Bison Transport mock debate takes more serious tone

VANCOUVER, B.C. – The 24th annual Bison Transport Debate saw a panel of participants argue for and against a resolution that more oil pipelines should be built in Canada.

The mock debate takes place during the Canadian Transportation Research Forum’s (CTRF) conference, which was held in Vancouver today, and was more on the serious side than past debates, which normally poke fun at several issues.

Incumbent participants arguing against pipelines were Trevor Hanson and Adrian Lightstone, while the challengers were Chris Bachmann and Joel Carlson, who argued in favor of continued construction.

Traditionally a rousing and lighthearted event, those arguing in favor of the resolution said the construction of more pipelines in Canada would not have any impact on global emissions, as oil activity would occur in other countries if Canada chose to cut production.

The challengers said Canadian pipelines would use the most optimal methods to build the pipelines ensuring their safety.

Further arguments included that pipelines are in Canada’s economic interests, as they pump millions of dollars into the Canadian economy.

Pipelines are also more efficient than rail when it comes to transporting oil, argued the challengers, saying some metrics indicate there are four times more incidents transporting oil by rail than by pipeline.

The challengers also said pipelines produce 60%-70% less emissions than rail.

Canada also depends on getting its oil to global markets at a fair price, said the challengers, and must not rely solely on a single market, like the U.S.

The incumbents argued the opposite, saying the risks are simply too great to continue down the same old path.

Climate change, environmental impacts, and the need for Canada to progress to other resources to advance the country were concerns voiced by the incumbents should more pipelines be constructed.

Saying we are becoming “less ambitious as a country,” the incumbents said the oilsands constitute 10% of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

They continued by saying the oilsands are killing Canada’s boreal forest, the largest carbon capture system in the world, and use highly toxic chemicals and large amounts of water to process bitumen.

An increase in pipeline construction would also mean more oil tankers coming into B.C.’s harbor system to transport to global markets, said the incumbents, adding that could mean greater risks to the ocean ecosystem.

Finding alternative methods to adapt the Canadian economy is the way to go, the incumbents argued.

Rebutting the incumbents, the challengers said the negative impact on the environment is simply not true, and even Environment and Climate Change Canada echoes this sentiment.

They doubled down on the fact that today’s pipelines are far safer than those built in decades past, and that if we can put a man on the moon we can certainly build a pipeline that doesn’t leak.

Though they agree Canada’s economy needs to change, the incumbents contended it cannot happen overnight.

It’s not about increasing productivity, they said, it’s about making the shipment of oil in the best way possible, the challengers maintained.

Barry Prentice, founder of the Bison Transport Debate, moderates during the 24th annual event in Vancouver, B.C., May 27.

With a final argument from the incumbents, they said Canada does have the safest pipelines in the world, according to Google, but that does not mean we need to build more.

They said even with the 800,000 km of pipelines in Canada, it still does not satisfy demand, nor would more.

One audience member argued that Canadian transportation is what binds the country together, while another said that with an already large pipeline network, perhaps enlarging what already exists is the best option moving forward.

During closing remarks, the incumbents concluded that leak-proof pipes are nothing more than a “pipe dream” and more oil means more pollution for future generations.

The challengers argued that halting the construction of pipelines may make us feel good about ourselves, but it won’t change global demand – oil will be produced somewhere, and why not in Canada where the strictest regulations are in place?

At the end of the mock debate, attendees stand on the side of the room next to the debating team they feel won the event.

Approximately 75% of attendees agreed that more pipelines need to be built in Canada.

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A university graduate with a degree in English, I have worked in the media and trucking industries as a writer, editor, and now as western bureau chief of Today's Trucking and I have several years of management experience in journalism, as well as hospitality, but am first and foremost a writer, both professionally and in my personal life, having completed two fiction novels.

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