Ontario residents often don’t think of the Alberta tar sands as an issue that will effect then directly. But the reality is that there is currently a proposal by Enbridge to transport raw tar sands through Ontario, including northern Toronto.
At a conference held at the University of Toronto on Nov.17 outlined some of the impacts that a pipeline shipping raw tar sands through Ontario would have on the ecosystem and economy. Two of the speakers included Maud Barlow Chairperson of Council of Canadians and Art Sterritt with the Coastal First Nations.
According to Council of Canadians, the tar sands are home to 173-billion barrels of recovered bitumen. The mining process spans an area twice the size of New Brunswick, where close to 1.4 million barrels are produced daily.
But the impacts of this huge plan extend much further than just Alberta. It is affecting the whole country including Ontario and northern Toronto.
“The proposal to pump tar sands oil through Enbridge Line 9 pipeline will affect many Canadians throughout Ontario,” Marlow said.
”Over 9.1 million people live within 50 kilometres of Line 9. Eighteen First Nations Communities are located within 50 km of Line 9 and the pipeline passes through 99 villages, towns and cities.”
Line 9 cuts through Toronto, north of Finch, and according to Council of Canadians it would infringe on aboriginal land rights and endanger the environment.
Marlow went on to explain that the destructive pace of the tar sands development has helped to boost the value of the Canadian dollar which has had serious effects on the manufacturing sector and jobs in the pulp and paper industry.
“The impact has been particularly harsh in Ontario and Quebec, with job losses causing hardship for families, ”she pointed out.
The possibility of expanding the transportation of crude oil to Ontario and Quebec is a concern for environmental groups. Marlow cited a report by the University of Toronto that outlines the serious hazards associated with expanded refineries in the area of the Great Lakes to process tar sand’s bitumen.
“These risks include severe water depletion and contamination. It would also significantly increase greenhouse gasses,” Marlow said.
Sterritt cautioned that Ontarians are being informed that Enbridge’s plan to reverse the flow of oil through one of its pipelines that cross the province will be to their advantage, but the reality is that Enbridge’s plan exposes them to greater risk from oil spills.
“Tar sands oil is the dirtiest in the world and the hardest to clean up because it is acidic, hot and abrasive,” Sterritt said.
Sterritt explained that the people living along the route of the pipeline will have almost no say and probably no knowledge of what is being pumped through the area if Enbridge is given approval, but their land and water could be at greater risk of an oil spill.
“Energy, specifically the tar sands, are often hyped as a main driver of Canada’s economy. But although profitable to large corporations, oil and gas production is very expensive in terms of environmental and social aspects,” he continued.
The proposal is currently before the National Energy Board and environmental activists believe there are far better solutions.
“There are cleaner choices Ontario can make like renewable energy which create good jobs, fight global warming and clean our air,” Sterritt said.