Government talking points on the environment are ridiculous

Democracy is just gumming up the process.   That was the main message from Conservative strategist Tom Flanagan in an interview on the CBC show, Power and Politics.  Mr. Flanagan was speaking about the review process for the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline and the many people who would like to be heard on the subject.

At the same time, Canada’s Natural Resources Minister, Joe Oliver, published an open letter that characterized groups expressing concerns about the pipeline as ‘radical’.  It appears that if you don’t agree with the oil companies, then you are, in the eyes of your government,  radical.  

For your information, the government’s definition of radical groups now includes the Haisla First Nation whose concerns include the suggestion that the pipeline could put their community and its traditional way of life at risk.  They are fighting to protect the same coastline that dealt with the massive oil spill from the Exxon Valdez.  It would appear that first-hand knowledge about oil spills and fact-based objections to pipelines are reasons enough for the government to label and dismiss you. 

The Natural Resources Minister also accused the environmental groups who are concerned about the pipeline of taking money from foreigners to do their bidding.  Of course he ignored the fact that Canadian companies have been lobbying American politicians on behalf of the Keystone XL Pipeline that would carry tar sands’ bitumen to Texas refineries.   He ignored the significant amount of foreign ownership of the companies working the tar sands too. 

The government is looking worse by the day when it comes to having a real discussion about anything that has a connection to the oil sands.  The Globe and Mail quickly published an editorial about Mr. Oliver’s letter which stated, “there are legitimate concerns about oil tankers and the possibility of a spill. The government should respect the process enough not to heap scorn on the participants.” 

The government must also consider that pipelines leak no matter how well designed they are.  That is the reason they are controversial.  Just as this review process began, we learned another pipeline that Enbridge (the company that will build the Northern Gateway) is experiencing a leak in one of its lines in the Gulf of Mexico.  In 2010, an Enbridge line in Michigan leaked 20,000 barrels of oil into the Kalamazoo River – this is the kind of disastrous event proponents of wild salmon and the last pristine temperate rainforest on earth are hoping to avoid. 

Mr. Oliver claims we are making a historic choice about diversifying markets.  Most people I know agree the choice is historic, but is more about whether we will protect our environment at all from oil companies who, rightly so, have no real interest beyond their bottom line.   This government should consider that it is supposed to represent Canadian interests and that those interests extend beyond the balance sheets of foreign companies reaping huge profits from Canadian resources.