On Pipelines, Parks, and Rhetoric

I could start this post apologizing for not writing more recently, but things are pretty crazy busy and… well.. most of my recent posts have been of the “haven’t written much lately” genre, so just read one of those if you come here for lame excuses.

I did stay up last night to see Stephen Harper talk to Peter Mansbridge. The take-away quote for me came when the Prime Minister suggested :

“But just because certain people in the United States would like to see Canada be one giant national park for the northern half of North America, I don’t think that’s part of what our review process is all about.”

First off, for those interested in the he art of rhetoric, this is a textbook example of a “Strawman Fallacy”. This is when you re-phrase your opponent’s argument using a deliberately extreme caricature of it. You then argue not against your opponent’s actual position, but against the extreme caricature of your own creation. The name comes from the idea of building up an effigy of your opponent, but make it of straw so that it is easy for you to defeat.

Like most logically fallacies, it is pulled out when you cannot refute your opponents’ actual position. Really, the only way it works is if his opponent falls for it, and tries to defend the Strawman position without realizing that it is an exaggerated version of their position.

So, just to prove it is a crappy Strawman, I’m going to do exactly that.

The Northern Gateway Pipeline has benefits to BC, no doubt. According to the Astroturf organization the Northern Gateway Alliance , these benefits can be counted as 3000 short-term jobs, 500 long-term jobs, and $1.2Billion in tax revenue over 30 years (that is $40Million a year). That is pretty impressive.

However, compare that to the benefits Alberta receives from its National Parks. According to the Albera government, just Alberta’s Rocky Mountain National parks provide almost 20,000 fulltime jobs (40x that of the Northern Gateway), $1.14 Billion in annual revenue, and $398 Million in government revenue every year (more than 10x the Northern Gateway).

I’m with Steve! It’s a no-brainer. Lets us stop the Northern Gateway Pipeline and open the Northern Gateway National Park. Have you seen that part of the Province? it is spectacular! One Peter Jackson movie, and we’re in gravy!

Even if it only sees 10% of the visitors of Banff, we will still be way ahead economically, and we don’t have to worry about the long-term environmental impacts, the oil tankers, the GHG emissions, or anything. Best thing is that this is sustainable in the long run, and it wouldn’t require us slowing down on Bituminous Sands extraction at all, as there are already plenty of places to ship the stuff. Or maybe we can start refining it domestically and see some value added, but I am digressing here…

OF course, I am being facetious (a little bit), but really, this just puts the lie to the biggest logical fallacy that is made by Stephen Harper here, and by his entire “you are with us, or you are radicals” crowd: the false dichotomy they create between environmental protection and economic development. I’m not just saying that both can exist simultaneously, I’m saying that they had better exist simultaneously.

Otherwise, what future do we have?

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