How far will Stephen Harper and his ministers go to ensure maximum profits to their friends in the oil patch to the exclusion of all other interests? Well, if an “open” letter from Joe Oliver, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources, is any indication, far enough to risk painting all those who have serious concerns about Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline project — foreign or domestic, extremist-green to small-c conservative blue — with the same, unflattering, dismissive brush.
Wrote Oliver in the letter released on Sunday (Jan. 9), “Unfortunately, there are environmental and other radical groups that would seek to block this opportunity to diversify our trade. Their goal is to stop any major project no matter what the cost to Canadian families in lost jobs and economic growth.
“No forestry. No mining. No oil. No gas. No more hydro-electric dams… these groups threaten to hijack our regulatory system to achieve their radical ideological agenda… They use funding from foreign special-interest groups to undermine Canada’s national economic interest.”
Certainly, a few of those who have signed up to speak at the National Energy Board hearings for the pipeline project are not Canadians, a few no doubt represent far-left environmental groups that might fit Oliver’s “radical” description.
But the vast majority of those who will speak, and those who have deep-seated concerns about the pipeline and the corresponding increase in oil supertanker traffic that would come along with it, fit neither description. They are simply hard-working people who don’t want to see the almost-inevitable oil spill spoil B.C.’s environment, possibly for decades to come. Some probably even voted Conservative in the May 2011 federal election.
Stated Green Party Leader Elizabeth May in a response to Oliver published on the online news site The Tyee, “I think your role as Natural Resources Minister has been hijacked by the PMO spin machine. The PMO is, in turn, hijacked by the foreign oil lobby… ”
“The idea that First Nations, conservation groups, and individuals opposed to the Northern Gateway pipeline are opposed to all forestry, mining, hydroelectric and gas is not supported by the facts.”
On Monday (Jan. 10), Art Sterritt, a leader of the Haida First Nation, said at the launch of the NEB pipeline hearings in Kitimat, “We’ve got an Alberta prime minister trying to bully British Columbians.”
Certainly, some British Columbians and B.C. communities would benefit economically from the pipeline. What those opposed to the pipeline — yes, including most of the First Nations most directly affected as well as virtually all environmental/conservation groups, foreign influence or no — are saying is that the very real risk of frequent spills on land and/or along the now-pristine B.C. coastline outweigh those benefits.
Those aren’t radicals and they aren’t foreign devils. They’re your citizens and constituents, Mr. Oliver, which prompts this writer to join Elizabeth May in asking, “Who’s hijacking what here?”
— David Burke