rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Saskatchewan spill is a reality check on our oil addiction

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca for as little as $5 per month!

Oil from Husky Energy pipeline spill into North Saskatchewan River.  Photo: Shel

Like this article? rabble is reader-supported journalism. Chip in to keep stories like these coming.

As we write this, more than 200,000 litres of heavy oil mixed with diluents is flowing uncontrollably down the North Saskatchewan River. It has already forced three cities to close their drinking water intakes and is impacting First Nations in Treaty 6 territory. Prince Albert plans to restrict water use for up to two months and has been forced to draw water from the South Saskatchewan river 30 kilometres away -- a river that is already over-extracted.

Within hours of the Husky Energy pipeline spill, Alberta premier Rachel Notley and Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall were both parroting the same bit of propaganda -- that pipelines are the safest way to transport oil and we need more of them. The sheer audacity of these statements points to our level of addiction to oil, and it isn't good.

Though proponents claim pipelines are the so-called "safest" method of transporting oil, we have seen 8,360 spills in Saskatchewan since 2006, of which Husky is responsible for 1,463. This isn't isolated to Saskatchewan either -- there have been 28,666 crude oil spills in Alberta in the last 37 years. How is this considered safe?

The problem is that there are far too many spills from both rail and pipelines. The answer to this is twofold: we need to regulate existing pipelines and rail transport better, and we need to overcome our addiction to oil and begin the transition away from fossil fuels.

The Trudeau government has committed to reviewing environmental and freshwater legislation this fall. We hope this will be an opportunity to develop stronger regulations and prevent environmental disasters of this magnitude in the future. By gutting the Fisheries Act, the Navigable Waters Protection Act, the Environmental Assessment Act and the National Energy Board Act, the Harper government opened up lakes and rivers to even more risk than before. These new regulations need to be stronger and more effective at regulating and evaluating industrial projects in Canada that can have an impact on our environment.

In the meantime, we need to demand an end to this pipeline fixation. To many, stopping the expansion of the oil industry and reducing our consumption may sound counterintuitive because of the impression that we are trapped, and that our economy needs more oil and more pipelines to get out of its current depression.

But it is just that, a trap, a sign of our addiction. And both Notley and Wall are entrenching themselves deeper into this addiction by going to bat for an industry that is quickly failing globally. Transitioning and diversifying our economy is not an easy task, but it is an essential task. The longer we wait, the harder it will be. As Murray Mandryk pointed out last Friday in the Leader-Post, Wall is doing an awful job at diversifying the Saskatchewan economy and seems only able to promote oil interests. Jobs are being lost in education, film, and other non-renewable resource industries, not just in the oil industry.

Low oil prices and the global movement toward alternatives present an opportunity that needs to be seized immediately, an opportunity that will create jobs and won't pollute our waters. Internationally, investments in renewable energy have recently surpassed investments in new fossil fuel projects, but Canada is lagging behind. Communities and families are already implementing their own alternatives, but it's time for our governments to step up to the plate and support this transition and encourage low-carbon climate jobs.

This emergency is a reality check. The oil spilled by Husky Energy that is still flowing down the North Saskatchewan River is a catastrophe. It is one spill too many, and while we work toward overcoming our dependency on oil, we need to do all we can to prevent future catastrophes, be it by pipeline or by train, as it is clearer than ever that industry cannot be trusted to do this on its own.

Daniel Cayley-Daoust is the Energy and Climate Campaigner and Emma Lui is the Water Campaigner for the Council of Canadians. This article was first published in the Regina Leader-Post, July 29, 2016.

Photo: Shelley Essaunce

Like this article? rabble is reader-supported journalism. Chip in to keep stories like these coming.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.