Stand up Canada
“We become civilized only by knowing what to refrain from doing.” – Nassim Taleb
We have been warned.
The Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline will change Canada as we know it; it is a path to a future Canada that will be an undemocratic petro state.
That was the message delivered Wednesday (May 30) by award-winning author Andrew Nikiforuk and Art Sterritt, executive director of the Coastal First Nations, to an audience of about 270 people in Nelson.
The current debate over the proposed pipeline and potential tripling of output from Alberta’s tar sands “will define the future of this country,” said Nikiforuk.
Sterritt said “oil changes people’s culture” and that “there will be no turning back if you let this culture take over.”
In a panel discussion after the speeches, Revelstoke biologist Meghan Anderson cautioned that Canada “will lose democracy with Bill C-38,” the 425-page omnibus budget bill introduced by the Stephen Harper government that gives the federal cabinet the authority to approve new pipeline projects, sets timelines for environmental assessment hearings, overhauls the Fisheries Act to focus only on major waterways, not every single body of water, and makes changes to how permits under the Species at Risk Act are authorized, among a host of about 70 changes to Canadian laws and regulations.
Anderson was the organizer of a May 22 community meeting with Kootenay-Columbia Conservative MP David Wilks, during which Wilks expressed concerns about the far-reaching impact of the legislation, arguing that it should be split up, and urging “If Canadians want it changed, then enough Canadians have to stand (up) to their MPs and say ‘no.’ ”
After a video of the morning meeting with 30 constituents was posted on YouTube, Wilks recanted his concerns and expressed his support for the bill, perhaps after a stern lecture from the prime minister’s office.
Nikiforuk is the author of Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent, the winner of both the City of Calgary W.O. Mitchell Book Prize and the Rachel Carson Environment Book Award, presented by the Society of Environmental Journalists.
In his speech, he presented an astounding array of facts relating to tar sands development:
- The Northern Gateway pipeline will result in 300 to 400 supertankers annually having to negotiate the treacherous waters of BC’s northern coastline;
- The ships will likely be owned by PetroChina and Sinopec, two companies that are only accountable to the Communist Party of China;
- The natural gas required to upgrade tar sands’ bitumen could heat six million Canadian homes a day, which Nikiforuk likened to “using gold to produce lead”;
- Two tonnes of sand need to be dug out of the ground to produce one barrel of oil;
- Tar sands excavation has covered an area the size of Florida or the equivalent of seven Panama Canals and has produced 170 square miles of mining waste;
- 30 percent of Canada’s exports are now bitumen, “so our dollar is tied to this resource” and one-third of Canada’s manufacturing job losses can be blamed on bitumen exports;
- Oil companies in Norway receive 22 percent of the net revenues generated by production off the country’s coast, while companies in Alberta get 53 percent of the net revenues from the tar sands;
- Norway has created a $500 billion fund from its oil revenues, while Alberta has had a deficit budget for three years in a row;
- It is estimated that an oil spill caused by a pipeline leak or tanker accident could cost $20 billion to clean up, yet the oil companies have only had to set aside $1 billion for such an occurrence.
In his conclusion, Nikiforuk urged the audience to say no to the pipeline, demand a national debate on tar sands development, and demand a national carbon tax.
“You have everything to lose and nothing to gain in this province” [from the Northern Gateway and tar sands expansion], said Nikiforuk.
Sterritt said the pipeline and tanker traffic will “change the way we live forever” and that one accident “would wipe out what’s been there for 10,000 years.”
He said First Nations are being “confronted by a culture that has no conscience” and accused oil companies like Enbridge of “trying to change the whole culture of BC and Canada.”
“One spill will diminish us [First Nations] into poverty,” he said. “We’re fighting for democracy in BC.
“Oil doesn’t provide any of the necessities of life but it can destroy them,” said Sterritt, concluding that “if we don’t stop this project, we’re in serious trouble.”
After hearing Nikiforuk and Sterritt speak about the dangers inherent in tar sands development and the Northern Gateway Pipeline, I’m convinced this is a project that we must refrain from doing. Anderson’s condemnation of Bill C-38 clearly informed me that we need to stand up and refuse to let this legislation pass unchallenged.
It is our duty as caring Canadians.
Michael Jessen is a Nelson eco-writer, the owner of the consultancy Zero Waste Solutions, and the energy critic for the Green Party of BC. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
RESOURCES – The Nelson forum was organized by the Nelson Chapter of the Council of Canadians (http://www.canadians.org/index.html) Kootenays for a Pipeline-Free BC which has a Facebook page, and the Kootenay Region Branch United Nations Association in Canada.
Andrew Nikiforuk has a website at http://andrewnikiforuk.com/
The Coastal First Nations has a website at http://www.coastalfirstnations.ca/
The David Wilks YouTube videos can be seen at (Part 1) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pnGgqEpfkCw&feature=relmfu; (Part 2) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zMOWARz9dp8&feature=relmfu; (Part 3) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1SQXZUUK6F0
The Revelstoke Current has a report on the Wilks meeting with constituents at http://www.revelstokecurrent.com/2012/05/25/mp-walks-the-fine-line-between-party-loyalty-and-constituent-representation/
Green Party leader Elizabeth May says Canada is being controlled by an “oiligarchy” and is going to attempt a filibuster by introducing amendments to C-38 and snarl its passage through Parliament. Her May 30 interview on the CBC show As It Happens is at http://www.cbc.ca/asithappens/features/2012/05/30/elizabeth-may/
Protests against Bill C-38 will take place on June 2 across Canada. Time and place of the 27 events in BC can be found at http://blackmark.leadnow.ca/location/bc/
An analysis of the downside of tar sands development and its economic consequences for Canada is contained in the latest report from the Pembina Institute. In the Shadow of the Boom can be accessed at http://www.pembina.org/pub/2345
The Macdonald-Laurier Institute has a commentary No Dutch Treat: Oil and Gas Wealth Benefits All of Canada at http://www.macdonaldlaurier.ca/commentary-no-dutch-treat-oil-and-gas-wealth-benefits-all-parts-of-canada/
Details of opposition to Enbridge’s latest ad campaign to promote the Northern Gateway as “The Path to Our Future” are in a Vancouver Sun article at http://www.vancouversun.com/business/Enbridge+aims+campaign+opposition/6699370/story.html
Enbridge’s website about the project is at http://www.northerngateway.ca/