It is as well staged as any Eugene O’Neill play. From the point where Stephen Harper enters stage left in Edmonton to bemoan that ‘foreign money’ is holding up the latest effort to move Athabasca tar sands oil to the West Coast, you recognize it as a tragedy in the making. The Greek chorus of news media commiserate appropriately as Mr. Harper tells them that ‘foreign money is trying to hijack public hearings on the Northern Gateway pipeline.’
But Canada’s Prime Minister is on the job. He assures the media that supertankers will soon be carting off that high-sulphur crude to world markets where it will be refined to power other countries economies. Mr. Harper’s Treasurer Jim Flaherty had already assured Canadians that the Chinese do not mind the high-sulphur stuff and the new supertanker port on the B.C. coast will be ready to supply them.
Enter the environmentalists, fresh from their success in holding up the XL Pipeline to the oil ports on the Texas coast. With their Hollywood spokespersons, the environmentalists have already won a victory in B.C. in that there are so many people opposed to the pipeline that the environmental report required by the provincial authorities will not be ready until 2013.
The theatrical tragedy continues to write itself. Those staunch environmentalists at Pierre Péladeau’s Sun Media have already commissioned their own survey that shows that a majority of B.C. residents are in favour of shipping the tar sands heavy crude from Canada. The only surprise in the survey is the curiosity as to where the researchers found people who actually understood the issues involved. One thing for sure is that the B.C. Indian tribes whose lands the pipeline will traverse are not on side.
The Northern Gateway pipeline across the Rocky Mountains is expected to cost at least $5.5 billion and it is believed that it might create maybe 50 new jobs in B.C. (This figure is being disputed.) The Americans investing in Calgary-based Enbridge will certainly make lots of money from the pipeline but it is not clear how B.C. will benefit or how it could handle an oil spill on its northern coast.
But Mr. Harper assures us that the federal government will take a closer look at how it can speed up regulatory processes such as this one. He says it is a big boost for the Canadian economy. Elizabeth May, a B.C. Member of Parliament these days as well as Green Party leader, said, and we quote, “to denigrate it (the environmental protest) by saying it’s somehow a foreign plot to sandbag the process, that’s ridiculous.”
But then Mr. Harper might believe that Ms. May is out to get him also.
Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry
Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to [email protected]