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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Mulcair’s NDP Video

Tom Mulcair photo
Photo courtesy of Reuters – Wattie

The Harper Government’s attack ad, ‘Mulcair’s NDP’ makes it glaringly obvious that Stephen Harper is, figuratively, wetting himself, again. Mr. Harper has a long history of nervous incontinence. Mulcair’s NDP video isn’t the Harper Government’s first attack ad, you’ll recall their mean-spirited ads attacking Stéphan Dion, Michael Ignatief and then, most recently, Bob Rae.

Here’s the ‘Mulcair’s NDP’ video:

Q: Ask yourself, “Why is the Harper Government so nervous?”

A: Although, it’s true that Tom Mulcair and the NDP bested the Conservatives in a recent nationwide popularity poll, that’s not the Harper Government’s biggest worry. They’re most worried about a simple but very powerful idea. Canada’s natural resources should benefit all Canadians and Canada’s environment is not for sale. The Harper Government sides with multinational, corporate greed. Tom Mulcair and the NDP side with Canadians.

The Conservatives are also well aware of a trend that poses another significant threat to their power. A growing number of people don’t like the Harper Government’s style of governance. I’ll bet you’ve heard some of the descriptive words folks are using when they mention the Harper Government. I’ve listed some of the polite words here, but I’ve also written an entire post about the Arrogant Harper Government that you might find interesting.

I won’t critique the Harper Government’s attack ad except to say:

“Risky Theories” like putting Canadians and Canada’s environment ahead of multinational oil and gas corporations, pipeline corporations, foreign workers and China is not a reason for concern. There’s certainly nothing risky there, in fact, Tom Mulcair’s ideas are a breath of Canada’s fresh air.

The Conservative’s biggest pitch is always, “We can’t afford… (insert opponents name here)”, they want you to be nervous when you walk into the polling station. Have you noticed the Conservatives are always fear mongering? It fits their agenda, that’s why they’re always yammering on and on about guns, jails and fighter jets.

When you walk into a polling station in 2015, or sooner, you won’t need to be worried about things like the Harper Government’s scary, petro-state, guns, jails and greed-focused agenda, instead, you can smile a big smile and think about Stephen Harper wetting himself. 🙂 Then you’ll be able to vote for a positive vision of Canada and hope.

Canada is blessed with an amazing abundance of natural resources, most, if not all, of the rest of our world would love to be in our position. It’s time for Canadians to benefit by electing leadership that has a hopeful, altruistic vision and a solid plan. In the next election, vote NDP.

Update 20120710: Here’s the NDP’s initial response to the Harper Government’s Mulcair’s NDP video attack ad.

Related article:

  1. On carbon pricing, the Tories aren’t just battling Mulcair

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.

Red Deer River Oil Deluge

Other than “tragic”, what is the best word to describe the Red Deer River oil deluge?

Q: First, why use the word “deluge” and not “spill”?
A: You “spill” a cup of coffee, hundreds of thousands of litres of oil is a deluge, not a spill. Interestingly, it could have been even worse, the pipeline wasn’t flowing at the time.

“I have 57 acres and it has come right through all of it… It’s complete and sheer devastation… They came into my place, my shop, my ecosystem, and they destroyed it… This is my world. I didn’t break it, they broke it… There are not words to describe this.”
– Gord Johnston

Background: Thursday, 7 June 2012, a 1966 era, Plains Midstream Canada, oil pipeline burst into the Red Deer River, and oil flowed into Gleniffer Lake, north of Sundre, Alberta. Alberta’s 724 km (450 mi) long Red Deer River is a major tributary of the South Saskatchewan River.

Re: “north of Sundre”: The Mayor of Sundre wants everyone to know that no oil spilled in the backcountry, or along the river, so all activities associated with the river, such as whitewater rafting and camping are open and ready for business.

Red Deer River oil and Gleniffer Lake

Q: OK, now back to my original question, what’s the best word to describe the Red Deer River oil deluge?
A: Alberta’s Premier, Alison Redford, chose the word “exception” in her attempt to convince Canadians that this spill isn’t the norm for oil pipelines, instead she suggested, it was an exception, it was not the rule. I disagree, my suspicion is that, where there is an oil pipeline there will be “spills”; not every day, month or even every year, but sooner or later. I suggest that a better word to describe this oil deluge is “awkward”, because the oil pipe bursting was very awkwardly timed for:

  • Enbridge and their planned, much hyped, $5.5 Billion Northern Gateway Pipelines (you know, “The path to our future…”)
  • the Harper Government’s oil agenda
  • most of all, it’s very awkward for the multinational oil and gas corporations who would have us believe that mining our tar sands and delivering heavy crude oil to Pacific markets can be accomplished in an environmentally friendly fashion.

Tar sands image courtesy of Greenpeace
Tar sands image courtesy of Greenpeace

A tar sands’ dump truck pictured below will give you a better perspective of the tar sands’ mining shown above.

Tar sands truck

The bottom line is that oil pipelines leak, it happens more often than you might imagine (watch this video).

The Red River oil deluge was tragedy for Gord Johnston and other Albertans living near the burst pipe and it should act as a warning to residents of British Columbia.

Update (20120614): According to York University Professor, Sean Kheraj, pipelines in Alberta carrying either oil or some combination of oil, gas or distillates failed on average every 1.4 days. Since 2006, the province’s pipelines have spilled the equivalent of almost 28 million litres of oil. A single litre of spilled oil can contaminate a million litres of groundwater. >> Vancouver Sun article

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’?

Oil Sands Boosterism

oil sands boosterism

The Harper Government is both famous for and infamous for its oil sands boosterism. It certainly feels like their attitude is, “Damn environmental science and global warming, let’s make money.”

It’s not at all surprising that most scientists think that the Harper Government has an anti-science approach to environmental policy. The Harper Government doesn’t want scientific fact to interfere with their oil sands boosterism.

Unsurprisingly, the Harper Government’s biggest supporters are:

  • big businesses
  • multinational oil and gas corporations
  • pipeline corporations
  • the one percenters (1%)

Is the commonality in this list short-term profit and possibly even greed?

Equally interesting is that the Harper Government’s biggest detractors are:

  • environmentalists, both Canadian and international
  • scientists, both Canadian and international
  • most Canadians
  • the ninety-nine percenters (99%)

The commonality here is logical thinking.

“Using carbon based fuel creates global warming and pollution. We’re all in this together, so let’s transition to greener technologies.”

>> I’m a ninety-nine percenter and, like most Canadians, I’m hopeful. We have a choice…

Let’s use our oil sands sensibly, to help us transition to green technologies.

Canada Can Prosper and Still Protect Our Environment.

Canadian Conservative Think Tanks

Think Tank image

The tar sands boom: When you read an article, listen to radio or watch TV have you noticed that traditional media often references studies produced by Canadian conservative think tanks? What do you know about these folks? Have you ever wondered if these think tanks are as independent as they claim to be? Who funds their studies?

Unfortunately, Canada does not require think tanks to disclose their donors and I’m not aware of any conservative think tanks that have voluntarily disclosed their donors.

My suspicion is that resource corporations like:

  • multinational oil and gas corporations
  • pipeline corporations
  • other energy corporations
  • forestry corporations
  • mining corporations

and their owners, many of whom have earned hundreds of millions, even billions of dollars, are the think tank’s largest, individual donors.

Although most think tanks claim to be non-partisan or politically independent, the following organizations are widely acknowledged to be promoters of conservative paradigms (example organizations, listed alphabetically):

Q: Why am I concerned?

Example: In the USA, the Koch brothers are major donors to and funders of conservative think tanks.

I wonder, have the Koch brothers funded any of the Canadian conservative think tanks that have produced studies supporting our tar sands economy?

The big question I’m left with is, “Can we trust studies produced by Canadian conservative think tanks?”

Who’s Afraid of Tom Mulcair?

Tom Mulcair

If you don’t already know who Tom Mulcair is, you may not understand why I’m asking, “Who’s Afraid of Tom Mulcair?”

OK, going forward, I’ll assume everyone is up to speed, Mr. Mulcair is the new leader of Canada’s Federal NDP.

Not long ago, Mr. Mulcair got out his paddle and stirred up the Harper Government’s status quo, by questioning tar sands development. Paraphrasing, he asked:

  • why isn’t tar sands development following a sustainable growth model
  • why are we allowing multinational oil and gas corporations to, “use our air, our soil and our water as an unlimited, free dumping ground”
  • why have we allowed the tar sands’s economy to artificially inflate our dollar, destroying thousands of manufacturing jobs and jeopardizing many more
  • why are we allowing Canada’s balanced economy to come under threat?

Since Mr. Mulcair asked his questions, you can’t open a paper or a political website without seeing an article about Dutch disease. I love it, and I enjoy the dialogues that his questions have generated. Bluntly it’s about time, there was some serious discussion. Prior to asking his questions, the multinational oil and gas corporations were having their way with Canada:

  • multiple tar sands developments proceeding at full speed
  • new pipelines planned or underway
  • environmental laws changing or changed
  • significant threats to environmentalists
  • muzzling scientists with views unfavourable to Big Oil
  • more foreign, cheap-labour, workers on their way to Canada

Now back to my question,
Q: Who’s afraid of Tom Mulcair?
A: Federal and Provincial Liberals and perhaps the Harper Government

The Federal Liberals have been humiliating themselves by taking every opportunity to denigrate and minimize the NDP. When I worked as a Medical Doctor, I always tried to remember,

“No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

Sadly, the Liberals are currently perceived, as neglecting Canadians, while pursuing their own self-interests. It doesn’t look like they care.

Provincially, the Liberal Premiere of BC, went so far as to call Tom Mulcair’s ideas “Goofy”. Although she succeeded in getting herself a lot of press attention, that scrutiny only directed consideration to her precarious position in the upcoming election. I’m betting Adrian Dix, the provincial NDP leader is going to win that one.

Finally, the Harper Government is expecting Tom Mulcair’s popularity to wane, the same way Michael Ignatief’s did, so they’re not nervous yet, but it won’t be much longer until their nerves begin to fray. They’re definitely not as confident as they pretend they are. They’re well aware that a very significant majority of Canadians did not vote for them in the last election or, for that matter, ever.

I’m betting Tom Mulcair’s popularity will grow as Canadians discover how much he cares about Canada.

Afterthought: My hunch is that multinational oil and gas corporations aren’t afraid of anyone (any individual), but they’re understandably afraid of everyone (a majority of us). Tom Mulcair and the NDP are on the verge of a populist breakthrough across Canada and I’m sure that’s causing the corporations, more than a little, concern. What if they actually had to dig into their massive profits to fund the ‘polluter pays’ model that the NDP champions?