Canadian Government Continues to Choose Dirty Energy Over Democracy
Why, when so many people oppose the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project, would government and industry resort to such extreme measures to push it through?
The problems with the plan to run pipelines from the Alberta tar sands across northern B.C. to load unrefined, diluted bitumen onto supertankers for export to China and elsewhere are well-known: threats to streams, rivers, lakes and land from pipeline leaks; the danger of contaminated ocean ecosystems from tanker spills; rapid expansion of the tar sands; and the climate change implications of continued wasteful use of fossil fuels.
The benefits aren’t as apparent. Some short-term and fewer long-term jobs, possibly for foreign workers, and increased profits for the oil industry—including state-owned Chinese companies—are all we’re being offered in exchange for giving up our resources, interests and future, putting ecosystems at risk and forfeiting due democratic process.
Our government is ramming through another omnibus budget bill, and is set to sign a deal with China, both of which seem aimed at facilitating the pipeline and other resource-extraction projects. Its first budget bill gutted environmental protection laws, especially those that might obstruct pipeline plans. It also limited input from the public and charitable organizations, and included measures to crack down on charities that engage in political advocacy.
The recent 457-page omnibus budget bill goes even further. Among other changes, it revises the Navigable Waters Protection Act (renamed the Navigation Protection Act) to substantially reduce waterways that must be considered for protection and exempt pipelines from regulations.
Meanwhile, the government is set to sign a 31-year deal on Oct. 31 that will give China’s government significant control over Canada’s resources and even over Canadians’ rights to question projects like Northern Gateway. The Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement would allow China to sue Canada, outside of our borders and behind closed doors, if the pipeline deal were blocked or China’s interests in our resource industry hindered; for example, if the B.C. government were to stop Northern Gateway. It also gives the Chinese state-owned companies “the right to full protection and security from public opposition,” as well as the right to use Chinese labor and materials on projects in which it has invested.
According to author and investigative journalist Andrew Nikiforuk, writing for the Tyee, “The deal does not require provincial consent. It comes without any risk-benefit analysis. And it can be ratified into law without parliamentary debate.”
Why would anyone want to sell out our interests, democratic processes and future like this? And why would we put up with it? On the first question, Gus Van Harten, an international investment law professor at Osgoode Hall Law School, told DeSmogBlog we must consider the possibility that government and industry know that changes in attitudes about fossil fuel extraction “may lead to new regulations on the oil patch, in that, climate can’t just be wished away forever, and that governments might take steps to regulate the oil patch in ways that investors wouldn’t like.” He continues, “If you bring in a lot of Chinese investments, and you sign the Canada investment deal, you kind of get the Chinese investors to do your dirty work for you.”
In other words, as the world recognizes the already extreme and increasing consequences of global warming and shifts from wastefully burning fossil fuels to conservation and renewable energy, tar sands bitumen may soon become uneconomical. The goal is to dig it up, sell it and burn it as quickly as possible while there’s still money to be made. It’s cynical and suicidal, but it’s the kind of thinking that is increasingly common among those who see the economy as the highest priority—over human health and the air, water, soil and biodiverse ecosystems that keep us alive.
What can we do? Prof. Van Harten has written to provincial governments urging them to ask the federal government to “stop the rushed ratification” of the China deal. We should all demand that our leaders put the interests of Canadians now and into the future ahead of short-sighted and destructive industrial ambitions. The budget bill and trade deal are not democratic in content or implementation. We need to take back democracy.
Visit EcoWatch’s PIPELINE page for more related news on this topic.
Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Communications Manager Ian Hanington.
Learn more at www.davidsuzuki.org.
For more insights from David Suzuki, please read Everything Under the Sun (Greystone Books/David Suzuki Foundation), by David Suzuki and Ian Hanington, now available in bookstores and online.
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When Leaders and Doctors Spread Misinformation<p>When people in charge of towns, cities, states, and countries spread misinformation, the potential for belief in misinformation to result in policies can have harmful effects.</p><p><a href="https://www.northwell.edu/find-care/find-a-doctor?q=Bruce+E.+Hirsch%2C+MD&insurance=&location=&query_type=provider&physician_partners=false&default_view=list&gender=&language=&sort=relevancy" target="_blank">Dr. Bruce E. Hirsch</a>, attending physician and assistant professor in the infectious disease division of Northwell Health in Manhasset, New York, says an example of this is when President Trump informed the public he was taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventive measure.</p><p>"To approach this enormous challenge, we need some intellectual honesty and clarity, and to disregard expertise and to make decisions and model decisions based on hunches is inviting us to handle challenges on the basis of rumor and uninformed opinion. The magnitude of that error is epic," Hirsch told Healthline.</p><p>Stukus agrees, noting that the harm of this proclamation is documented.</p><p>"Early on when the president touted the benefits of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, people started to hoard this medicine, and state boards had to shut it down because they were getting so many prescriptions for this unproven therapy that it was not available for those who truly needed it, such as those who have lupus and autoimmune conditions," Stukus said.</p><p>He adds that calls to poison control centers increased after the president suggested using disinfectant to prevent contracting the new coronavirus.</p>
Listen to Science, Even When it Changes<p>When recommendations change or evidence flip-flops, skepticism may arise. However, Stukus says change is the beauty of science.</p><p>"That shows us that we can evolve, and if the evidence shows that our prior thoughts were incorrect, we need to be able to change our recommendations and advice based upon the best quality of evidence at the time," he said.</p><p>Pierre agrees.</p><p>"Science is an iterative process, whereby we arrive at facts and truth through repeated and controlled observations. That means that it's inherently self-correcting as we revise conclusions based on ongoing research. Scientific facts aren't immutable dogma chiseled on a tablet. They change based on the best available evidence we have at a given point in time," he said.</p><p>Because research of COVID-19 has only been underway for 6 months, information is evolving rapidly, and new information may contradict old.</p><p>"There's still much we don't know about exactly how [COVID-19] spreads, what effects it has on the body, or how to best treat it. That means that the best available evidence is preliminary, but that doesn't mean that we should ignore it or turn to other sources of information or opinion as if they're just as valid," Pierre said.</p><p>He explains that conspiracy theories based on mistrust lead to vulnerability to misinformation.</p><p>If people mistrust science because it sometimes "changes its mind," Pierre said, "that shouldn't be used to embrace other opinions based on no evidence at all, which are typically selected based on confirmation bias: what we want to believe rather than what the objective evidence supports."</p>
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