My daughter loves fairy tales, particularly the Three Little Pigs. You know how it goes: the Big, Bad Wolf huffs and puffs and threatens to blow down the houses of various pigs.
Strangely, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s plans for West Coast oil tanker and pipeline projects to serve Chinese interests are starting to resemble my daughter’s favourite nighttime fables. Headlines screaming, “Canada PM vows to ensure key oil pipeline is built” look like lots of huffing, and way too much puffing with the Prime Minster looking more like a Big Bad Wolf than the public servant sworn to protect the interests of all Canadians, not the interests of state-owned Chinese oil companies.
Unfortunately for Harper and his Alberta oil buddies, widespread opposition to crude oil supertankers from the public, municipalities and First Nations creates a brick wall no amount of huffing and puffing can tumble. The simple fact is the vast majority of British Columbians oppose oil supertankers and there is no way to ship oilsands crude to China without bringing Exxon Valdez-sized oil tankers to B.C.’s inside coastal waters. Attempts to force British Columbians to accept supertanker projects will be met with stiff resistance – in the courts, in the streets and ultimately at the polls.
Harper’s claims about the supposed benefits of West Coast pipelines and oil tankers increasingly appear to be made of straw and sticks, rather than hard facts. Economist and former Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) CEO Robyn Allan has come out against Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline and oil tanker proposal saying that, “the higher price Canadian oil is expected to command if the pipeline is built will have negative consequences … in the form of an inflationary price shock, which will have a negative and prolonged impact on the Canadian economy by reducing output, employment, labour income and government revenues.”
Fortunately, no amount of huffing and puffing can overcome the brick wall we are building against this project.
A recent University of Ottawa study also blows holes in Harper’s national interest straw man. The study found the rapid expansion of Canadian oil exports has already resulted in a hollowing out of Canada’s manufacturing sector, due to the increase in the Canadian dollar as it tracks the price of oil. This dynamic -sometimes referred to as “Dutch Disease” – was responsible for 42 per cent of currency-related job losses in Canada between 2002 and 2007. That works out to about 140,000 jobs lost in the manufacturing sector because of the rapid expansion of the oilsands – and the disease would be exacerbated by Harper’s much touted pipelines.
Harper’s Big Bad Wolf persona is also visible in his attempts to demonize Dogwood Initiative and other community and environmental groups (as well as First Nations) that are opposing West Coast oil tanker and pipeline proposals. Harper’s efforts to distract attention from his bully tactics with labels like “radical” are reminiscent of the wolf’s attempts to entice Little Red Riding Hood by dressing up like grandma. The costume didn’t fool Little Red Riding Hood, and the wolf’s true intentions quickly became clear.
Just as the fairy tale’s wolves would do just about anything to get what they wanted, Harper appears willing to go to any length to fight for the interests of oil companies. Democracy, indigenous rights, fair and independent processes and British Columbians’ wishes all seem expendable in Harper’s quest to expand oilsands production.
Fortunately, no amount of huffing and puffing can overcome the brick wall we are building against this project. While Harper’s arrogance is understandable given he has finally achieved his yearned-for majority, he ignores history’s fables at his peril.
When you cut through all the huffing and puffing and attempted disguises, the question is becoming: Is Harper willing to try to force the risk of an oil spill onto unwilling British Columbians?
If he is, I am convinced my daughter will be reading about his defeat in the history books, not in fairy tales.