The job of Canada's Minister of Natural Resources has always been to peddle Canada's natural resources. But the current minister, Joe Oliver, has gone completely in the tank for the oil industry to a degree that is incomprehensible, even in the current conservative Harper regime. Just in time for the beginning of discussions on the Gateway pipleline to the Pacific, he has released an open letter on the regulatory process in Canada. But you have to read between the lines to really figure out who the letter is talking to. Here's a big quote from it, with added emphasis by me:
Virtually all our energy exports go to the US. As a country, we must seek new markets for our products and services and the booming Asia-Pacific economies have shown great interest in our oil, gas, metals and minerals. For our government, the choice is clear: we need to diversify our markets in order to create jobs and economic growth for Canadians across this country. We must expand our trade with the fast growing Asian economies. We know that increasing trade will help ensure the financial security of Canadians and their families.
Unfortunately, there are environmental and other radical groups that would seek to block this opportunity to diversify our trade. Their goal is to stop any major project no matter what the cost to Canadian families in lost jobs and economic growth. No forestry. No mining. No oil. No gas. No more hydro-electric dams.
These groups threaten to hijack our regulatory system to achieve their radical ideological agenda. They seek to exploit any loophole they can find, stacking public hearings with bodies to ensure that delays kill good projects. They use funding from foreign special interest groups to undermine Canada’s national economic interest. They attract jet-setting celebrities with some of the largest personal carbon footprints in the world to lecture Canadians not to develop our natural resources.
Who knew? That all of those Treehuggers protesting the Keystone XL pipeline and the new Gateway proposal were so radical, capable of highjacking the process, and were dining out with Darryl Hannah and Robert Redford? Elizabeth May of the Green Party had a tart response to Oliver, that included some thoughts on the definition of "radical":
It is not First Nations, conservation groups or individual opponents that are radical. They seek to protect the fundamental nature of the wilderness of northern British Columbia, the ecological health of British Columbia coastal eco-systems, and the integrity of impartial environmental review. It is your government that is radical by proposing quite radical alteration of those values....By characterizing this issue as environmental radicals versus Canada’s future prosperity you have done a grave disservice to the development of sensible public policy. There are other ways to diversify Canada’s energy markets. There are other routes, other projects, and most fundamentally other forms of energy.
Some of this very strong message is aimed at the American government, demonstrating that the Harper Regime will leave no stone unturned, no environmentalist untrampled, to ensure that Alberta oil gets sold, whether it is to Americans or to Asians. By dragging in all of the American environmentalists and jetsetters he is making sure that this message gets heard. I think that it is all a bit of bait and switch, designed to scare Americans into approving Keystone by showing their determination in the face of Bill McKibben. As Joyce Nelson notes at Watershed Sentinel, there already is a pipeline to the Pacific, and there are plans to double its capacity to 150 tankers per year.
The rest of the message is a warning to everyone in Canada that the rules are changing. Paul Wells notes in Macleans:
The 2010 Throne Speech promised to “untangle the daunting maze of regulations that needlessly complicates project approvals.” That year’s budget said: “Responsibility for conducting environmental assessments for energy projects will be delegated from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency to the National Energy Board and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission for projects falling under their respective areas of expertise.” The oil industry couldn’t have been happier.
Harper is determined to put the fox in charge of the henhouse. He has control of the House of Commons and the Senate and the western provincial governments on his side. Canadians are going to need all the help from those jetsetting celebrities and American radicals that they can get if we are going to survive this farce.