Photo: Novel partnership with engineers aims at energy plan for Canada

By Ian Hanington

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Canada's National Energy Program was implemented by the federal Liberal government in 1980 and dismantled by the Conservatives in 1984. Although the program reduced foreign ownership of the oil industry and our dependence on oil, it is most remembered for the divide it created between the oil–rich western provinces and the federal government.

The subject has been taboo in Canada since then. Unfortunately, that means Canada is now one of the only developed nations without a coordinated energy plan. We have no countrywide energy transmission system, and many communities are not connected to the continental energy grid. Some provinces have stronger ties to U.S. energy systems than to those of neighbouring provinces, and jurisdiction over energy matters is tangled up between the federal and provincial governments.

Canada is rich in resources, technology, and skilled citizens. But if we continue to rely too heavily on coal and oil to fuel our energy systems and our economy, we risk being left behind in the emerging clean–energy economy. Our current use of fossil fuels pollutes the air, water, and land and contributes to climate change.

We need an energy plan that benefits all Canadians.

That's why we've joined the Canadian Academy of Engineering and the philanthropic Trottier Family Foundation to research the best renewable energy options for Canada. Over the next five years, the Trottier Energy Futures Project will engage Canadians, from energy experts to citizens, to analyze our current and potential energy sources, systems, and needs, and develop a sustainable energy plan.

A partnership between environmentalists and engineers will allow us to base solutions on the most objective scientific information available.

Every means of generating energy has some environmental impact. We can't build a no–impact energy system, but we can identify ways for Canada to reduce its emissions while providing the most benefits for Canadians with the fewest environmental, social, and economic costs.

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