A time of transition: Three things we learned from Jeffrey Simpson

Jeffrey Simpson, author and long-time columnist with the Globe and Mail, has been following Canada’s energy industry for 40 years. Over his career, Jeffrey has watched the energy conversation evolve as renewable energy made its way onto Canadians’ radars and talk of a low-carbon future started to gain steam.

These issues are important to all Canadians, and we are all working to better understand them. To help us do just that, CEPA is welcoming Jeffrey as the keynote speaker at CEPA’s upcoming annual dinner.

We couldn’t pass up an opportunity to tap into his experience and ask him about his thoughts on a number of topics ahead of the event. His insights are informed by years of observation and research from the unique perspective of a national columnist covering energy, climate change, municipal politics and Canadian democracy (and much, much more).

Here are three things that jumped out at us during that conversation:

The energy transition is a global issue


The transition to a low-carbon future is not an issue that can be defined within regions. It is a global issue. The climate is not constrained by national or provincial borders, and in identifying solutions to dealing with it we must look much more broadly. All making it a very complicated issue.

It becomes even more complicated when we consider how different jurisdictions and governments influence various levels of potential climate impacts. As a global issue, it requires global concerted action, then as a continental issue Canada must coordinate closely with the United States.

Within Canada it gets even more complex. “The national government is responsible for overall economic policy and part of environment, which is a joint jurisdiction,” explains Simpson. “The provinces are involved because of this combination jurisdiction . . . and because they’re responsible under the constitution for natural resources, the exploitation of which is therefore a provincial matter.”

And then, he explains, it gets down to the municipal level, which has the most direct impact on us as citizens. “They have a lot of power over things like building codes, public transit, incineration of garbage et cetera. Then individuals are involved. They may or may not decide to take action.”


Canada faces a unique situation


Canada is a unique country, we all know that. And we all take pride in knowing that we’re unique. But some of these same characteristics make a transition to a low-carbon future even more challenging within Canada. As Simpson says, “it’s more complicated in a country like Canada with vast distances, temperature variations and a growing population. More people create more emissions, more use of fuels to heat and move across the country.”


It’s a transition, not flipping a switch


Simpson believes that the energy transition will take a long time. The world is going to continue to use a lot of fossil fuels, which he believes will be the major driver of energy for 50 years. As Simpson puts it, “we just have to accept the fact that we’re in a long transition period. Pipelines will continue to play an indispensable role in moving fuels around.”

There are many different views out there regarding the energy transition conversation. Leave us your thoughts in the comments section below.


Read next: The pipeline link to climate change (and what’s being done about it).