On Monday (Oct. 22), thousands of British Columbians including labour leaders, celebrities and environmentalists are set to gather on the lawn of the legislature in Victoria to demonstrate their opposition to heavy-oil pipelines carrying tar-sands product across the province. Ostensibly, the aim is to convince the B.C. government to stop hedging and just say no to Enbridge’s Northern Gateway proposal.
But the real object of their opposition will be 3,000 kilometres away — in Ottawa.
Last week it became even more clear than ever to Canadians just who’s trying to sell the farm here, and it’s neither Christy Clark nor Enbridge. According to journalist Andrew Nikiforuk, writing for the online news site The Tyee, Stephen Harper is quietly trying to sneak through the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Act (FIPPA). The deal, set to become law on Nov. 1, “would give Sinopec, one of the big Chinese backers of the Northern Gateway pipeline, the right to sue the government of British Columbia if it blocks the project.” It also gives Chinese state-owned companies “the right to full protection and security from public opposition.”
Writing in this space back in January, this writer asked, “How far will Stephen Harper and his ministers go to ensure maximum profits for their friends in the oil patch to the exclusion of all other interests?” At the time, we were bemoaning statements from Harper’s Minister of Natural Resources, Joe Oliver, calling those who oppose Northern Gateway a bunch of foreign-funded radical extremists — as if anyone who questions the project can be painted with the same brush.
Since then, we’ve seen the PM ram through Bill C-38, which significantly reduced environmental protections in the Fisheries Act and the Environmental Assessment Act, with no debate on the House of Commons.
And now with FIPPA, Harper shows us just how far he’s willing to go — again, with no debate planned in Parliament. This from a PM who last week had the gall to tout the merits of Canadian-style democracy during a visit to Africa. Those demonstrators in Victoria should really be decrying the systematic dismantling of our democratic institutions — hoping that their shouts can be heard not just across the street, but all the way across the country in Ottawa.
— David Burke