Climate change activists heat up town hall on pipelines

Manitoba anti-pipeline activists criticized the Liberal government Thursday for failing to live up to their promises on climate change.

Raucous town hall Thursday night in Winnipeg had environmentalists criticizing Liberals

Canada's Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr met with constituents at a town hall in Winnipeg on Thursday. (Wendy Buelow/CBC)

Manitoba anti-pipeline activists criticized the Liberal government Thursday for failing to live up to their promises on climate change.

At a town hall hosted by Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr, members of the Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition and 350.org blasted the Winnipeg South Centre MP for favouring oil and gas development over reducing Canada's carbon footprint and halting the expansion of Alberta's oil sands.

"We're here today to send a message to the federal government, to the Trudeau government, that real climate leaders don't build pipelines," said Clayton Thomas-Muller, campaigner with 350.org.

In September, the federal government approved the Pacific NorthWest liquefied natural gas project in British Columbia. The expansion of another pipeline, Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain line, is currently under review by federal regulators.

"We're here, in a good way, to stand in solidarity with First Nations in Alberta and First Nations in B.C. to say that we don't want to see any more fossil fuel infrastructure built in this era of climate change," said Thomas-Muller before the meeting.

During the town hall, Carr said Canada has spent "billions" on green infrastructure, including transportation and renewable energy.

"There is going to be a transition from the fossil fuel economy to renewable energy and I want Canada to be a leader in that transformation," Carr said.

"I'm sorry that people are viewing us as cynical when we have been as open and transparent in our decisions as any government in my memory."

Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition spokesperson Alex Paterson pressed Carr to explain how Canada can approve expanding oil and gas pipelines while meeting its commitments under the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference agreements.

"If we want to meet Paris there is [no] room for fossil fuel expansion," he said.

Carr underscored the importance of resource extraction for jobs and Canada's economy. When boos erupted, the minister asked the crowd, "Are you booing working people?"

"Are you respectful of other views?"

Another activist then shouted at Carr "there is no middle ground" between supporting the oil and gas industry and protecting the environment, Carr chose not to respond to the comment.

with files from Erin Brohman