Ex-Ontario minister won’t criticize pipelines

OTTAWA — Ontario’s outgoing environment minister says Canada must transform its energy sources if it’s going to meet promises to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

But Glen Murray won’t speak out against specific projects to build new oil or gas pipelines and plants.

Murray is stepping down from Premier Kathleen Wynne’s cabinet and will take over as executive director of the environmental think-tank Pembina Institute in September.

He says he intends to spend the remainder of his career fighting climate change with smart, evidence-based policies.

Murray refuses to say whether he agrees with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that pipelines can be built and expanded while meeting Canada’s international commitments on climate change.

He says Pembina’s role — before and after he takes over — is about big-picture planning rather than campaigns for or against particular projects.

“Pipelines and energy infrastructure in Canada, there is an architecture in there that has to be transformed,” he said Monday in an interview. “To pull out pipelines as a separate discussion from nuclear plants or from other types of infrastructure that are carbon intensive gets you into a conversation that I think is often a no-win conversation.”

As Ontario’s environment minister for the last three years Murray was responsible for implementing the province’s cap-and-trade system, and was part of the negotiations for the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change.

He also was part of discussions regarding at least one major new pipeline, the Energy East project to double the capacity to carry crude oil across the country from Alberta to the East Coast.

The Ontario government initially insisted projects like Energy East had to be environmentally sustainable and viewed in terms of their greenhouse gas emissions. Murray later clarified Ontario’s focus would be on the emissions the pipeline would create within Ontario, leaving it to other provinces to figure out the impact in their jurisdictions.

Murray has cleared his new position with the Ontario integrity commissioner in “multiple conversations” according to a Pembina Institute spokesman.

As well any lobbying activities in Ontario will be handled by the Toronto team.

Murray said he sees the Pembina Institute as a chance to do the kind of work the former National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy used to do, taking a “deep dive” into research to produce evidence-based advice for governments of all levels.

Murray was chair of the roundtable for three years between 2005 and 2008.

“It’s really an opportunity for me to double down on a single commitment for the rest of my life which is working towards a clean, sustainable energy system in Canada and to fighting climate change, and that’s what Pembina does.”

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