Trump’s out. Biden’s in.
President Biden signs a gazillion executive orders…
Here’s what you need to know:
Claire Porter Robbins and Ruhee Ismail-Teja
Unless you’ve been living under a rock these past few months (good for you), you’ll know Joe Biden was inaugurated as President of the United States this past Wednesday. In the hours and days after his inauguration, President Biden released a litany of executive orders (the most of any modern American president) implementing new, immediate policies. We break down some of the most consequential economic orders, and how they might compare to, or impact the Canadian economy or policy environment below.
A whole bunch of stuff related to the pandemic: After finding out that the previous administration literally didn’t have a vaccine roll-out plan, Biden got to work on COVID-response. This week, he accelerated manufacturing and planned for delivery of vaccines, PPE, and testing. He also increased the collection, production, sharing and analysis of COVID-related data to help make evidence-based decisions. Among other things, Biden signed an order requiring masks on busses, trains, and planes, as well as on federal grounds.
Rejoining the Paris Agreement: In 30 days, America will rejoin the UN-brokered environmental agreement pledging to reduce carbon emissions. This is good news for the multilateral effort to fight climate change (Canada is already a signatory), and potentially hopeful news if you’re an investor in the renewable energy sector.
Extending the pause on student loan payments: The Trump administration paused federal student loan payments and interest and the Biden administration has now ordered a continuation until September 30. There is also word that he may enact some form of student loan forgiveness for those working in the public sector. As we wrote last week, the pause on federal student loan payments in Canada expired in September, though interest payments are still paused.
Ordering existing federal non-discrimination protections to LGBTQ people: On his first day, Biden ordered “the most substantive, wide-ranging executive order concerning sexual orientation and gender identity ever issued by a United States president”, according to Human Rights Campaign. The policy specifically targets employment discrimination. In Canada, sexual orientation has been federally protected from discrimination in the Canadian Human Rights Act since 1996.
Laying the foundation to increase the federal minimum wage: Like Canada, minimum wage is generally determined at the state level. However, Biden issued an order for the Office of Personnel Management to raise wages for federal employees and contractors to $15 (compared to the current rate of $7.25). The hope is that labour market competition will make the private sector bump up their wages too,but it’s a tall order in an economy where many small businesses are struggling. The highest provincial minimum wage in Canada is $15 in Alberta, and the lowest is $11.45 in Saskatchewan.
Extending the eviction moratorium: Biden extended the nationwide moratorium on evictions to March 2021 in addition to a foreclosure moratorium on government-backed mortgages. According to the American census bureau, almost 20% of households were behind on rent in December 2020. In Canada, each province has different regulations on eviction moratoriums, though most have now expired.
Making the US less racist: Biden revoked Trump’s ‘Muslim ban,’ which prohibited entry to the US for seven Muslim-majority countries. He also halted construction of the border wall and reinstated protections for undocumented children living in the US. Reminder: racism is bad for the economy. Reminder #2: Canada is also racist.
Cancelling the permit for Keynote XL: keep scrolling! We’ll dish all the dirt on this one below.
You can read the all 30 of the Executive Orders Biden signed in his first three days in office here.
WTF happened with TC Energy’s Keystone XL project?
And what does it mean for Canada?
President Joe Biden, on his first day in the White House, signalled his commitment to addressing the climate crisis by cancelling the permit that would allow TC Energy’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline to pass into the United States.
What exactly is the Keystone XL Project?
In 2008, TC Energy proposed to build a second, more direct pipeline, that mirrors the path of its existing Keystone pipeline system which sends crude oil from Hardisty, Alberta to Steele City, Nebraska.The oil would then connect with pipes shipping to the Gulf Coast of Texas, where refineries and export markets are readily available.
The project has had a rough go over the last decade, to say the least. Long story short: the Canadian government approved the project in 2010. It was then rejected by the Obama Administration in 2015, and then re-approved once again by the Trump administration immediately after he took office (Mr. Trump literally created a permit in 2019 that allowed for construction without any environmental review to make this happen).
So, what happened this week?
President Biden revoked the permit that Trump had previously granted to allow the project to go through, a move that was welcomed by environmental groups, Indigenous peoples, and farmers who have challenged the project. TC Energy stopped construction on the pipeline, but announced last week it would power the project with 100% renewable energy sources by 2030, and warned the cancellation would lead to thousands of layoffs.
Biden’s order clearly had Alberta Premier Jason Kenney rattled. According to CTV news, “the Kenney government has invested at least $1.5 billion in the project – with billions more in loan guarantees.” Just when Kenney’s 2021 couldn’t get any worse.
What does this mean for Canada’s oil and gas industry?
Given the fact that Canada sends almost all of its oil to the U.S., not having the pipeline restricts how much oil companies can grow their production and could potentially decrease investment in Canadian oil and gas. However, there are two other pipeline projects—Enbridge line 3 and the Trans Mountain Expansion —that look more promising and would provide significant export capacity from Canada into the States. One thing we can all agree on is that the world is clearly demanding cleaner energy and much higher standards from oil and gas companies as we push for a greener future.