This article outlines Prime Minister Trudeau’s explanation of how he reconciles pipeline approvals with his environmental position and reveals the hostile reaction his “phase-out” comment received in Alberta.

Getting Started

Appropriate Subject Area(s):

Environmental studies, world issues, politics

Key Questions to Explore:

  • What does “phase-out” mean?
  • How can this comment be in keeping with recent pipeline approvals?

New Terminology:


Materials Needed:

Copies of the article and access to the Internet for group research

Study and Discussion Activity

Introduction to lesson and task:

One of the planks of the current federal government’s platform in the last election was to be environmentally responsible, accept the reality of climate change and its causes and to act, in concert with other nations, to protect the environment by limiting greenhouse gas emissions. Part of their platform was, however, support for pipeline development in an environmentally responsible fashion. These two positions appear to be at loggerheads as the oil sands sector is one of Canada’s fastest growing producers of greenhouse gases. Trudeau’s “phase-out” comment was in response to a recent questioner during an open forum in Peterborough, Ontario, who asked him how he reconciled these two positions. As part of his answer he also tried to explain that environmental protection can also go hand in hand with economic development. Needless to say, this “phase-out” comment caused a great backlash in Alberta where he was accused of abandoning the province. There is, indeed, a fine balance here. This lesson will have the students examine this thorny issue and decide if they believe it is indeed possible to both approve pipelines and yet seek to be environmentally responsible.

Action (lesson plan and task):

  • Begin the lesson by asking the students if they are aware of Trudeau’s statement that Canada needs to “phase out” the oil sands.
  • If they are not, explain where, when and why the comment was made and ask them what they think that comment implies.
  • After discussing their responses, give the students copies of the article to read.
  • Without discussing the article, put the students in groups of five or six and give them the following task:

The Trudeau government has recently approved some pipeline construction and yet Trudeau talks of phasing out the oil sands. This would appear to be a contradiction. In order to determine if there is, in fact, a contradiction, research the following questions and then discuss whether or not your group believes there is a possible relationship between the two.

      1. What recent pipeline proposals did the Liberal government approve?
      2. What was the rationale given for these approvals?
      3. Were there any restraints or conditions imposed?
      4. Does this make these pipelines environmentally responsible?
      5. What did Trudeau mean by “phase out”?

Considering your answers to these questions, does your group believe that approving pipelines with environmental conditions and talking about the gradual phase-out is an environmentally acceptable direction to take? In addition, after reaching a decision including your reasons for your position, answer the following two questions:

      1. What actions do you think Canada should be taking to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels?
      2. How can these actions assist with Canada’s economic development?

Consolidation of Learning:

  • Have each of the groups, in turn, present their report and discuss any comments or questions that arise.
Success and Additional Learning

Success Criteria:

The students will be able to:

  • explain what Trudeau meant by “phase out”
  • explain how the Liberal government rationalizes the positions of environmentally responsible actions and pipeline approvals

Confirming Activity:

  • Have the students discuss whether or not they support the government’s actions and if not, what they would like to see done.