The Wilderness Committee, Canada's largest member-based environmental organization, honoured hall of fame broadcaster and co-founder of The Common Sense Canadian Rafe Mair with its annual Eugene Rogers Award for outstanding contribution to environmental protection in BC at its AGM this past weekend. Mair, who joins a long list of distinguished recipients of the annual award going back to its inception in 1992, received the tribute "for his outspoken determination to protect BC’s environment and wild fish from threats posed by salmon farming, private hydropower and proposed oil pipeline projects."
Mair's colleague, filmmaker Damien Gillis, accepted the award on his behalf as he was unable to attend. In a statement read by Gillis, Mair said, "I cannot express how thrilled I am to receive the coveted Eugene Rogers award from an organization I have so long looked up to as the premier environmental organization in British Columbia." Noting the many ways in which he and the Wilderness Committee have worked together on issues of mutual concern, Mair added, "I know that, again and more successfully, we will fight our battles side by side."
A corporation is not a person. Words, of course, convey the impression that it is because language uses the same terms to refer to a corporation as an individual. “John” can be transposed to “Enbridge” without a change in sentence structure. Even though a corporation is neutered by the pronoun “it”, this substitute for a noun doesn't eliminate the impression that a corporation is something tangible and real. But it isn't. It is, in fact, nothing more than a scratch of ink on a page, an abstract creation that can appear or disappear by a legal manoeuvre.
Because a corporation isn't a person, it can misrepresent and deceive without a qualm of guilt. So, too, can it change shape and character without a blush of embarrassment or shame. Hypocrisy is not in its vocabulary. As an impersonal and amoral object, its essential purpose is to follow the course of maximum profits for its shareholders. And the people who speak on behalf of the corporation commonly adopt its persona.
This explains how Enbridge could describe its Northern Gateway pipeline project, a $5.5 billion project intended to move Alberta bitumen to Kitimat on BC's coast, as a state-of-the-art design with safety features that would practically eliminate the possibility of oil spills. The implicit message to the public was, “Trust us, we know what we're doing.” Then, when the drift of public opinion began to oppose the pipeline, Enbridge could announce that it would improve its safety features by using extra-thick steel in potentially vulnerable parts of the project, and by adding more remotely controlled valves to shut off oil in case of possible emergencies. A person with an iota of conscience would shrink with humiliation at being caught in such a compromising position somewhere between exaggeration and deception.
This is the poverty of ethics that undermines the credibility of any promises made by Enbridge. The $500 million in additional improvements came only when the possibility of a failed project threatened to cost the corporation more than the added investment. If Enbridge had really intended to build a state-of-the-art pipeline, these additional safety features would have been included in the first design. Enbridge's motivating objective is to make as much profit as possible with as little investment as possible. The safety of the pipeline was always a calculated consideration, never an inviolable principle.
This explains why Enbridge did not voluntarily submit to Canada's Joint Review Panel the damning findings of America's National Transportation Safety Board on the corporation's spill of 3 million litres of diluted bitumen (dilbit) into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River in 2010. The environmental impacts of dilbit are much more severe than the usual spills of crude. Dilbit is a tar-like substance mixed with volatile solvents (diluents) so that it will flow. At a spill in water, the solvents evaporate as toxic gases, then the remnant bitumen sinks. The challenge of cleaning up the mess increases about twentyfold over crude. Because of the sensitive river systems exposed to this elevated risk by the Northern Gateway pipeline, Enbridge simply overlooked this vital information so as not to undermine confidence in its project. Call this selective honesty.
The same poverty of ethics applies to the “broadly representational” (Enbridge's term) depiction of Douglas Channel being devoid of the multiple navigational hazards that would plague the safe passage of dilbit-laden supertankers. This is a model example of a corporate psychology of “sell” — simplify information to eliminate any obstacle that might reduce the likelihood of closing a deal. The objective is to present the most promising of all images to investors, regulators and the public: the safest pipeline, the clearest tanker routes, the best technology and, of course, the most jobs and the largest economic benefit to society.
So, if Enbridge really wanted to provide maximum benefit to Canada, Alberta and British Columbia, why wouldn't it build a refinery at the site of the tar sands? This would multiply employment, enhance the tax base, increase Canada's energy self-sufficiency and contribute to an intelligent national energy policy. The answer is simple. Shipping bitumen to Asia has a higher profit margin than refining it here. Enbridge is an economic opportunist, not a political loyalist. It does what's best for itself on behalf of its shareholders.
So, how far would it go to protect its own interests? Economist Robyn Allan has raised two interesting question about the relationship between Enbridge and the Northern Gateway pipeline (Island Tides, July 26/12). The first concerns insurance — the project does not guarantee adequate liability coverage for a “leak and burst” event. The second concerns a separate corporate structure, the Northern Gateway Pipelines Limited Partnership, that appears to be a legal manoeuvre designed by Enbridge to insulate its assets from costs in case of a spill. A similar separation already exists between Enbridge and the supertankers that would load Alberta's dilbit at Kitimat — once the dilbit is at sea, Enbridge is no longer responsible for the damage from a spill.
A close examination of the Northern Gateway project raises other contentious issues. Patrick Brown, writing for Island Tides (Aug. 23/12), notes that no pipelines cross the Rockies except the 60-year-old Kinder-Morgan pipeline that travels a relatively safe route from Edmonton to Burnaby, and “a couple of small pipelines close to the Mexican border where the mountains aren't so high”. The reasons are obvious. “Pumping crude oil all the way up-and-over (plus the congealing cold in winter) takes a lot of pressure and a lot of energy. That's why more lines along that route do not exist.” Cost and risk in mountainous areas have been historical discouragements that Enbridge intends to defy with its Northern Gateway project. Enbridge may be willing to gamble on the cost but the risk ultimately belongs to the environment.
Risk, of course, is the close companion of profit. So the corporate agenda contrives to separate the two by avoiding the risk and keeping the profit. If all else fails, it can do this by changing character and shape — remember, a corporation is not a person. Any combination of fresh directors, new ownership or adverse economic conditions can alter the form and structure of a corporation so it can avoid the costly responsibility of its risk. It can also initiate complex legal strategies that may take decades to resolve. Or it can simply take its profits and dissolve into legal oblivion, leaving real people and the real world to bear the tragic consequences of its mistakes.
It's October - Breast Cancer Awareness Month - which means, the fundraising drive for the annual "Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer" is revving up.
I first raised my concerns about this event in several articles last year, questioning the ethics of the alliance between the fundraising arm of the province's BC Cancer Agency - a.k.a. the BC Cancer Foundation - and controversial oil and gas pipeline titan Enbridge.
Reading the comments on my stories, I gained a new appreciation for how sensitive the topic of cancer philanthropy is. Critiques ranged from hypocrisy for using petrochemical products myself to the fact that Enbridge, being only a pipeline company, doesn't actually make oil products, to the following heartfelt comment from someone identifying herself as Anne:
...till you have sat at the bedside of a loved one and seen them die you have no clue as to my heartache, and by tarnishing the Ride you are possibly prolonging finding a cure.
While I believe we need to be able to engage in a rational, principled debate about this event, I appreciate Anne's point, to whatever degree I can, given I have not walked in her shoes. Since last year's event I've had time to reflect further on the issue and even come up with some positive alternatives.
On that note, I offer to Anne and others who wish to keep raising funds for caner through a cycling event, an alternative to the Enbridge Ride. The "Ride2Survive" is described on the organization's website as "a one-day cycling event from Kelowna to Delta BC to raise funds for cancer research through as an Independent Fundraising Event for the Canadian Cancer Society." The organization also boasts that 100% of the funds raised from the ride go directly to cancer research, something few cancer research initiatives can claim.
Back to the "Enbridge Ride" - a two-day trek from BC to Washington State - which is ramping up toward its fifth year next summer. The event in BC is joined by similar ones in Alberta, Ontario and Quebec. Enbridge, which began as the BC event sponsor, became the national sponsor for all four events in 2010. The proceeds from the BC fundraiser go to the BC Cancer Foundation, which is the fundraising arm of the BC Cancer Agency, a department of Ministry of Health. In my first story on the subject, I pointed to the confusion caused by the event's brand - its graphics and signage are all in the colours of the better known and highly respected Canadian Cancer Society, which has nothing to do with this event.
A commenter on my story who identified himself as Steve Merker, wrote, "As someone intimately involved in developing the Ride to Conquer Cancer concept and branding, i can assure you in no way did we ever try to confuse the public. Yellow and cycling and cancer have strong associations via Lance Armstrong / Tour de France. The blue is similar to the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre's blue."
If the yellow is for Lance Armstrong, they may want to change colours right about now.
In any event, I do believe it's important for donors to be clear on where their money's going.
The real issue here, though, is the matter of allowing Enbridge to greenwash its sullied image in the midst of a highly contentious battle over a proposed pipeline through BC, and the hypocrisy of a cancer-fighting organization taking money from a company who deals in products that cause cancer. (More on that in a moment).
The website for the ride boasts the following: "...2879 participants across British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest raised $11.1 million in the third annual Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer. Since its inception in 2009, the Ride has raised $27.2 million, making it the most successful cancer-related fundraising event in B.C. history."
Yet amidst all this success, the Cancer Foundation clearly grew concerned when I started asking questions and writing critically about the event. My columns provoked significant interest and lively debate online and the first of these prompted the BC Cancer Foundation to develop an internal PR strategy to better defend the program to the press and public, largely based on my initial questions to them. The document was leaked to reporter Stephen Hui of the Georgia Straight. I detailed the key questions and canned answers in a subsequent story.
One of my biggest beefs with the ride remains the connection between cancer and petroleum products - for which Enbridge is a central conduit throughout North America.
I asked BC Cancer Foundation representative Allison Colina, "Is it hypocritical for your organization to accept sponsorship from a company who deals in a known cancer-causing product?"
Her reply: "With regards to petroleum products causing cancer, we turn to the research and clinical experts at the BC Cancer Agency to determine what are cancer-causing substances...According to the World Health Organization, there is no conclusive research at this time that indicates that petroleum products cause cancer."
That's gross distortion at best. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer - the WHO subsidiary group that produces the list of known and probable human carcinogens Ms. Colina referred to - "'Petroleum refining (workplace exposures in)' is a probable carcinogen." Moreover, Benzene, a byproduct of petroleum, is listed as a known carcinogen (that's pretty conclusive to me).
I also contacted Dr. Karen Bartlett of the UBC School of Environmental Health at the time, posing to her the same question: "To what extent can petroleum products be considered carcinogenic?" Here's what she told me by phone:
There are two major petroleum products that we know are associated with carcinogenicity. One is in the distillation process of petroleum products, which produces Benzene. Benezene is carcinogenic. The other is in the combustion of diesel. Diesel particulate is carcinogenic.
A commenter on my story, Rob Baxter, added that, according to the American Lung Association, "Air pollution contributes to ... lung cancer....In 1996, transportation sources were responsible for 47% of pollutant emissions." Also according to the same organization, "The production of particulate matter (PM) less than 10_m is associated particularly with the combustion of carbon-based and sulphur-based chemicals such as gasoline and diesel. Exposure has been linked with... serious health effects including cancer."
Ms. Colina and her organization are misleading the public when they say, "According to the World Health Organization, there is no conclusive research at this time that indicates that petroleum products cause cancer." All that's left is the defense raised by some that Enbridge doesn't make or burn the oil products, so they're okay. I think that's nonsensical, but I should also note that Enbridge recently bought a controlling stake in what will soon be the largest and most carbon-emitting natural gas plant in North America, the Cabin Gas Plant in northeast BC.
They also continue to wreak ecological devastation with oil spills across the continent.
The fact that Enbridge is in no way suitable to be the title sponsor of a cancer research fundraiser should be as plain as day to anyone, especially the BC Cancer Foundation.
The other big issue I have with this event is the way it enables a highly controversial company which is aggressively targeting environmental groups and First Nations as we speak for opposing their highly unpopular proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline from the Alberta Tar Sands to BC's coast.
If the Ride in any way helps Enbridge burnish its reputation in order to advance this pipeline and oil tankers on our coast, then I have a problem with that. And make no mistake, corporate social responsibility pledges aside, no corporation, including Enbridge, spends one dollar sheerly out of goodwill. Enbridge is sponsoring this event for business reasons and none other.
Moreover, I particularly have a problem with the connection between this event and the provincial government, which is the recipient of these research funds.
It is this point which resonated for readers when I first wrote about the issue.
Noelle wrote: "I too am a cancer survivor and have participated in the ride for the last two years. I also had signed up for the 2011 ride before Enbridge came on board and was appalled when I discovered this."
This from one Sonya McCarthy: "I have watched Enbridge's tactics and seen the undermining of local communities the right to say "no" whith the possible environmental damage by crossing hundreds of Salmon bearing rivers and streams. Where a spill from the increase tankers could cause an ecological disaster and there is no plan to clean up the mess."
And a David Munro had this to say: "Given that my father died of cancer, it's natural that I would want to support an event such as this. On the other hand, his particular cancer was hairy cell leukaemia, caused by long-term exposure to petroleum products."
The Enbridge Ride controversy falls within a larger conversation that is only just beginning, catalyzed by films like Pink Ribbons, Inc. and books like Selling Sickness by Ray Moynihan and Alan Cassels, which contend that cancer treatment has become an industry driven by drug companies, while prevention takes a back seat because it's less profitable. They also raise questions about the bureaucratic waste of large cancer charities and more and more funds being diverted to overhead and salaries.
This conversation - also covered by Miranda Holmes in these pages recently - is long overdue, and yet, I now understand why it has been so slow and difficult to foment.
I suggest we can no longer muzzle debate about cancer research and prevention with taboos designed to protect the status quo. The discussion must certainly be imbued with compassion and sensitivity to the pain of losing a loved one to this disease. But we need to be able to ask questions about the ethics of any fundraising initiative and debate the merits of different approaches to taking on cancer. Prevention, through healthy lifestyles and the restriction of environmental toxins, must play a far more prominent role in this discussion.
Moreover, Enbridge, a company whose products cause cancer, should not be able to shroud itself in a bullet-proof PR shield by linking itself with cancer research. This is a company that does not have the support of the public or First Nations in BC and threatens to destroy the things we hold dear - our rivers, salmon, coastline, communities, cultures and ways of life. As I write this, thousands of citizens are preparing to gather in our capital in one of the largest environmental demonstrations on record, to speak out against oil on BC's coast.
The heavy-handed tactics of Enbridge and its supporters in the Harper Government have rubbed British Columbians and First Nations the wrong way for a long time now and Enbridge should not be getting any help from cancer philanthropies to repair its image.
To those who wish to ride for cancer - and I applaud them for their heartfelt commitment and sincere efforts for a noble cause - I suggest the alternative of the Ride2Survive.
To the BC Cancer Foundation, I suggest you can do better than Enbridge.
Read this story from the Canadian Press on charges emerging from the latest round of National Energy Board hearings into Enbridge's proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline that the company and its consultants have no concrete plans for building the pipeline and addressing environmental concerns. (Oct. 12, 2012)
PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. — For critics, the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline is a moving target — literally — and the uncertainty of everything from the route to the type of steel that will be used in the pipeline is a source of frustration at environmental assessment hearings.
For a third day Thursday, a panel of experts who have worked on the project proposed by Calgary-based Enbridge were questioned under oath at final hearings in Prince George, B.C.
And for a third day, frustrations were palpable on both sides as interveners seeking answers about the $6-billion project came up against experts who simply don’t have definitive answers at this stage of the proposal.
“I can’t help but get the sense from some of the answers that this panel has given that very much what’s going on here is a work in progress, that you’ve put together a proposal and there’s a lot of preliminary process and preliminary design, but with respect to the actual pipeline — where it will go, what it will look like, how it will cross certain streams — that it’s very much, ’We don’t really know at this stage.’ Is that fair?” asked Tim Leadam, the lawyer for EcoJustice, which represents a coalition of conservation groups at the hearings.
Ray Doering, manager of engineering for the Northern Gateway project, said Enbridge has filed a preliminary design and supplemental information, and the review hearings themselves will result in further changes before a detailed design is completed.
“We have provided the preliminary feasibility assessments but we have made it very clear that there is further work and further process that needs to be undertaken to finalize those, crossing methodologies, in this case,” said Doering, one of nine experts sworn-in at the hearings.
Asked for specifics about the crossing of one of nearly 800 water course crossings on the latest incarnation of the pipeline route, Drummond Cavers, the project’s geotechnical engineer, said they are “part way through” geotechnical investigations.
Unable to get specific answers about another part of the route on the Maurice River, Leadam said he is trying to understand the process.
“Because what concerns me and my clients is mainly to what extent there’s continual changes to the design, continual changes to the route. At some point I’m trying to understand what exactly will be built,” he told the panel.
“Now I’m told there’s going to be a route revision V, so that means that there’s a different route that will be built than the one that we’ve all been focused upon, which is U.
“Do I have that evidence right, Mr. Doering, that there’s now a route revision V that’s being contemplated?”
“Yes,” Doering. “We have identified the anticipated changes going from Route U to Route V.”
B.C. Environment Minister Terry Lake had a similar complaint after the province’s initial two days of questioning.
Lake said he was “extremely concerned” about the incomplete responses from Enbridge experts.
“One thing that is crystal clear after the last two days is that Enbridge/Northern Gateway is putting off making commitments about including these systems in the pipeline design until after they get approval to proceed,” Lake said in a statement after hearings ended on Wednesday.
John Carruthers, president of Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines, said outside the hearings that after the environmental assessment is complete, final design and planning continue under the eyes of the National Energy Board.
“We will have spent $300 million getting through this part of the process, to getting to a decision: Is the pipeline in the Canadian interest and what will be the environmental impact of that project,” Carruthers told reporters.
“After those larger questions are answered at this stage, the NEB has a very thorough process as the specifics of construction are decided.”
The company has filed more than 20,000 pages of documents with the joint review panel, more information than has been filed on any pipeline in the past, he said.
“People want to know the specifics, but there’s another phase if the project is approved, then we have to go into the more detailed design and the NEB approves that as well,” he said.
That’s not good enough for those concerned about potential environmental impacts of the 1,100-kilometre twin pipelines that will carry diluted bitumen from the Alberta oil sands to a tanker port on the B.C. coast, and condensate from Kitimat back to Bruderheim, Alta.
Damien Gillis discusses the resistance to the Enbridge pipeline, the recent "Keepers of the Water" conference in Fort Nelson, BC, and the increasing impacts on water, human and animal health from natural gas hydraulic fracking with CJSF's Sylvia Richardson. The pair also touch on Damien's documentary film project Fractured Land, currently in production, which examines these issues and the concept of "Canada's Carbon Corridor" - an interconnected web of fossil fuel and mining projects throughout northern Alberta and BC, designed to open up new markets in Asia - told through the eyes of a young First Nations law student. (Oct. 6 - 20 min)
You will find an essential piece missing - namely, can the people of BC give their opinions as to whether or not they want the project in the first place?
Then you call for “World leading marine oil spill reaction, prevention and oil recovery systems for BC’s coastline and ocean to manage and mitigate the risks and cost of heavy oil pipelines and shipments”.
Who writes this crap? The ever-active PR department of Enbridge?
Haven’t you looked at Enbridge's spill record of more than one per week?
But there is a deeper question minister - don’t you understand that the consequences of spillage of bitumen, whether on land or in the ocean, are many, many times more lethal than the crude oil spilled by the Exxon Valdez?
Don’t you understand that unlike crude oil spills, the bitumen sinks like a rock? With crude oil, the technique of “rafting” corrals the spill and allows much of it to be siphoned off, but that you can’t do that with bitumen?
I hate to urge people to read the Vancouver Sun, but your article is such appalling drivel that it gives the public a unique opportunity to see the sloppy crap that is your government’s mindless and highly political response to certain destruction of our heritage - all to supply China with bitumen to refine.
At least you have, by this column, made clear what environmentalists have been saying all along - the Clark government is unfit to govern.
Following an eventful couple of weeks for the Canada-China energy trade file, Stephen Harper finds himself in quite a pickle. The Prime Minster is stuck between his resolute commitment to opening up a carbon corridor to Asian markets and the increasingly politically untenable position of supporting wholesale Chinese state ownership of strategic Canadian resources.
In addition to Harper's mounting challenges over the proposed $15 Billion buyout of Canadian oil and gas firm Nexen by Chinese state-owned CNOOC, several prominent Canadian voices - including Federal Green Party Leader Elizabeth May and Council of Canadians founder and world-renowned trade expert Maude Barlow - have piped up about a controversial trade deal quietly signed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper last month, which they say would give unprecedented rights to Chinese corporations over Canadian resources.
As the tide of opposition to the Nexen deal continues to rise, Harper was forced to acknowledge this week, “This particular transaction raises a range of difficult policy questions, difficult and forward-looking issues.”
That's putting it mildly.
The Nexen deal is problematic for the Conservatives for three main reasons:
Public opinion is squarely against it, with some 70% of Canadians opposing it and four in ten viewing China as a threat, according to National Post columnist John Ivison (who nevertheless urges Harper to approve the deal as it's in Canada's best long-term interests)
The Official Opposition has finally come out against the deal this week and appears poised to make political hay with its position.
On that last point, Congressman Ed Markey, the ranking Democrat on the House Committee of Natural Resources, wrote to US Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner in July, imploring his office to block the deal (someone needs to inform the congressman that this deal doesn't technically fall under Geithner's jurisdiction, but it's nevertheless a noteworthy and influential objection). Wrote Markey, “Giving valuable American resources away to wealthy multinational corporations is wasteful but giving valuable American resources away to a foreign government is far worse.”
Apparently even the Americans - whose resources these are not - recognize the danger in handing them over to the Chinese!
NDP Energy and Natural Resources Critic Peter Julian laid out his party's opposition to the deal at a press conference Thursday, as reported by the Globe and Mail:
New Democrats “cannot support the rubber-stamping of the CNOOC takeover of Nexen,” Mr. Julian said. “We cannot see the net benefit when we look at a variety of concerns and criteria that have been raised by the Canadian public.” Those concerns, he said, included the environmental and human-rights record of CNOOC, the potential for job losses and the risk of decision-making gravitating away from Nexen’s Calgary head office, plus risks to national security.
It is this "net benefit" test, under the Investment Canada Act, that is at the core of the decision Harper faces - which is expected by October 12, but can and may well be delayed by another month. The NDP has expressed doubt that the Harper Government will conduct this "net benefit" test in a transparent enough manner to reassure Canadians.
According to the party's industry critic Helene LeBlanc, “By studying this transaction behind closed doors and not specifying what criteria they used to determine what represents a net benefit for the country, the Conservatives have given us no choice. When in doubt, it’s best to back off.”
Conservative Industry Minister Christian Paradis called the NDP's position “reckless and irresponsible” in a news release.
Meanwhile, Harper's quiet trade deal with China has drawn heated rebuke the past several weeks, as the two issues inevitably dovetail into each other.
A bilateral investment treaty between Canada and China, which was signed earlier this month and made public by the Harper government yesterday, will put unacceptable constraints on Canadian energy and environmental policy...The organization is once again calling on MPs to reject the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA), and to stop signing what are essentially corporate rights pacts inside standalone treaties and Canada’s broader free trade agreements.
The organization's National Chairperson, Maude Barlow, drew together FIPA and the Nexen deal, stating, “Canadians need to know that as Harper considers selling off Canadian energy firms to foreign investors in China and elsewhere, he’s also signing investment pacts that let these firms sue the federal government when delays or environmental protection measures interfere with profits.”
Council of Canadians' Trade Campaigner Stewart Trew suggested these deals do little to promote investment, as is their stated mandate. "They are very useful, on the other hand, for extorting governments when things don’t go their way. That could be delays or cancellations to energy and mining projects, environmental policies that eat into profits, even financial rules designed to create stability or avoid crises can be challenged."
Green Party of Canada Leader Elizabeth May shared many of these concerns with the House of Commons this week, calling for an emergency debate on FIPA, suggesting it bears “grave and sweeping implications for Canada’s sovereignty, security, and democracy.”
In a statement on her website this week, May said, “I pointed out in my notice to the Speaker that this is perhaps the most significant trade agreement since NAFTA, and the fact that it can be negotiated and ratified behind closed doors is very corrosive to our democracy.”
“I also realize that an emergency debate is far from sufficient under the circumstances, but it might be the only opportunity Parliamentarians have to review and discuss FIPA before we are bound to it for the next 15 years, especially if neither the NDP nor the Liberals focus on it during their Opposition Days.”
Whether FIPA receives its due attention politically - let alone gets cancelled - remains to seen, but the more it becomes connected to the clearly unpopular Nexen deal in the coming weeks, the more scrutiny it will face.
The exploding national debate around theses issues puts Harper in a tough spot. On the one hand, the Prime Minister has been very clear about his policy vision for the country - and expanding energy trade to Asia has been the centre plank in this platform, underscored by a visit to China earlier this year, during which energy issues were the main topic of discussion. He has made public and private commitments to Asian trading partners and to the Canadian oil patch.
Moreover, with US leaders promising to become far more self-sufficient in oil and gas resources over the next decade by massively boosting domestic production, there is increasing pressure on Canada to develop new export markets for its fossil fuels.
And yet, as prospects for the proposed Enbridge pipeline continue to wane and opposition mounts to Nexen and this new trade deal, the Prime Minster is gambling his political future on an increasingly unpopular strategy - whether he believes it's in the country's best interests or not. Add to that the concerns raised by CSIS last month about threats to Canada's national security from such deals and you have a recipe for real political problems if the PM continues down this path.
As University of Ottawa Law Professor Penny Collenette put it in the Globe and Mail's story yesterday, with the NDP jumping on the issue, “Now it is burst wide open onto the political scene,” and becoming “a kitchen table national debate.”
That's the last thing Stephen Harper's energy plan needs right now.
Read this story from the Globe and Mailon a new card played this week by BC Premier Christy Clark in her debate with Alberta over shared benefits from the proposed Enbridge pipeline - this time the threat of withholding the electricity required to power the pipeline as it passes through her province. (Oct. 2, 2012)
British Columbia Premier Christy Clark has issued a veiled threat to withhold electricity needed to operate controversial oil sands pipelines if the projects do not meet her demands.
Ms. Clark, when asked Tuesday what steps her province could take to block projects like Enbridge Inc.’s Northern Gateway, went beyond pointing to the 60 regulatory permits B.C. could deny.
“British Columbia’s power would be required to power up the pipeline, from B.C. Hydro – a Crown corporation,” she said while speaking to students from University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy. “There are a whole number of different things the British Columbia government could do.”
B.C. Hydro did not return a call seeking comment.
Ms. Clark is trying to convince Alberta her five demands – three environmental, one tied to First Nations rights, and another linked to economic compensation – must be met if pipelines carrying heavy oil are to snake through B.C.
“You know what, though? To me, all the speculation about how British Columbia would stop it is kind of silly,” she later told reporters. “Because if British Columbia doesn’t give its consent to this, there is no way the federal government or anyone else in the country is going to be able to force it through. It just won’t happen.”
“I think Premier Clark did something really good to set out those five conditions,” he said at a separate conference Tuesday. “Now people have to figure out whether they can be met, should be met, or how they can be met.”
Alison Redford, Alberta’s Premier, has sharply rejected any suggestions that her province would share bitumen royalties or tax revenue with its neighbour. The premiers met Monday for a short minute meeting they both described as “frosty.”
“A 15 minute conversation isn’t going to be enough,” Mr. March said. “I think there’s a role for both provinces, the leadership of both provinces, to play and there’s a role for our industry to play, too.”
Ms. Clark also said Tuesday B.C. is unprepared for marine oil spills even though crude is already being shipped out of a port near Vancouver.
Read this story from CBC.caon BC Liberal MLA John Rustad's recent attempt to inject the controversy around the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline with a new twist - resurrecting the argument for opening BC's coast to offshore oil and gas development. The notion, first posted on the MLA's facebook page, has drawn widespread criticism and dismissal from Rustad's leader, Premier Christy Clark. (Oct. 2, 2012)
Despite the debate already raging between B.C. and Alberta over the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, one backbench Liberal MLA wants to start a dialogue about offshore drilling in B.C.
Nechako Lakes Liberal MLA John Rustad recently posted a message on Facebook about the merits of oil exploration.
"With the debate raging around pipelines I'm sure there isn't much appetite for offshore oil and gas," he wrote. "However, if B.C. is ever going to become debt free, one day this is going to have to happen."
Rustad wants to put the idea of oil exploration off B.C.’s coast on the table — despite the political consequences.
"If it can be done environmentally sound, if it's something that can meet our standards, if there's a significant benefit, then we should have that conversation and it should be considered," he told CBC News.
No Support from Premier Clark
But the proposition has no support from the premier.
B.C. Premier Christy Clark spoke with Alberta Premier Alison Redford Monday about the five conditions B.C. says need to be met before the province will support Enbridge's bid to build the pipeline, which would run from the Alberta oilsands across B.C. to the port of Kitimat.
Clark is demanding compensation for the environmental risks involved in the pipeline project.
"I think that we've got our hands full with just this Enbridge pipeline," Clark said, adding it’s not an idea she’s entertaining at the moment.
Still, the B.C. New Democrats have jumped on Rustad’s comments.
"Mr. Rustad is being irresponsible by re-opening a deeply divisive debate about bringing further risks to our coastline that would affect the environment, the economy, First Nations, and all British Columbians," NDP environment critic Rob Fleming said in a release.
"While the premier has failed to truly stand up for British Columbia on the Enbridge pipeline, I hope she will at least clarify her government’s position on offshore drilling."
First, I’m beginning to feel sorry for Premier Christy Clark. She is a very nice person, personable and able to speak. What she is not capable of doing is speaking sensibly or making decisions that make sense.
It seems obvious to me that she is getting wretched advice and nowhere is this more evident than on the pipeline issue.
Let me illustrate.
The Premier, some months ago, laid down some rules that would govern her government’s environmental response to pipelines and added that to a demand for money from Premier Alison Redford of Alberta. The conditions were silly motherhood stuff and didn’t contain the one most British Columbians want - public hearings that would let people say whether or not they want these pipelines in the first place. This is, I daresay, a foreign concept to the Liberal government but the public know they are not able to express their opinions on the wisdom of the projects in the first place.
In fact, Premier Clark has avoided that issue like the plague.
Reviews like the Enbridge Joint Panel Review - and the Cohen Commission as an example - realize that some entities have a greater issue to deal with than Joe Citizen and grant them the status to call witnesses, cross-examine government and industry witnesses and that sort of thing. This could not possibly be a mistake, but a deliberate decision. I don’t have much use for environmental hearings but at least British Columbians could hear what the evidence is. This was an egregious error obviously designed to let Ms. Clark act like the three monkeys.
She is quoted thusly: "There is no amount of money that can make up for an unacceptable risk when it comes to our oceans, our coast and our land."
Noble sentiments to be sure, but since Premier Redford supports the pipelines and tanker traffic and is content to have the federal government cram them past BC opposition - and bearing in mind that Premier Redford has made it clear that Alberta won’t give BC a nickel - the only purpose for Ms. Clark to crash Ms. Redford’s office is to make it appear to folks at home that she’s doing something.
She is making a fool of all of us, painting us as supplicants to Premier Redford’s throne and the gold that is there.
This must be borne in mind: the oil revenues from the tar sands belong to Alberta under the constitution. If she were to take some of that money and give it to BC, not only would she be a damned fool - Alberta voters would eat her alive.
Premier Clark’s bleating about “risks to BC” is bullshit as she and the rest of us know. Even Enbridge admits that the chances of a spill are overwhelming. Clark is playing us for fools. it is egregious, disingenuous nonsense rivaled only by Bill Clinton’s assertion that, “I did not have sex with that woman.”
Still Afraid of the Big, Bad Wolf
On another note, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Back in 1979, the Ministry of Environment was poisoning wolves in northern BC because, allegedly, they were killing cattle. There wasn’t a particle of evidence that this was happening, certainly not on a large scale. Within days of becoming minister I put a stop to the program, hired a man - an elderly fishing buddy of mine whom I trusted implicitly - to go through the area getting evidence, if there was any, of packs of wolves destroying cattle. Sandy was one if these guys who could find out things without anyone realizing he was asking questions.
He reported back to me that he could find no evidence of a major problem .
He told me of the case of a wolf pack driving a herd of cattle onto a frozen lake which caved in from the weight and the wolves devoured them. Interesting that wolves could kill cattle in the water and feast upon them without drowning themselves.
The interesting part is that three different ranchers in three different areas told the same story!
Despite all their bleating, ranchers couldn’t offer any evidence whatsoever.
The ranchers were claiming their losses were due to wolves to cover up their own bad husbandry.
It’s interesting to ask what the hell were all those cattle doing out on the range in temperatures that would freeze a lake?
A Socred back bencher, Cyril Shelford, and his seemingly unlimited number of brothers organized a huge rally and dared me to show my face.
I did - not through bravery but because Premier Bill Bennett would likely have fired me if I didn’t appear.
It was a very ugly meeting and I admit I was scared. When I was finally permitted to speak I said, “this is the first time in history where a man has been run into town on a rail.”
The humour of the remark escaped the 500 incensed ranchers.
The moratorium I imposed remains. Now the ranchers have popped up with claims that seem, after 33 years, to have suddenly re-appeared. Once again, the ranchers, by their own admission, are utterly unable to supply one scintilla of evidence.
The Minister of Environment should politely give the ranchers the international words for “go away”.