The Environmental Assessment for the Northern Gateway pipeline project has started its public consultation stage. As is typical, the Harper Government has used this potentially-divisive event not to demonstrate leadership, but instead to draw sharp the divisions, and to demonstrate it doesn’t respect due process or the laws of the nation.
It started a few days ago when Steve declared that he was going to make sure radical groups with foreign funding don’t “hijack” the process. Now Steve may have his faults, but using language loosely is not one of them. Every message sent out by the PMO is carefully crafted to frame the discussion. Therefore, his choice to use the language of the War on Terror (“radical”,”foreign”,”hijack”) is designed to intentionally draw anyone who values environmental sustainability over the profits of Multi-national Oil Companies as non-Canadian, and not to be trusted. You are with Enbridge or you are against us.
Then he sent one of his less familiar minions, Joe Oliver, to sign a highly inappropriate and inflammatory “open letter”. The inflammatory part is obvious (read “radical ideological agenda”,”foreign special interest groups”, “radical groups”), but the inappropriate part comes from what he does for a living. As the Minister of Natural Resources and a member of the Conservative Cabinet, he is one of the people who will need to review and eventually approve or reject, this project: a job best done, in my humble opinion, after the data-gathering and the public hearings, and after the Joint Review Panel makes a recommendation. Actually it’s not just my opinion, it is the Law.
Given the nature of the open letter, how could anyone conclude the Joint Review Panel is anything but a sham process, when it is clear that the Federal Government as already made up its mind. You are with them, or you are against Enbridge.
Once again, Elizabeth May is the only one in Parliament standing up and speaking truth to power.
I keep on jumping on and off the Elizabeth May bandwagon, but with this open letter and her frighteningly frank comments coming out of Durban, I can see myself enjoying my current bandwagon seat for quite some time. I know many members of our Loyal Opposition feel the same way on this topic as May, but the realities of a large party system probably limit their ability to speak as clearly and truthfully as She does in response to John Oliver. Why, oh suffering Canadian Media, do we give Kevin O’Leary more air time than Elizabeth May? looking for inspiration in the vacuum left by Jack Layton? Read her blog. I digress…
Since he raised the spectre of “foreign special interest groups”, I might just agree with the concern expressed by Minister Oliver, except that all of those pejorative terms are so poorly defined. What is a “special interest group?”
Looking at the Joint Review Panel documents, one can actually see who is planning to hijack this process.
“Interveners” are interested stakeholders who are able to present written or oral evidence to the Panel, and to ask questions of other Interveners when they are presenting evidence. In essence, if you want to “hijack” the process, being an Intervener is the way to do it.
The Joint Review Panel lists 216 registered Interveners. Of those, 91 are private citizens, almost all from the northwest of British Columbia, or those most directly affected by both the positive and negative impacts of the proposed pipeline. There is really no way to know which of those are “for” and which are “against”, or which are just kind of curious. I suspect this group also includes small business owners who may have a vested interest one way or the other, or even journalists, bloggers, and local politico types who just want to take part in the conversation.
The Interveners list includes one labour union that has already expressed opposition to he project, and two academic institutes associated with Universities, who may be presenting evidence, or may just be interested in collecting data for research purposes.
Twelve of the Interveners are governments: BC, Saskatchewan, and a whole bunch of Municipalities. Except that, as Elizabeth May was quick to point out, the First Nations are also effectively governments, and there are no less than 48 First Nations groups listed as Interveners. I wonder if Minister Oliver suspects these as the source of “Foreign interference”?
If not, that leaves us with two more groups: Non-Profits (34) and Corporations and businesses (28). The first group is pretty diverse, including everyone from the T. Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation and the Douglas Channel Watch (whom I think we can safely say are opposed to the project) to oil-industry funded lobby groups like the Oil Sands Developers Group Association, the In Site Oil Sands Alliance, and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, whom we can be equally assured are in favour of the project. I will leave it to you to determine which Non-Profits are more likely to be well funded from abroad, and which are more likely to have the local community’s interests in mind.
Which leaves us with 28 Corporations and businesses. I am not going to presume that all of them are in favour of the pipeline, but seeing as they fall into two main categories: Oil Companies, and companies that contract to Oil Companies, I think the vast majority see oil pipelines as a good thing. Since Minister Oliver seemed specifically incensed by the untoward influence of foreign money, I am going to pass on calling out any Canadian companies (hey, they are Canadian, and Corporations are People too… give ‘em the voice!), and instead call attention to a few of the standouts:
ExxonMobil (Irving, Texas, annual revenue $383 Billion), and their subsidiary Imperial Oil, are listed as two separate Interveners.
BritishPetroleum (London, UK, annual revenue $309 Billion);
Total E&P (Courbevois, France, annual revenue $203 Billion);
ConocoPhillips (Houston, Texas, annual revenue $198 Billion);
Sinopec (China, annual revenue $197 Billion) as “SinoCanada Petroleum”;
Koch Industries (Wichita, Kansas, annual revenue $100 Billion) as “Flint Hills Resources”;
Inpex (Tokyo, Japan, annual revenue $16 Billion);
Daewoo International (Seoul, South Korea, annual revenue $13 Billion);
Kinder Morgan (Houston, Texas, annual revenues $12 Billion)
Japex (Tokyo, Japan, annual revenue $2.6 Billion) as “Japan Canada Oil Sands”;
So Severn Cullis-Suzuki and the Fort St. James Sustainability Group are going up against an organized group of foreign-owned companies with $1.4 Trillion (with a ”T”) in combined revenue, and our Prime Minister is more concerned about where the Environmental Groups money is coming from? Surely, this is parody.
As an aside, this morning on the radio business news, I hear Chris Carter stating that the high gasoline prices we are seeing now are only partially caused by high crude prices. The biggest reason for high and fluctuating prices is a chronic lack of refining capacity in North America leading to difficult-to-manage inventories.
This is something to talk about. Why are we spending billions setting up systems to export raw crude, when we could use the money to build the needed refining capacity? This would provide way more jobs, would increase the “value added” we receive from the Bituminous Sands, and could potentially lead to more stable fuel prices for Canadian businesses.
The question is, of course, rhetorical. Lower and more stable fuel prices, producing jobs in a relatively expensive labour market, increasing domestic value form Canada’s natural resources: none of these serve the purposes of the real decision makers in Ottawa, the Multi-national Oil Companies with offices in Calgary.