The Conservative Stephen Harper government has revealed its mean streak once again. In an open letter released on January 9, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver lashed out at environmental organizations, branding them as “radicals” who “use funding from foreign special interest groups to undermine Canada’s national economic interest.”
The letter came on the eve of regulatory hearings into the development of the $5.5 billion Northern Gateway pipeline project, which would see oil flow from the Alberta tar sands to the British Columbia coast, where it would be poured into supertankers bound for Asia and elsewhere. It is one of two proposed tar sands pipelines, the other being the Keystone XL pipeline to Texas, which was dealt a major setback in January when U.S. President Barak Obama rejected (for now) its proposed route through a sensitive ecosystem in Nebraska.
As with Keystone XL, the Northern Gateway poses a serious risk to the environment. The pipeline would pass over the Rocky Mountains and cross 1,000 rivers and streams in some of Canada’s most pristine natural sites. It would also cut through 65 First Nations communities, 61 of which have declared their opposition to the project.
It is therefore not surprising that 4,300 people have asked to participate in the regulatory review to draw attention pipeline’s threats. However, according to the Conservatives, a “radical ideological agenda” is at play, aided by “jet-setting celebrities,” which aims to “delay a project to the point it becomes economically unviable.”
This argument is a mix of misinformation, hysteria and blatant hypocrisy, which has become Harper’s standard formula in attacking opponents. Undoubtedly, certain Canadian environmental groups do receive support from abroad – it is only normal that they would work with other groups who share their concern for protecting the planet. But the real threat is the corporate money that is being poured into the dirty business of extracting the tar sands. According to the Globe and Mail, such money is “welcome” in Harper’s Canada, even when it comes from disreputable anti-worker regimes such as China‘s.
In the midst of the manufactured hysteria, it bears noting that, according to Environmental Defence, all of the environmental organizations intervening in the review are based in Canada, and 79 per cent of those registered to speak are B.C. residents. On the other hand, 10 of the 16 intervening oil companies have foreign-based headquarters.
Harper’s demonization of respected environmental organizations is a disgraceful tactic, deployed to ensure that the even more disgraceful business of extracting tar sands oil continues unabated. Socialists demand a halt to tar sands extraction, and call for strong resistance to Harper’s belligerence against civil society groups, whose advocacy work represents an important expression of the exercise of democratic rights. (Sources: Global News, Globe and Mail, Vancouver Sun)
> The article above was written by Eric Kupka.