I was watching a programme on the Canadian oil sands on Al Jazeera recently when someone said: “You know, the biggest challenge to progress on climate change is coming not from China, not from the Middle East, not from the United States, but from Canada.”
Whoever it was made the statement kind of laughed incredulously, as if to say it was virtually incomprehensible that Canada, always known as a good guy in international relations, should suddenly have joined the list of villains. Not just joined the list, but have emerged as a leading villain.
An access to information request has now revealed the extent to which the government has not only joined the villains, but is taking the lead throughout the world in opposing efforts to deal with climate change, according to an excellent story in The Toronto Star, by Martin Lukacs, the indefatigable Montreal resesrcher (who has also taken up the cause of the Barriere Lake Algonquns, and their struggle to get the collaboration of the governments that are still oppressing them today, as they have been doing for the last two hundred years).
Lukacs writes that in 2010 the federal and Alberta governments struck up a secret committee to coordinate the promotion of the oil sands with Canada’s most powerful industry lobby group, a committee that brought together the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) with deputy ministers in charge of natural resources and the environment, from each of the governments. The purpose of the committee is to synchronize their lobbying in face of the mounting outrage around the world against Alberta’s crude oil from the tar sands that has come to be known as “the dirtiest oil in the world.”
The Al Jazeera documentary pointed out that the tar sands is today the world’s biggest industrial project, so it is hardly surprising that it has attracted the enthusiastic support of two rigidly capitalistic governments, since there is no room in the capitalist economic system for anything but profits, the fate of the world being a value that has no presence in a profit and loss account.
Apparently the Canadian government is working hand-in-glove with the oil industry to undermine policies taken in the United States and Europe that could in any way curb the expansion of the tar sands. Lukacs quoted a Greenpeace campaigner, Keith Stewart as saying that while Canadians agree “that oil may run our cars for now, it shouldn’t ever run our government.”
Of course, it always has, let’s face it. Years ago, during the reign of the Liberal government, I used to make a habit of writing that the industry minister of the time, Anne McLellan, was incompetent to be a federal minister because she was so evidently in the pocket of the oil industry. (On my web site at that time, McLellan shared top villainy with John Manley, the industry minister, who, I believed, had allowed the Chamber of Commerce to rewrite Canada’s Competitions Act, without any reference to the union movement, and so could be said to be in the pocket of big business. This has since been confirmed by Manley’s appointment as director of the Council of CEO’s, the successor to the group that was once headed by Thomas d’Aquino.)
One shot in the Al Jazeera documentary, which followed the flight across the oil sands project of a small plane, illustrated the immense size of the disruption this project has created to the natural world. The shot seemed to go on and on, showing beneath the plane an absolutely vast project that --- also according to evidence produced largely by native people whose lives have been disrupted ---- has already resulted in an immense increase in the number of cancers identified that can be attributed to the substances the project releases into the waters of the Athabaska river basin.
Another conclusion of the Al Jazeera documentary is that obviously the federal government has decided the oil sands are to be the basis for the expansion of the Canadian economy into the future, a conclusion supported by the assumption by the Petroleum Producers’ organization (CAPP) that the Alberta monstrosity will contribute $84 billion annually to the Canadian economy for the next 25 years.
Our federal government, the Harper government as they like to call themselves, has already obviously become the obedient handmaiden to the oil industry, which would account for their withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol, the only globally-binding agreement for emissions reduction.
Efforts to establish a so-called “Fuel Quality Directive” in Europe have been delayed by Canadian pressure, which has also been brought against United States efforts at the state-level to introduce similar fuel efficiency standards.
That our government should be lobbying internationally against such measures surely indicates that Canadians should stop thinking of themselves as good guys in the global battle to reduce the war against nature, but instead that we have become a leading force for obscurantism and the naked drive for profit at all costs.