Unknown Territories of Energy
The earliest infrastructure investments in Canada were made along vast corridors along the southern extreme of the country, straddling our neighbours and biggest trade partners to the south. The first roads and railways are part of an enduring network that facilitated the movement of resources, like lumber, furs and coal, from one end of the country to the other and on to American or European markets. Later agricultural products took their place with vestiges of this industry still in evidence in the form of silos and ports in major cities along the St. Lawrence River and Great Lakes region.
Resources and energy have now shifted along a new axis in the North as the tar sands have gained prominence and new routes to reach consumers in developing markets are being explored.
As the centers of trade have shifted to include East Asia, new conduits are being proposed through land that was previously undeveloped and hazy in terms of ownership. The future of energy in this country is shaping up to be a confrontation over territory and the ability of energy companies and governments to gain rights-of-way. As our American counterparts forge ahead on reducing carbon dependence, Canada as a country seems to be heading in the opposite direction. The continued development of the Oil Sands in Alberta and recent federal government approval of the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline (with stipulations) points to starkly different mandates.
The recent Supreme Court ruling on the Tsilhoqot’in Nation’s title to approximately 2000 square kilometres in the interior of British Columbia has clearly defined previously murky recognition of the land claim. The ruling is expected to have ripple effects on other claims throughout the province that were previously unsettled and perhaps affect the development of resources in the region. The Northern Gateway pipeline, which would travel from Alberta through BC to the Pacific coast, is a particularly contentious project that may face new obstacles.
Infrastructure networks have facilitated the rise of Canada, but at what environmental and social cost will the future development of resources on this new axis be made?
[Top Image: Edward Burtynsky]