Joe Oliver Again

Imagine that you and I are meeting face-to-face and you ask me, "Why are you laughing?" If I replied, "It's Joe Oliver again." Would you start laughing too? I'm betting you would. The Harper Government's Natural Resources Minister is undeniably entertaining, but only if you are able to completely dismiss the seriousness his portfolio actually deserves. This is, after all, Canada's Natural Resources Minister, but it's also the same guy who:

  • characterized environmental groups as having a "radical ideological agenda"
  • stated you'll be able to drink from tailings' ponds
  • recently appeared to dismiss climate science and global warming, but later allowed his office to issue a correction
  • just yesterday challenged the views of, perhaps, the world's best known climate scientist, James Hansen.

Given the preceding list, it might surprise you to learn that Joe Oliver didn't just fall off of a turnip truck. Joe:

  • is a lawyer
  • has an MBA from Harvard Business School
  • was CEO of the Investment Dealers Association of Canada
  • is an elected MP and Cabinet Minister.

It would be a huge mistake to assume that Joe Oliver's word selection and sentence construction is anything other than carefully chosen. I'm convinced this gentleman knows exactly what he's doing. Although I don't believe that he's related to Glenn Beck, he has a similar penchant for absurd, but payload-laden statements. Unsurprisingly, his hyperbole, apparently excites his Conservative friends.

We're not idiots Joe, it's obvious to almost everyone that you and your Harper Government colleagues are shills for Multinational Oil. Big Oil expects to earn trillions from Canada's tar sands. Bluntly, it's not a surprise that you're doing your level best to help them.

If I was given the opportunity to offer Mr. Oliver a little advice, I would use his own words, "Quite frankly, I think that kind of exaggerated rhetoric, that kind of hyperbole, doesn’t do the cause any good at all. People are sensible. Americans and Canadians are logical people."

News flash: Mr Oliver, we really are sensible and logical. A whopping majority of Canadians have grown weary of the Harper Government's 'Jobs and Prosperity' propaganda and are increasingly concerned about Canada's:

  • environment
  • middle-class
  • reputation
  • future.

Aside: Have you ever wondered how many of the Harper Government's 'Sycophants to Big Oil' will land cushy Corporate Oil jobs when their political careers have come to an end? Just wondering…

We’re Being Played

When I woke up today, my local TV, morning news was highlighting the National Energy Board’s investigation of Enbridge and specifically their pipeline safety record. That’s good news for those of us who oppose the Northern Gateway Pipelines, right? It should be good news, because Enbridge is now infamous for their pipeline leaks. Unfortunately, I had trouble accepting the good news.

Q: Why wasn’t I happy about the news?
A: The sequence and timing of recent pipeline news releases has my gut telling me that we’re being played by Big Oil, Enbridge, the Harper Government and possibly even the NEB.

A classic sales technique is the ‘Feel — Felt — Found’ approach. When a salesperson encounters resistance, referred to as an objection, they will often counter with, “I know how you feel, I felt the same way, until I found…”. Stephen Harper and his merry band of Big Oil sycophants are well aware that there are very significant objections to the planned Northern Gateway Pipelines. To assuage British Columbians, they’ve, for the moment, strategically chosen to appear reasonable, even conciliatory; after all, there’s still plenty of time for them to achieve their ultimate goal of selling tar sand’s bitumen (heavy crude oil) to China.

Here’s what I see as the ‘Feel’ part of the Conservative’s plan:

  • “This project will not survive public scrutiny unless Enbridge takes far more seriously their obligation to engage the public.” – James Moore, Harper Government Cabinet Minister
  • “The only way governments can handle controversial projects of this manner is to ensure that things are evaluated on an independent basis scientifically, and not simply on political criteria…” – Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada

The ‘Felt’ and ‘Found’ parts of Harper’s plan will only become evident when the NEB report is released. I’d be willing to wager that the National Energy Board will report that the Northern Gateway Pipeline’s potential financial benefits to Canada far outweigh the potential, minuscule, environmental risks to British Columbia. When that happens, Stephen Harper will be able to say, “I share the environmental concerns of British Columbians, but today I’m reassured, because independent, scientific analysis has concluded that the Northern Gateway project will be safe and will deliver enormous benefits to all Canadians. It’s a great day for our jobs and prosperity initiative.”

Now, suppose I’m wrong and the NEB actually surprises me by not endorsing the Northern Gateway Pipeline. I imagine that, at that time, Stephen Harper will be forced to reveal his carefully orchestrated agenda. Recall that the Harper Government’s Bill C–38 gave the federal Cabinet the power to overrule the NEB’s recommendation. If this government gets ‘bad’ news from the NEB, I’m convinced they’ll endorse the Northern Gateway Pipelines anyway.

Don’t be misled by their recent statements, everything the Harper Government has done, so far, points toward an ultimate outcome that is favourable to Big Oil, Enbridge, Alberta and China. I don’t trust the Harper Government and neither should you.

Oil Sands are for Canadians

I chose the title ‘Oils Sands are for Canadians’ because, strictly speaking, this is not just another diatribe about Canada’s oil sands, rather it outlines a very exciting paradigm shift.

My thesis is that we’ve all been viewing tar sands’ development from Big Oil’s (the Harper Government’s) perspective. Big oil:

  • doesn’t mind wasting Canada’s water and natural gas
  • has no interest in refining heavy crude oil here in Canada
  • encourages cheap foreign labour to increase their profits
  • isn’t troubled by toxic tailings ponds, CO2 emissions, pipeline leaks, oil spills and supertanker disasters.

Multinational oil and gas corporations are driven by profit and nothing more than delivering money to shareholders. They’re happy to sell Canada’s oil to the highest bidder wherever they might be. Big Oil pockets hundreds of billions of dollars from Canada’s natural resources and Canada is forced to settle for whatever is left.

Environmentalists:

  • would love to see all of our tar sands oil left in the ground

What if we decided to proceed with tar sands development in a balanced and sustainable fashion? What if we focused on the idea that our oil sands are for Canadians?

What if we decided to:

  • stop squandering our precious, raw natural resources
  • scale back bitumen production
  • treasure our fresh water because it will be the key to our future
  • make better use of our natural gas
  • refine heavy crude oil near the source, right here in Canada
  • produce just enough oil to satisfy the Canadian marketplace’s needs
  • gradually eliminate most, if not all, existing long distance pipelines
  • say no to the Northern Gateway Pipelines, Keystone XL Pipeline and Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion
  • invest in massive upgrades of Canada’s railways
  • develop railcars with best-in-class safety standards to transport oil
  • use rail instead of pipelines to transport our oil to all of Canada’s Provinces and Territories
  • use Canada’s oil profits to fund our transition to green technologies, to eliminate our deficits and eventually to eliminate our debt?

My suspicion is that we would:

  • create hundreds of thousands of well-paid Canadian jobs
  • vastly improve Canada’s transportation infrastructure, benefiting all Canadians
  • dramatically reduce pollution of our air, land and water
  • create a balanced Canadian economy ensuring a prosperous future for our grandchildren and future generations.

The Harper Government and their corporate backers have taken us a very long way down an exceptionally risky road in their misguided attempt to generate short term profits. Canadians need better governance. We need big ideas and those ideas rarely originate in the boardrooms of multinational oil and gas corporations.

Canada’s oil sands are for Canadians, they’re not for Big Oil’s shareholders.

The “path to our future” is not a pipeline, it’s better ideas, ideas that focus on Canadians, not corporate greed.

Related article:

  1. Senate energy committee backs sending western oil east

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C-38 Infamy

C–38 Infamy will mark a turning point in Canada’s democracy. My first sentence might sound overstated, but let me explain why it’s bang-on and not hyperbolic. The Harper Government’s arrogance and their dictatorial nature has now been revealed to almost all Canadians, including many within their Conservative base.

“The Harper Government’s arrogance and their dictatorial nature has now been revealed to almost all Canadians, including many within their Conservative base.”

Early in his political career, Stephen Harper was coached, by top-notch Conservative strategists. They taught him how to appear polite, all the while trash-talking his opposition. They also prepared him to simply repeat the conservative mantra:

  • lower taxes
  • more jobs

over and over and over and…

Their stategy worked; Harper defeated more intelligent, altruistic, opposition candidates.

Recall the cliché aphorism, “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely”.

Well, guess what, it did.

When about thirty-nine percent of Canadians, who cast ballots in the last election, gifted the Harper Government a majority, the voters weren’t anticipating what would follow.

Most Canadians value our social democracy and our environment. Very few, if any, Canadians guessed that Stephen Harper planned to devastate our environmental laws, decimate environment-focused infrastructure, muzzle government scientists and environmentalists, so that Canada could become a Petro-State controlled by multinational oil and gas corporations.

For the Harper Government C–38 was a step too far. Most Canadians do not share Stephen Harper’s vision of Canada and I suspect a very significant number of Canadians have been dismayed by what has been happening to our democracy. It’s been embarrassing and even humiliating.

I’m convinced that C–38 has become a rallying cry for those who oppose the Harper Government’s Big Oil agenda.

I’d like to thank Elizabeth May, the Liberals, the NDP and Tom Mulcair for working as hard as they did to draw Canadians’ attention to the very undemocratic Bill C–38.

C–38 has focused everyone’s attention on the arrogant, dictatorial nature of the Harper Government. Canada is a democracy and Canada will not become Harper’s Petro-State. Stephen Harper will not be given the benefit of the doubt next time.

Canada is a Democracy and
Canada Will Not Become Harper’s Petro-State.

Dirtiest Oil on Earth Video

The National Sierra Club (USA) has just released a new video titled, ‘Tar Sands Pipelines: The Dirtiest Oil on Earth’


Dirtiest Oil on Earth Video

What should Canada do with the one of the largest crude oil deposits on Earth (it’s either the 2nd or 3rd largest)? The Sierra Club’s position is even more extreme than my own; they want us to leave all of our heavy crude oil in the ground. I advocate leaving the vast majority of it in the ground, for future technologies and future generations, but I would like to see Canada use our resource today, in a limited way, right here in Canada. Canada is the largest supplier of oil to the United States, but we still import over forty percent (40%) of the oil we consume domestically. Using our own oil today, will pay for our transition to green technologies. We don’t need or want the Northern Gateway Pipelines that will service China and India.

I suspect Big Oil and foreign ownership are demanding that Canada’s Government streamline approval of pipelines to ports, here in Canada and to the United States. Heavy crude oil delivered to Canadian ports will be shipped as is, crude delivered to the USA will be refined before delivery. Multinational oil and gas corporations can earn the biggest profit by selling Canadian oil to countries like China, India and Japan.

Did you know that multinational oil and gas corporations and their shareholders pocket the vast majority of the profits generated from our tar sands?

“In the University of Alberta’s Parkland Institute study, completed in mid-March (2012), the Edmonton-based think-tank concluded the oil and gas industry has raked in $260-billion in pre-tax profits since 1986, while the public received less than $25-billion — less than 6% of the total value.”
– according to The Toronto Sun 20120409 (VINCENT MCDERMOTT, QMI AGENCY)

The Harper Government gets a failing grade for their stewardship of Canada’s environment. Canada needs new leadership that will stand up to Big Oil. As it stands today, the oil companies are taking the money and leaving Canada and the world with a mess that they tell us will be cleaned up. Can it be cleaned up? Will it be?

>> there’s something to hope for…

Cleanup Update (20120609): Still no decision on who pays for oil sands monitoring

Tar Sands Repugnance

Multinational oil and gas corporations need to minimize Canada’s tar sands repugnance every day. If big oil hopes to continue earning hundreds of billions of dollars in profit, they have to make sure consumers, like us, don’t get a bad taste in our mouths. How do you prevent people from thinking about:

  • destruction of boreal forest
  • massive natural gas and water consumption
  • smokestacks
  • and watershed pollution?

It’s not dissimilar to the dilemma the tobacco companies faced with the association between cigarettes and death.

One of big oils’ simplest but most clever PR strategies is to use words that misrepresent what’s actually going on. Examples:

  • Oil Sands: Historically they were the Canada’s tar sands because the stuff looks and feels more like tar than oil; today you’re branded a radical if you say or write tar sands
  • Tailings Pond: A pond is something you have on your hobby farm, it’s certainly not toxic dumpsites that are so large that they can be seen from space
  • Oil Spill: You spill your coffee, you don’t spill hundreds of thousands of gallons of crude oil.

Wordsmiths writing for traditional media can do better than “pond” and “spill”.

I miss George Carlin. Remember his oxymoron, “Military Intelligence”? He could have performed a hilarious, routine about minimizing the tar sands’ repugnance that would have garnered a lot of attention.

Speaking of tar sands’ repugnance, have you watched ‘Petropolis’?

The Enbridge Conundrum

Q: What is the Enbridge conundrum?
A: How can a corporation once named one of Canada’s greenest companies be responsible for delivering about 318,000,000 litres (84,000,000 gallons) of crude oil per day? Yes, I know about their CO2 sequestration, solar power, waste heat recovery and wind farm initiatives, but they’re still a major player in the fossil fuels marketplace. How is that green? To be fair, Enbridge is doing exactly what I think we should be doing with the tar sands, they’re using profits from oil and gas to transition to green technologies. Unfortunately, they’re also promoting a really bad plan that will inevitably lead to an environmental catastrophe.

I first became aware of Enbridge™, years ago, when I watched a newscast referencing an oil spill from one of their many pipelines (they have over 13,000 kilometres of pipeline). Recently, like all other residents of British Columbia Canada, I’ve been bombarded by their public relations blitz for their Northern Gateway Pipelines. Enbridge is currently investing up to five million dollars ($5,000,000) to convince BC residents that their planned pipeline is “a path to our future”. I suspect Big Oil is contributing additional funds to ensure the pipeline becomes a reality as soon as possible.

Q: “What kind of PR campaign can you buy for about $5,000,000?”
A: You can hire a team of designers and copywriters whose job it is to brand a heavy crude oil pipeline and oil port as something magical, wonderful and hopeful.

Ask yourself, does the combination of the designer’s beautiful artwork, pretty colours and the copywriter’s cleverly crafted story alter the fact that multinational oil and gas corporations have asked Enbridge to build a pipeline through BC’s pristine wilderness? Does it change the fact that when the heavy crude oil arrives in Kitimat, it will be pumped into enormous supertankers that will then travel along BC’s world-renowned, Pacific coastline, loaded with heavy crude oil?

Q: Do Enbridge pipelines ever leak?
A: Yes, according to Enbridge’s own data (via the Polaris Institute), they’ve had at least eight hundred and four (804) spills. The USA’s EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) reported that a recent spill, from a 30-inch pipeline rupture, dumped 819,000 gallons of heavy crude oil into the Talmadge Creek and some oil travelled about 30 miles downstream in the Kalamazoo River (Michigan USA). The Kalamazoo spill occurred a couple of years ago and they’re still cleaning up the mess.

Q: Do supertankers loaded with oil pose a danger to BC’s coastline and the Pacific ecosystem?
A: Have you watched ‘Dead Ahead: The Exxon Valdez Disaster’? If you haven’t already watched it, look for it on HBO Canada.

Over six thousand (6,000) well-intentioned, well-motivated people work for Enbridge and I have absolutely no doubt that they are doing everything possible to prevent and mitigate an environmental disaster. That said, Enbridge exists to make money for their shareholders and it does so by working hand in hand with multinational oil and gas corporations.

Questions:

  • do you think the Northern Gateway Pipelines will experience spills
  • do you think we’ll see 270 and 350 meter long supertankers leaking massive volumes of heavy crude oil just off the BC coastline
  • why isn’t more money from oil sands profits being channeled into green technologies here in Canada
  • why aren’t we refining heavy crude here in Canada
  • why is Canada still importing over forty percent (40%) of the oil we use
  • and finally, why are we squandering Canada’s bountiful natural resources to fuel the development of Pacific nations who see us as their competition?

“First, we outsourced our manufacturing jobs and helped to make China rich. Now were planning to send China more and more of our natural resources. The Chinese must think we’re idiots.”

It certainly appears that the Harper Government imagines that its mandate is to do the bidding of Big Oil. Their pro-oil, anti-environment playbook makes me shudder.

I’m convinced that Tom Mulcair and the NDP are on the right track, so there is hope.

Related posts:

  1. The Enbridge Northern Pipeline
  2. Enbridge Athabasca Pipeline Leak
  3. Red Deer River Oil Deluge
  4. Dirtiest Oil on Earth Video

Related article:

  1. Enbridge slammed for ‘Keystone Kops’ response to Michigan spill
  2. It’s More than a Pipeline
  3. Enbridge faces $3.7-million penalty for Michigan oil spill

Harper Government’s 2012 Budget

Harper Government Budget 2012

Spring is a time for renewal. The Harper Government’s 2012 Budget was something new, but if you care about our environment, it was only new in a very unwelcome way. There’s nothing fresh about this stinker. Canada’s Finance Minister, Jim Flaherty, introduced the ugliest attack on Canada’s environment in our history. Much has been made of the Bill C–38’s over four-hundred, page count, but, unsurprisingly, it was the exasperating Big-Oil-Agenda, that left environmentalists completely befuddled. Here are just a few of the changes:

  • Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act repealed
  • NEB (National Energy Board) reviews limited to two years, the Northern Gateway Pipelines review is included, retroactively. Worse still, if the Harper Government’s Cabinet disagrees with the NEB’s findings, they will have the power to unilaterally overrule the NEB’s review
  • pipelines will be exempt from the provisions of the Navigable Waters Protection Act
  • replacing the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act
  • shuttering the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy
  • Canada’s Auditor General, will no longer audit the Northern Pipeline Agency
  • the Minister of National Revenue can withhold tax receipts from a charity if political activities exceed ten percent (think environment focused organizations)
  • rewriting The Fisheries Act, potentially eliminating current protections for fish habitat.

Q: Who benefits from these downgrades of our environmental protection?
A: Multinational oil and gas corporations.

Ask yourself, “Why is the Harper Government working hand-in-hand with Big Oil?”

Harper Government Big Oil

Historical note: What did Stephen Harper think about omnibus budget implementation bills back in 1994? To be fair to the Liberals, their omnibus bill was much, much smaller than C-38 and it did not cover over seventy pieces of legislation. The Harper Government’s Bill C-38 will become infamous.

“In the interest of democracy I ask: How can members represent their constituents on these various areas when they are forced to vote in a block on such legislation and on such concerns?”
– Stephen Harper, Reform Party MP

Related Articles:

  1. Budget 2012 – The Harper Government’s Trojan Horse
  2. PSAC criticism of Budget Implementation Act

Killer Whales and Supertankers

BC coastal whales

Do you ever play movies in your imagination? You know what I mean, it’s when you picture a future scenario that’s so real that you can actually visualize a colour movie in your head; a daydream if you will. The title of this movie is ‘Killer Whales and Supertankers’. Picture this:

  • the Harper Government approves the Northern Gateway Pipelines
  • supertankers, full of crude oil, begin leaving Kitimat destined for China.

I’ll bet you’re already imagining something similar to the movie ‘Dead Ahead: The Exxon Valdez Disaster’. I understand, because that scenario is, indeed, inevitable, but this time imagine something different. What if the tankers are sailing weekly and a killer whale washes up on the BC coastline. The whale looks perfect, absolutely beautiful, except, of course, it’s dead. Canada and the rest of the world immediately wonder if there’s a connection between the supertankers and the killer whale’s death? Hold on, there must be a CSI for marine mammals, right? Here’s the problem, the Harper Government just dismissed that guy and shut down Canada’s entire DFO (Department of Fisheries and Oceans) contaminants program.

Peter Ross, a marine mammal toxicologist, a gentleman who has about a hundred published, scientific articles was recently informed that his services will no longer be required. Worse still, Peter is just one of seventy-five people, who study marine contamination for Canada, to be dismissed. So, what does Peter have to say?

“I cannot think of another industrialized nation that has completely excised marine pollution from its radar…”

and

“It is with apprehension that I ponder a Canada without any research or monitoring capacity for pollution in our three oceans…”

Q: Why did the Harper Government shut down the Department of Fisheries contaminants program?
A: Just a budget cut, or was it a targeted budget cut, because… ? Play another one of those movies in your head.

I don’t suppose your movie had anything to do with Big Oil shipping Canada’s raw natural resources to China and contamination of our air, land and water?

Tom Mulcair vs Alberta and Saskatchewan?

Mulcair Harper Redford Wall photos

If you were paying attention to the Canadian media this last week, you might have heard that war is about to break out in Canada, there’s apparently going to be a battle that will divide our country. It’s Tom Mulcair vs Alberta and Saskatchewan and from the gist of the commentary, it’s also Mr. Mulcair versus the rest of Canada.

Stephen Harper, Alison Redford and Brad Wall, all Conservatives, felt obligated to respond to Tom Mulcair’s recent Dutch disease remarks, referencing the tar sands boom, the Canadian Dollar and lost manufacturing jobs. To be fair, the Provincial Premieres Alison Redford and Brad Wall were actually quite diplomatic when they responded, it was the Harper Government that, once again, behaved badly. I’m frequently entertained by the Harper Government and its surrogates. They relish any opportunity to besmirch an opponent by injecting their negative-keyword-laced, talking points.

Have you noticed that the Harper Government loves to act tough? Now that they have a majority government they often behave like the playground bully. What does the Harper Government want to fight about this time? What’s going to divide Canadians? Perhaps it’s:

  • tar sands’ pollution and having Big Oil pay for the contamination that they’re creating every day
  • making sure that tar sands growth is sustainable.

Surely, there can’t be any disagreement there? The vast majority of Canadians, whether from the East or the West, would agree that the polluter should pay and that development and growth of the tar sands must be sustainable.

Clearly, there isn’t going to be a war. Talk of alienation and separation is just Harper Government, keyword, nonsense. The NDP prefers reasoned discussion and consensus. Do you remember ‘discussion’? It’s something we used to do before the Harper Government majority of 2011.

Topics for discussion:

  • changes to environmental laws
  • greenhouse gas emissions from tar sands oil extraction
  • groundwater contamination
  • pipeline safety
  • supertankers loaded with crude oil plying the, often dangerous, waters off of the BC coastline, which by the way is another, even more precious, resource
  • exporting raw resources to China and the USA
  • manufacturing jobs
  • foreign workers
  • the green economy and why Canada is lagging behind the rest of the world in going green.

Let’s start with something simple, why does the Harper Government revere oil and gas? Oil and gas reverence must have something to do with money, right? Is Big Oil where the Harper Government’s political contributions come from? I’m serious, I’d love to know where this reverence comes from, I really don’t get it. Wouldn’t you agree that there’s something smelly about this alliance between multinational oil corporations and the fuddy-duddy Harper Government?

I’d like to thank Mr. Mulcair for getting these fresh, hopeful, very important dialogues started. It was clever, of you to get things rolling so soon after becoming the NDP’s new leader. Thank you. 🙂