energy as well as efforts to mitigate the impact of high prices on vulnerable citizens. Together, we can accelerate the shift away from fossil fuels and towards renewables and clean alternatives. This would not only help countries reach their emissions reduction goals, but also diversify energy sources, lessening reliance on energy superpowers like Russia, and increasing energy supplies to reduce prices.
Canada has a historic opportunity to use its energy revenue to make our country a world leader in clean energy. Unfortunately, Conservatives have rejected this approach while the Liberal government simply haven’t gotten the job done. But it’s not too late for us to work with progressives in Europe, and elsewhere, and finally make Canada a global climate leader.
A more energy-efficient world, with Europe no longer reliant on Russian energy, would greatly contribute to the cause of peace.
Kathleen Monk is a Principal at Earnscliffe, where she is trusted by Canadian leaders to navigate complex public strategy issues, design strategy and bring together diverse stakeholders to tell authentic stories that deliver results. She appears regularly on CBC The National’s pre-eminent political panel, The Insiders, and provides analysis for CBC News Network’s Power and Politics.