“A Conservative Government is an organized hypocrisy,” said British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper seems determined to prove it.
As the hearings on the controversial Enbridge Northern Gateway tar sands pipeline and tanker project got underway, the Canadian federal government launched a smear campaign against pipeline opponents. Listen to the rhetoric in an open letter from Canadian Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver:
"Unfortunately, there are environmental and other radical groups that would seek to block this opportunity [the Gateway pipeline] to diversify our trade…their goal is to stop any major project no matter what the cost to Canadian families in lost jobs and economic growth…[they] threaten to hijack our regulatory system to achieve their radical ideological agenda." Oliver said opponents will bring "jet-setting celebrities” and use funding from "foreign special interest groups."
In reality, Messrs. Harper and Oliver have no problem with foreign interference, as long as Canada is the one doing the interfering. They have no problem with foreign special interest groups as long as the foreign interests in question align precisely with those of the tar sands industry.
This is the government that has engaged in an international campaign against clean energy, lobbying to weaken legislation from Brussels to Washington, from Sacramento to Boston, always in defense of tar sands companies.
This is the government that has no problem with billions in foreign money going to the tar sands industry. Minister Oliver again: "There is not enough capital in this country to finance [tar sands development], so we welcome capital from other countries.” Modest grants to help raise legitimate concerns by Canadian citizens about a mega-project are not similarly welcome.
This is the government that says tar sands oil is “ethical” simply by virtue of its origins within Canadian borders, but has no qualms about exporting that same oil to dictatorships.
This is the government that has voiced no objection to the unethical behavior of TransCanada Pipelines, LTD in its attempt build the Keystone XL through the United States.
In one respect Minister Oliver is consistent: he does not hide the fact that the Government has already decided that the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline and tanker proposal is a great project before a single hearing has been held to hear the views of Canadian citizens. When US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she was “inclined” to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, her State Dept quickly pressed the reset button and at least tried to reclaim impartiality.
The good news is that this anti-democratic impulse to throttle the airing of legitimate concerns about Enbridge’s Northern Gateway tar sands pipeline and tanker project won’t work. Canadian environmental groups have stood up for their right to accept donations from abroad. They will continue to engage in alliances with US and European citizen groups dedicated to stopping the reckless expansion of the tar sands and to protecting our planet from the ever faster growing threats of climate change.