Imagine for a moment that somebody wanted to build a zipline across your back yard. Let’s say that, thanks to minimal consultation and a cozy relationship with the city bylaw officers, that they want to tear up your land so that they can shoot through your property in a quick and effective manner. I’d imagine you wouldn’t be too thrilled about the idea, especially if they’d done it at someone else’s house and some ziplining wacko had ended up kicking one of their kids in the face.
“But think of the jobs this will create,” the company would be quick to reply. “Thousands of Canadians will work on this zipline, building and maintaining it!” “That’s very nice,” you might reply “but it doesn’t change the fact that you’re going to destroy my property, and I don’t want it there. What if someone falls on my property and wrecks my patio furniture?” “Poppycock,” says the zipline company “any damage will be reimbursed and cleaned up.” “I don’t care,” you might say “I don’t want people zooming through my yard. I don’t trust you to replace my furniture – my uncle carved it and it can’t be replaced that easily.”
Let’s say your neighbour came over and said “you know what, it’s probably not a good idea to run a zipline through hir property – it doesn’t seem safe at all.” The two of you stand resolute in opposition to what you see as a dangerous and unwelcome intrusion onto your land. What would that make you? A proud homeowner? A defiant citizen? A good custodian of your sovereign rights?
Nope, you would in fact be a dangerous, foreign-supported radical:
Environmental and other “radical groups” are trying to block trade and undermine Canada’s economy, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said Monday. Oliver’s comments came one day before federal regulatory hearings begin on whether to approve Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline, which would deliver crude from Alberta’s oilsands to Kitimat, B.C., for shipment to Asia.
More than 4,300 people have signed up to address the proposed pipeline over the next 18 months. “Unfortunately, there are environmental and other radical groups that would seek to block this opportunity to diversify our trade,” Oliver said in an open letter.
Once again the Republican North party reveals its favourite tactic: demonizing those who disagree. These are not groups who have a legitimate concern about the environmental impact of an oil pipeline through sensitive ecosystems; they are radicals hell-bent on throwing a monkey wrench in Canada’s economic progress. Never mind that, as Natural Resources Minister, Mr. Oliver has a vested economic interest in protecting all of Canada’s natural resources, not just those which can be sold in barrels.
The incredibly depressing thing about this baldly immature and mean-spirited attack against people who have a genuine (and justified) concern about the approval process is that it is not just normal spin. A smear like this from a newspaper or a television personality is one thing – this comes with the power of the federal government behind it:
Sources say the government isn’t just talking, CBC’s Margo McDiarmid reports, but will be targeting environmental groups when the House finance committee reviews charitable funding next month.
This has left the realm of legitimate political disagreement (even spirited disagreement) and has instead become abuse of power to silence a political opponent. While the Minister is free to mischaracterize and attempt to undermine those who oppose his government’s single-minded agenda to pump oil from Alberta to the coast over the objection of environmental groups and the people who live where the pipeline is going (who are conspicuously absent from the Minister’s conversation), he is not free to start McCarthy hearings to discredit and cripple opposition.
Of course, the Minister does sort of leads with his chin:
In an interview on CBC News Network, Oliver said radicals are “a group of people who don’t take into account the facts but are driven by an ideological imperative.”
Given the fact that his government has repeatedly revealed itself to be openly contemptuous of facts (whether in communicating science, the census debacle, or with their crime bill), I think Mr. Oliver should perhaps choose his words a bit more carefully.
The Republican North machine also promises that this will be the tenor of all such debates:
The branding of opponents as “radicals” is part of a strategy to make sure the pipeline gets built, argues Tom Flanagan, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s former chief of staff and an expert on aboriginal issues. Flanagan said there is a concerted world-wide attack against the oil industry. Neither the government nor the industry paid much attention for a long time.
But Flanagan said postponement of the Keystone XL pipeline in the United States was a wake-up call. “Shrugging it off, I don’t think, is good enough anymore. It’s a battle and you have to start pushing back,” said Flanagan, who is also a frequent contributor to CBC-TV’s Power & Politics with Evan Solomon.
So we have this to look forward to. Red herrings, straw men and character assassinations in the place of serious debate, backed up with the threat of governmental investigation if you fail to adhere to the PMO’s wishes. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Government of Canada (excuse me, the Harper Government). At least they’re standing up and fighting the good fight for the poor, beleaguered oil companies who are just trying to get a fair shake in this profoundly unfair world, right?
I don’t know how much naked avarice and megalomania the government will have to demonstrate in order for people to recognize that we have a serious problem in Ottawa. I thought for sure that the last 6 years would have been enough to make the case against them self-evident, but I have apparently either overestimated the perceptive abilities of my fellow countrymen, or underestimated the level of their apathy.
I will leave you with this:
Oliver told reporters Wednesday he was not branding all environmentalists as radicals, but he defended his letter. “I thought we’d just get the facts out without being politically correct about it,” Oliver said.
Or… y’know… factually correct…
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