Canadian Energy Policy and the Struggle for Sustainable Development
David Bennett is the national director of the Department of Workplace Health, Safety and Environment at the Canadian Labour Congress in Ottawa.
Energy policy refers to those strategies aimed at shaping the supply of
energy and fuels, the types of energy sources, and demand on the part of
energy users such as industry and domestic consumers. One component is
energy security, which aims at providing a reliable supply of energy for
all energy users at a reasonable cost. The whole area is immensely
complex, involving a host of ever-changing factors such as Canadian
sovereignty, federal, provincial, and (increasingly) territorial powers,
regulation and deregulation, market forces, free trade agreements,
international volatility, energy efficiency, conservation measures,
waste reduction, taxation, union power, and the development of
alternative energy sources. Though the total shape of energy policy in
this collection of articles is hard to grasp, all of the energy factors
are well covered, with introductory and concluding essays by editor G.
The book’s editorial strategy—sometimes difficult to discern among
the rich complex of topics and approaches—is to paint a picture of the
state of Canadian energy policy, then pose a challenge to the emerging
picture. This challenge consists of the federal government’s adoption
of the policy of sustainable development, and in particular the Kyoto
Protocol on Climate Change. Both are having an impact on energy policy,
despite the elusiveness of the idea of sustainable development and the
feebleness, so far, of the federal Climate Change Plan for Canada.
Here is where the book falls down. It takes the Climate Plan only up to
2002, ignoring important developments in the three succeeding years. The
challenges of sustainable development are not covered in any detail. The
arguments, strategies, and impact of the environmental movement are
sketchily treated—the sole exception being the Ontario Clean Air
Alliance discussed in Stephan Schott’s essay on electricity in
Ontario. This book leaves readers with the strong impression that the
struggle for sustainable energy policy has only just begun.