Canada’s Tar Goo Will Be My 2015 Election Issue

by Jack Locke

For me, the main issue in Canada’s 2015 election goes back 20 years.

It is related to Alberta, the Tar Sands, the federal and provincial governments, birds, and deceit.

Canada once had a reputation for being the best country in the world. Something has irreparably tarnished our good name.

In my opinion, Stephen Harper’s capital “C” Conservative government and Justin Trudeau’s right-of-centre Liberals are the most retrograde forces on the political horizon.

Prime Minister Harper has adopted Alberta’s modus operandi for protecting Big Oil. How so? First, our government has granted oil companies carte blanche. They have set up an energy-regulatory body to squash most citizen concerns. And to ensure double-squashing, they have implemented a pseudo-review body that is onerous, expensive, and all but futile for citizens, farmers, ranchers, and others. This is the Made-in-Alberta model.

I recall Peter Watson, recently appointed chairman of Canada’s National Energy Board, when he worked for Alberta Environmental Protection as its Director of Southern East Slopes and Prairie Regions.

It was Watson’s department that once granted the City of Calgary permission to spray pesticides at Calgary’s Inglewood Bird Sanctuary—a federally protected migratory bird refuge. In spite of the fact that the pesticide in question was not to be used near water—and the bird sanctuary is surrounded by water—Watson’s department approved the pesticide usage and then defended their position in front of Alberta’s Environmental Appeal Board(EAB), a quasi-judicial review body. I know a little bit about this matter.

As one of the initial half-dozen or so complainants, the EAB was able to whittle down the complainants to two persons. One of the successful complainants, Fay Katay(Ash), was allowed to proceed by testifying that she strolled along the banks of the Bow River, and canoed, in order to paint artworks and thus would come in direct contact with the pesticide. The Board was not particularly concerned that many nesting Canada Geese and other birds would be directly and negatively affected.

Alberta’s systematic filtration of complainants was more finely stitched than that used for the filtering of cow’s milk. I, and other concerned citizens(a.k.a. troublemakers) were denied the right to have our complaints heard.

After an extensive case presented by one of Alberta’s finest lawyers, the EAB concluded that the City and the Province had done no wrong. Pesticide use at a federal bird sanctuary: no problem. The obvious wrong was obviously too obvious to see for the politically-appointed reviewers. Ah, that’s the rub.

Now that Peter Watson has been appointed as head of the National Energy Board, I can foresee the future.

Pipeline—check.

Tar Sands expansion—check.

Tanker port—approved.

Aboriginal health—not conclusive.

Impact on air and water—not conclusive.

As NEB chair, Watson now plays by the Albertan-in-Ottawa playbook.

Here’s how she goes: “We will let citizens believe they’re being consulted, that we are impartial, and then we will let Big Biz have their way. After all, what’s good for Alberta is good for Canada.”

But what is good for Alberta is disastrous for many Albertans. And what was good for Irving Oil was not so good for the people of Lac-Megantic.

It comes down to eyesight. Liberal leader Justin Trudeau sees the link between the economy and the environment.

“You cannot separate what’s good for our economy from what’s good for the environment,” Trudeau recently said in a Montreal Stetl on the Shortwave interview. But Justin, what is good for the environment is NOT always good for the economy.

When I lived downwind of the Shell Waterton gas plant in southwest Alberta in the mid-1990s and the multinational petroleum giant vented off gas in the middle of the night as I and my rural neighbours slept, the action likely saved money for Shell. Economically speaking it was good. But the cloud of gas that surrounded my home at 3 AM did my health no favour.

When I sought to speak before an Alberta government Energy and Utilities Board public hearing when Shell applied to increase production and airborne emissions at their Caroline gas plant, the old Alberta playbook kicked in. Upon Shell’s lawyer’s pleading, the review board would not let me speak at the public hearing. I’m afraid this is the model Mr. Harper has imported onto the federal stage.

Crafty they are. Is this what Justin is advocating? Environmental oversight that is strong-armed by Big Oil? I am certain Justin will deny letting Big Oil run roughshod over the Liberals. Sure.

But I have heard these political declarations before…And Stephen Harper acknowledges climate change. Sure.

All I know is what I have experienced. I know the duplicity that runs rampant in Alberta, not to mention in my new home of Quebec.

The Tar Sands and their promoters are thick as goo. This is the issue that will guide my vote in 2015.

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