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Tar Sands Pipeline Critics Hit Back at 'Radical' Claims

Canadian Minister blames environmental, other "radical" groups for blocking Enbridge pipeline


"Environmentalists want to 'live within our means,' 'save some for tomorrow,' think about the 'legacy we leave for our children.' That strikes me as a pretty conservative approach," environmentalist David Suzuki said in a statement sent to CBC's Evan Solomon. (photo: CTV)

In an open letter on Monday, Canada's Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver railed against "radical" groups for trying to stop Enbridge's Northern Gateway pipeline, which would deliver tar sands oil from Alberta to Kitimat, British Columbia, for shipment to Asia.

In his letter yesterday, a day before the first public hearing on the pipeline proposal, Oliver stated the "radical" environmental groups were set on hijacking Canada's economy.

CBC News reports:

"Unfortunately, there are environmental and other radical groups that would seek to block this opportunity to diversify our trade," Oliver said in an open letter.

"Their goal is to stop any major project no matter what the cost to Canadian families in lost jobs and economic growth. No forestry. No mining. No oil. No gas. No more hydro-electric dams."

Oliver says the groups "threaten to hijack our regulatory system to achieve their radical ideological agenda," stack the hearings with people to delay or kill "good projects," attract "jet-setting" celebrities and use funding from "foreign special interest groups."

Oliver continued his message in an interview with CTV. They note:

In an interview with CTV's Power Play on Monday, Oliver said he's concerned that some of the pipeline opposition groups are using American funds to further an "ideological" agenda.

Those groups are "attempting to game the system and create so much delay that the economic viability of the project would be undermined," he said, adding that Canada must expand its oil export market beyond the United States to take advantage of international prices.

Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki reacted to Oliver's messaging:

"Environmentalists want to 'live within our means,' 'save some for tomorrow,' think about the 'legacy we leave for our children.' That strikes me as a pretty conservative approach," Suzuki said in a statement sent to CBC's Evan Solomon.

"We have become so powerful and demanding that we are negatively impacting air, water, soil and biodiversity, the very source of our lives and livelihood," the scientist and broadcaster said. "That's what environmentalists are concerned about and the minister's diatribe prevents us from having this important discussion of values and balance."

John Bennett, Sierra Club Canada Executive Director, scoffed at the charges of radicalism. In an open letter in response to Oliver's letter, he wrote:

Mr. Oliver says “environmentalists and radicals” just want to delay the scheme until it becomes economically unviable - an interesting charge. But is that really what’s happening – is that really what we do? Is asking government to make sure development is economically and environmentally sustainable and in the best interest of local residents and Canadians just a delay tactic? Of course not.

Haven’t we already learned the hard way that NOT asking tough questions can lead to devastating unintended environmental consequences? Last week I saw a news report on the reestablishment of eagles in New Jersey. They had dwindled to one pair by 1980. Back then there was no environmental assessment of DDT - just assurances from industry and government that it was safe and good for the economy. The eagles, falcons and other birds of prey are thankfully recovering because of “environmentalists and radicals” like Rachel Carson who used their democratic right raise the alarm and ask tough questions. Thankfully the government listened to, rather than attack, environmentalists and acted before it was too late.

Mr. Oliver’s other point is that foreign foundations are influencing Canadian public dialogue. We are preached to every day that we are in a global market where goods and ideas no longer have borders. Soliciting foreign investment, we are told in the sermons of CEOs and government ministers, is key to our future. The oil industry certainly seeks foreign investment ($100 billion and counting), including from the government of China through its state-owned oil companies.

It’s interesting how Mr. Oliver failed to raise concerns over revelations that Alberta secretly worked with the oil industry to develop a PR campaign and joint messaging to counter Canadians’ well-justified concerns about fracking. Further, recent press reports indicate that oil executives and their lobbyists have had the greatest number of meetings with ministers and government officials (including Mr. Oliver).

I guess that’s why we don’t see any feigned indignation from Mr. Oliver about big oil influencing Canadian policy.

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