It’s the wild west and your town is being terrorized by a group of outlaws that act with seeming impunity. They steal your cattle, rape your women and are dangling the riches from their ill gotten gains in front of your youngest son in an attempt to get him to join their posse. They have bigger guns, faster horses and fewer scruples than you.

When you arrive at the local Sheriff’s office he tells you they are taking steps to bring the outlaws in line with the law. How? They are in the process of amending the laws against cattle theft and rape.

The ‘thieves” will be made to pay for the cattle they steal, but only after only after they start making a solid profit from the theft. As they are currently spending all their money buying more guns and hiring more rustlers, that could be quite some time.  Rape won’t be considered rape if the outlaws promise to return the women in good condition after they are done using then.

Oh, and don’t worry about your son.  He won’t be working for a band a thieves, but a legitimate business with serious growth potential.

Welcome to the Alberta oil sands.  For cattle rustling read oil extraction.  “Net royalty programs” allow companies to reinvest in the oil sands rather than pay for the oil (it belongs to the province not private companies) they extract.  For rape read destruction of the environment.  Oil sands producers have to promise to ‘return mined land to the natural state’.  They have yet to even prove this is possible on the scale they are destroying wetlands and boreal forest.  (Of the 478 km2 of disturbed land only 0.2% has been satisfactorily reclaimed.)

Increasingly Canada’s laws that should prevent the destruction of our planet are being written at the behest of our worst polluters and money that should be going to protect our environment is being given as subsidies to these wildly profitable industries.

Two recent examples are the Minister of Natural Resources attempts to reduce environmental oversight by ‘streamlining’ the pipeline approval process and the $650 million given to tar sands producers to research carbon capture and storage.

Our problem isn’t oil sands producers it’s a government that acts like it’s on their pay roll.

Next week: Oil sands vs coal. Who is Canada’s worst polluter?