Young and old are fed up with mounting betrayals from their ‘betters.’
I foresee a collision coming. Not between French Canada and the rest, not between East and West (although there is a role played by these stresses) but between the “establishment” and the general public. The “establishment” is difficult to define except everyone knows what it is. Dictionary.com defines it as “the existing power structure in society; the dominant groups in society and their customs or institutions; institutional authority.” Let me give a couple of examples leading to the conclusion to which I have reached.
I almost spilled my muesli the other morning when I read that the prime minister’s office had reacted to President Obama vetoing the Keystone XL pipeline, saying, “it has the support of the Canadian and American people… ”
Since when did our prime minister give a damn about what the people thought? Moreover, it’s a stretch to say that Keystone XL has the support of the Canadian people while in fact 54 per cent of British Columbians oppose, according to a poll from January 2014. That poll said only 52 per cent of all Canadians “somewhat” support it. Moreover, the poll was about a pipeline in the U.S., not at home.
My constituency is much opposed to an LNG plant in Squamish. Our Tory MP, John Weston, to the best of my knowledge, has not only never bothered to canvas his constituents as to how they feel about this ghastly project, he has twice, unsuccessfully, tried to get the West Vancouver council to reverse its decision to oppose it. Mr. Harper favours it. Thus, so does Weston and we the citizens simply don’t matter.
Harper does more than support the LNG industry, and so do we, big time, whether we like it or not. On Feb. 19, he announced tax breaks for the liquefied natural gas industry.
“In order to ensure that Canadian natural gas can reach new and growing international markets, and make it accessible for new domestic uses, the government intends to establish a capital cost allowance rate of 30 per cent for equipment used in natural gas liquefaction and 10 per cent for buildings at a facility that liquefies natural gas,” Harper said. “This tax relief will be available for capital assets acquired after Feb. 19, 2015, and before 2025.”
Don’t need tax breaks
Just why this business needs our tax dollars to survive is quite beyond me. Could it have anything to do with the fact that Premier Christy Clark so badly needs LNG to survive herself?
Then, on Feb. 27, the Vancouver Sun, consistent with its policy of permitting large industry to write op-ed articles, printed a piece by Michael Mulcahy, the president and CEO of FortisBC, a prominent energy company.
Hopeful to expand LNG, Mr. Mulcahy talks about everything except the important things. He brushes aside environmental concerns about LNG by consistently comparing it to things like propane and diesel in the most general and briefest terms. He doesn’t deal with the basic issue raised by scientists that taking everything into consideration, extracting and using natural gas is no better for the atmosphere than coal or oil. He says not a word about the dangers of transporting or storing LNG.
Another thing that Mr. Mulcahy avoids like the plague is the issue of hydraulic fracturing, “fracking.” There’s no mention in his article about the huge amount of water required or the consequent poisoning of the water table where fracking is done. We don’t hear a peep about “fracking” creating dangerous instability in the land. Not a word about the methane gas released. Needless to say, he doesn’t mention the jurisdictions all around the world, including Quebec and New York State, which have either banned fracking or have seriously curtailed it.
Somehow Mulcahy forgets to tell us that Woodfibre LNG, the proponents of the Squamish LNG plant, is controlled by controversial Indonesian billionaire Sukanto Tanoto, whose company, Asian Agri, was ordered in 2012 to pay over US$200 million in fines for tax evasion in Indonesia.
In 2014 the Guardian newspaper noted court evidence showing Asian Agri had long been engaged in “routine and systematic fraudulent accounting practices.”
This is the fine corporate citizen which FortisBC is supporting, and with which it’s doing big time business.
There was a time when both the government and big business had a degree of credibility. Of course, we took what they said with a grain of salt but we didn’t decide from the outset that whatever they said was a bunch of barnyard droppings.
Unfortunately, that’s the point we have now reached, and for unassailably good reasons. I frankly don’t believe a single solitary word that FortisBC or the government of Canada or the government of British Columbia or indeed any other large industry or government in the world has to say. I don’t think that very many of my fellow citizens believe them either.
The credibility of big business has scarcely been helped by the disclosure that HSBC, the second largest bank in the world, has helped large companies defraud governments out of billions of tax dollars. Indeed, the list of the bank’s clients includes some pretty seedy ones.
Below is an excerpt from Mayu Chang’s Feb. 27 CorpWatch blog, Details Of Tax Avoidance Schemes For Wealthy HSBC Clients Revealed.
“Falciani’s (the whistle blower) files show that HSBC employees in Switzerland reassured clients they would not disclose details of their accounts to tax authorities in their home countries. Some documents also showed that HSBC proactively contacted clients to discuss options that would allow its clients to avoid a new tax introduced under a treaty Switzerland signed with the European Union. And yet other documents show that HSBC maintained secret bank accounts for numerous dictators, arms dealers who sold mortar bombs for use by child soldiers in Africa as well as to traffickers in “blood diamonds” — mined by warring parties in conflict zones.”
This was not a one off.
In December 2012, HSBC was penalized $1.9-billion, the largest fine ever under the Bank Secrecy Act, for violating four U.S. laws designed to protect the U.S. financial system. HSBC had allegedly laundered at least $881 million in drugs proceeds through the U.S. financial system for international cartels, as well as processing an additional $660 million for banks in U.S. “sanctioned” countries.
According to news reports, the U.S. bank subsidiary also failed to monitor more than $670 billion in wire transfers and more than $9.4 billion in purchases of physical dollars from its Mexico unit. In a deferred prosecution with the Justice Department, the bank admitted that it “failed to maintain an effective program against money laundering and failed to conduct basic due diligence on some of its account holders.”
In other words, HSBC copped a plea.
A February 2013 article in Rolling Stone magazine, stated, “Yes, they issued a fine — $1.9 billion, or about five weeks’ profit — but they didn’t extract so much as one dollar or one day in jail from any individual, despite a decade of stupefying abuses” and further stated, “In this case, the bank literally got away with murder — well, aiding and abetting it, anyway.”
A modern environmentalism
Who does go to jail, of course, is the welfare mom who makes a little extra money and doesn’t report it.
This all comes at a time when, especially in British Columbia, a new modern environmentalism has taken hold. The governments, especially my member of Parliament, don’t understand the environmentalism that now prevails. Nobody wants to stop industry, stop development, or go into enforced but noble poverty, wearing sackcloth and ashes and munching nuts and raisins. They simply want “progress” in a manner that is consistent with protecting our environment. They understand that some sacrifices must be made — nothing comes for nothing — but know that this is eminently doable. They’re prepared to trade off some “progress” to save what God gave us. The government and industry treat them as wild-eyed maniacs and probably neo-coms to boot.
The signs have been there for a considerable period of time. The Occupy movement involved nearly 1,000 cities in some 82 countries and over 850 U.S. communities. This, of course, is pooh-poohed by the “establishment” as just being young ne’er-do-wells who will have no long-term impact. This is wrong, shortsighted and dangerous. What the Occupy movement tells us is that the “young world” is thoroughly pissed off with how they are governed.
It’s scarcely just young people involved. In Lions Bay, a small “c” conservative community if there ever was one, there will certainly be civil disobedience if the government forces the LNG plant in Squamish. The civil disobedience by the people in Burnaby over the Kinder Morgan expansion, far from offending my neighbours, encouraged them in their own battle against the proposed LNG plant.
One only has to read the comments in this paper and in others like it do see that there has been a sea change in the attitude of the general public towards their “betters.”
I’ve been around too long to believe that the collision is coming tomorrow afternoon. What I do say is that it is coming, the signs are all there, and that to be avoided there must be massive changes in the attitude of industry and government.
There’s another factor involved here which government seems unable to grasp. People are fed up with their MPs having absolutely no say in how the government is run and with leaders running the entire show from their offices. This has been going on a long time but it’s getting worse and worse. Again, in my constituency, Weston is generally seen as being a mere shill for government propaganda, which he of course, is. He has no opinion until Harper makes a decision so he knows what he must think and say.
We have, then, governments without credibility — and industry no one believes. No message will ever be accepted by anyone if, from the outset, they consider the person giving it a liar.
I’m not without hope. I believe that structural change to the way we run our government would make a huge difference. It would logically rub off on industry, which can’t peddle their crap unless the government is behind them.
I believe in proportional representation or some modified version of it. I don’t suggest that this would be a perfect solution. There’s no such thing and as I have mentioned in past columns here, we continually make perfection the enemy of improvement.
We have to get over that — if we do, we may actually restore some credibility to the “establishment,” and restore to the people of this country the power that is promised them by that now ridiculed word “democracy.”