Opinion

BC to Become Alberta's Leaking Sewer Pipe?

Why we can't depend on our provincial leaders to protect our interests.

By Rafe Mair, 11 Jun 2012, TheTyee.ca

Alberta polluting BC cartoon

Cartoon by Ingrid Rice.

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Canada, but especially British Columbia, is headed towards a very nasty showdown and nobody in charge wants to address the reasons.

Things have changed -- a lot according to Jeff Rubin and his book The End of Growth (reviewed today on The Tyee by Crawford Kilian). For several years my thoughts have matched that book's title. The difference between Rubin and me is that I've gone mostly by the feeling in my tummy while Rubin has used scholarship, the analysis of an expert (himself), research and an ability to lay it clearly before us that "growth" must stop if we're going to keep this planet going both economically and physically. The book is a must read.

Canada is in the midst of an environmental war and governments haven't noticed it, or they have noticed it and are deliberately ignoring it -- or as I posit later, they say we cannot control events so let's get on with it.

I have never seen anything like it. For many years I've seen environmentalists ignored and pilloried and it's remarkable how well they did under the governments that existed -- new rules on clear-cuts comes to mind. But now the assault on the environment is now so broad and so dangerous that the environment movement doesn't have the numbers or the money to carry the battle themselves. Knowing this, the public is pitching in magnificently.

In a nutshell. Consider destruction of our farmland by road building, fish farms, mining, private river power destruction of our rivers and pipelines to which is added devastating and certain damage from tanker traffic on our pristine coast and in Vancouver harbour and beyond. Coming out of this is a positive change -- the public is coming on side. Public environment hearings attract people in growing numbers who, a few years ago, wouldn't have been seen dead at this sort of rally. At a "roast" for me last November I looked around the room and said, "There are people here tonight that a year ago would rather be caught in a house of ill repute than in this room."

Part of this comes from the obvious harm associated with all the issue above. More and more can see with their own eyes the consequences of corporate evil aided and abetted by governments.

Major environmentally destructive catastrophes such as the Shell/Gulf of Mexico blow-out are major stories for the international TV networks. This has raised concerns for environment issues close to home such that people no longer believe kindly old corporations and their public barnyard droppings. To say that corporate PR ain't believed any more is a massive understatement. Just this weekend, the pipeline leak pouring contaminants into the Red Deer River in Alberta was explained away as an "exception" by that province's premier.

Why isn't BC's government listening?

In B.C., the First Nations have become an environmental force to be reckoned with, especially those on the coast who see their way of life threatened. A short time ago I shared a platform with Art Sterritt, executive director for Coastal First Nations, who gave the most clear-eyed statement of the First Nations message I've every heard. During his dissertation he stated something I simply had never heard of.

I paraphrase Sterritt, "Of course we have 80 per cent unemployment but no one goes hungry because we live off our natural resources as we have been doing for thousands of years... take away those resources and our inherited way of life and the way we support ourselves is finished."

The Internet hums with evidence of these social, environmental and economic changes. Of keen interest, however, is the silence from the Campbell/Clark government and its handmaidens, the traditional media. It's noteworthy how the op-ed pages of major Vancouver papers are open, come one, come all, any time, for the corporate polluters. It's truly an amazing coincidence that once the polluter gets into a public dust-up, a flack-provided piece by industry graces the op-ed page.

Why isn't the Campbell/Clark government listening?

Because philosophically they don't want to. They are Fraser Institute clones who believe that capitalism and its famed "hidden hand," the market, must never be interfered with. They believe, to a person, that land must be developed without interference from limp-wristed environmentalists. To them we must grow and grow every minute of the day. What they don't and won't understand is that either we curb our demands for more and more, or Mother Nature will do it for us. The purist capitalist knows no restraint and instinctively cuts down the last tree and catches the last fish.

Premier Clark and her toadies have another reason for silence. The Harper government supports these environmental travesties (with more to come) and Premier Clark badly needs Harper's help over the Campbell/Clark HST bungle -- and they need it before the 2013 election. Thus the order of the day is to suck up to the Prime Minister at all times. This is the first time in my recollection that a B.C. government has bungled into the clutches of Ottawa, something past B.C. governments of whatever stripe never allowed to happen.

Here is the real crunch. The decision regarding pipelines and tankers rests in Beijing which has hundreds of millions of dollars sunk into the tar sands bitumen going into tankers from Kitimat and Vancouver. The Chinese don't give a fiddler's fart that this tar sands gunk will cause huge environmental damage to our lands and coasts. They're not big on these concerns in China so why would they care about us?

In making their decision to invest, unquestionably China received the clear understanding from the governments that the bitumen export would not be delayed for environmental reasons. China does not invest without doing its due diligence. That's the sorry pass this issue has reached. If the governments do have a Damascus-like conversion to protecting our land, China will retaliate -- big time.

Short end of the pipe

That there will be spills, leaks and ruptures spewing this heavy toxic gunk onto our lands, into our rivers and onto our coasts is a mathematical certainty and our task is to fight with all our might for our province. We have been played for fools by two of the worst governments in our history supported by B.C. MLAs and MPs that haven't the guts to emit even a peep of concern on environmental travesties bound to destroy their incredibility beautiful province. They should all hang their heads in shame.

Thanks to the unquenchable greed of Alberta and the screw-the-environment attitude of our right wing zealots in Ottawa and Victoria, British Columbia is slated to become Alberta's ever-leaking sewer pipe.

I don't believe that British Columbians will permit this to happen and the governments will be dealing with very heavy duty public action -- for which the blame lies 100 per cent on them.  [Tyee]

Read more: Politics, Environment,

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