Many years ago now, a young Stephen Harper angrily threw out his Liberal Party membership and, after a few years of wandering in the western wilderness, emerged as a leading light of the newly established Reform Party under Preston Manning. The singular reason for his crossing the floor, we are told, is that he was devastated by the Trudeau government’s National Energy Program. Harper wasn’t the only resident of Alberta who vowed that he would never vote for the Liberals and their NEP ever again. And that decision had momentous consequences. It spun Harper off into Albertan separatism as he argued that the federal government should never again be allowed to interfere with a province’s chosen path of economic development simply “for the good of the nation.”
Wind the clock forward 30 years, and there’s been an important sea change in the Reform-Conservative movement that very few people seem willing to recognize. All of a sudden, “the good of the nation” is paramount again. British Columbia doesn’t want to build a pipeline to carry dangerous crude from Alberta to its fragile coastline? Tough luck, British Columbians! For the good of the nation, the pipeline must go through!
First of all, to be fair, I should point out that I oppose all oil sands development. It’s not because I’m un-Canadian. I oppose all fossil fuel development, anywhere in the world. People who support it are idiots. The more resources we lock in to developing a product that will lead to the catastrophic decline of our civilization in a matter of centuries, the harder it will be to ensure the survival of that civilization decades down the road. Every dollar invested in oil sands development now will mean a thousand dollars in climate mitigation spent by future generations.
More to the point, though, it’s interesting to see how quickly Conservatives have been willing to change their tune once they’re the ones in power, making the decisions. All of a sudden, omnibus bills aren’t dictatorial at all — they’re a necessary component of strong, responsible government. National energy programs aren’t evil at all — they’re a necessary response to foreign billionaire socialists who want to harm Canadians.
There’s a bit of a backlash now. We know most of it isn’t from Conservative ranks, because Stephen Harper recently announced that the Enbridge pipeline review would be decided on the basis of “science,” not politics. This from the man who has appointed, and kept in place, an acknowledged anti-science creationist as his Minister of Science, chiropractor and uneducated fundamentalist flake Gary Goodyear. Of course it won’t be science-based. We already know all of the relevant “science.” If this was a science-based decision, we wouldn’t be developing the oil sands at all.
And now, seemingly from out of field, yet another far-fetched plan at salvation for the pipeline. Out of nowhere, and via a website that seems suspiciously like a teenager’s first experiment with WordPress (hopefully a refined product will soon be published), British Columbian media mogul David Black is pushing a $13 billion scheme to build one of the world’s largest oil refineries in Kitimat. It’s advertised as creating Canadian jobs, although Black freely admits that the refinery will be constructed overseas and shipped in modules to B.C. The whole thing seems kind of weird, but pipeline advocates have jumped on board anyways, sensing that even though we were repeatedly told it made no economic sense to refine oil in Canada, a refinery is better than no oil exports at all.
At some point, people may start wondering why these sorts of projects are such a high priority for Canada. It’s fairly simple: the concept is known as state capture. After NAFTA, the end of the Autopact, the shutting down of most of the Ontario auto industry, the decline of the forestry sector, the decline of the fisheries, and the buying-out of most large Canadian corporations, within the next couple of decades the only product Canada will have to sell is oil. If we don’t sell it, we’ll starve. If we do, we’ll fry, along with everyone else.Tweet