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Let’s Stop Pretending Canada called Russia’s Bluff

Recently, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development held hearings after our government’s capitulation on Russian sanctions.  Instead of admitting to the consequences of these actions, the Liberal government continues to try and pivot on narratives – no matter how far from reality.

With some pressure from Germany and the European Union, Canada returned a turbine to Russian energy company Gazprom that was required for delivery of natural gas on the Nordstream 1 pipeline. The rationale was that Germany would need the gas supply to prepare for the winter (even though natural gas deliveries to storage in Europe are currently ahead of seasonal norms.)

Let’s be clear – Canada imposed sanctions on Russia for its aggressive and unprovoked war against our friends in the Ukraine. By returning the gas turbine, Canada circumvented its own sanctions on Russia and affected Canada’s credibility on the world stage. Now in the wake of that decision, Canada’s new narrative is that it needed to show the world that it was not Canada’s decision that would influence supply of natural gas from Russia.

Are the Canadian decision-makers this naïve?  The cards are all in Russia’s hands, as Germany has walked blithely into energy insecurity – despite many cautions along the way.  Thus, ‘calling the bluff’ is entirely Russia’s move.  Suggesting Canada ‘bluffed’ Russia into calling our bluff is not a victory, in any narrative.

Over the past decade, Russia significantly increased its supply of energy resources to the world.  Russia’s oil production has grown to nearly 11 million barrels per day and their natural gas production is at a record near 25,000 bcf/year – about four times as much as Canada.

Europe, particularly Germany, has become dependent on Russian gas supply to act as its ‘base-load’ power for periods when the alternative energy supply is unreliable. Germany’s, alternative energy supplies are sporadic and sometimes provide less than 2% of the power required to heat and light homes and run factories.

Having a stranglehold on Europe’s energy supply has given Russia leverage against European democracies. Certainly, that had affected Europe’s response when Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine to aggressively annex a free and democratic country.

Russia showed that even with the delivery of the first turbine from Canada, it would manipulate the supply of natural gas (and thereby, its price!) to pressure Europe’s support for Ukraine in the war. Since the war started, delivery of natural gas pricing in Europe has risen to be 7 times higher than the price of natural gas at the U.S. benchmark. Clearly, the insecurity of supply is costing Europeans significantly and aiding Russia’s cashflow.

Canadians know the backtrack on Russian sanctions was a terrible decision taken by a government that has mounting troubles being taken seriously on the world stage.

I’ve written previously about the necessity of government making decisions more seriously in Ottawa.  Perhaps, the first step is to stop pretending that they made a good decision, when the opposite is so obvious.Where is Canada in the energy transition for Germany?  Nowhere – because of foolish energy development policies for the past seven years. Canada was and remains unable to displace any Russian gas from Germany’s energy mix.

This has to stop.

Our friends in Germany need to know what led the world here. But our friends in Ukraine should not be the victims of bad energy security decisions by weak governments in Europe and Canada. We owe them strength and resolve in their fight to remain free in their homeland.

Let’s take two steps forward:

Instead of circumventing the global sanctions package meant to punish Putin, our government should confidently uphold them.

Lastly, we can take a lesson from the German mistake and reverse all energy policy decisions which emulate the nonsense of Germany’s failed energy policy that was based on the pretense that heavily subsidized alternative energies would displace coal, natural gas and nuclear baseload power. Our government should urgently fast-track new pipelines and natural gas liquefaction terminals so that Canada can once again help provide the world with energy security and environmental solutions while displacing Russian energy supplies in Europe.

And to the Liberal government: please, let’s stop pretending Canada called Russia’s bluff.  The international community is rolling their eyes at us.

Greg McLean is the member of Parliament for Calgary Centre and the Conservative Shadow Minister for Natural Resources.

Link to EnergyNow article