Oliver’s twisted logic
Minister attacks Canadians who care
Joe Oliver accused pipeline opponents of being radicals
Caring about the air, water and land that give us life. Knowing that sacrificing our environment to a corporate-controlled economy is suicide. If those qualities make us radicals, as federal Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver recently claimed, then I will wear the label proudly.
But is it radical to care for our country, our world, our children and grandchildren, our future? It seems more radical for a government to come out swinging in favour of an industrial project in advance of public hearings.
The proposed Northern Gateway and Keystone XL pipeline projects and the massive expansion of the tar sands are not about finding the best way to serve Canada’s national interests. If we truly wanted to create jobs, we would refine the oil in Canada and use it to reduce our reliance on imported oil. If we really cared about using resources for the national interest, we would slow development in the tar sands, improve environmental standards, increase royalties and put some of the money away or use it to switch to cleaner energy, eliminate subsidies to the fossil fuel industry and encourage Canadian companies to develop the resource.
Instead, we are called radicals for daring to even question the wisdom of selling entire tar sands operations to China’s state-owned oil companies and building a pipeline so that the repressive government of China, rather than Canadians, can reap most of the benefits. We are radical because we are concerned about the real dangers of oil-filled supertankers moving through narrow fiords with unpredictable weather conditions and through some of the last pristine ecosystems on earth. We are condemned by our own government because we question the safety of two pipelines crossing more than 1,000 streams and rivers — a reasonable concern, in light of the more than 800 pipeline spills that Enbridge, the company in charge of the Northern Gateway, has had since 1999.
And so here we are, a country with a government that boasts of our “energy superpower” status but doesn’t even have a national energy plan. A country willing to sacrifice its manufacturing industry, its opportunities in the green-energy economy and the health of its people for short-term profits.
Our government is supposed to represent the interests of all Canadians and not just those who voted for it or the corporations that support it. Instead we have a government that hurls insults at us.
While an investment banker like Joe Oliver or a former oil industry economist like Stephen Harper may look at Canada and only see numbers, we see a country rich in natural resources, wildlife, clean water and a diverse population of educated and caring people.
With recent or pending federal reviews into environmental regulation we can expect more attacks and more attempts to silence those who believe that we must at least have a discussion about our priorities before selling out our country to anyone who wants a piece. Maybe it’s time to get radical!
David Suzuki is host of CBC’s The Nature of Things and author of more than 30 books on ecology.