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Cartoon by Greg Perry.

Cartoon by Greg Perry.

Tankers safe! Protests rude! National Energy Board fair! Save Albertans’ asses!

It is always so comforting to know that the Vancouver Sun cares enough for us to keep us impartially informed of matters environmental. For example, they’ve done it for us twice on the same day.

In the Jan. 28 edition, Stephen Ewart provides, we are told, the “View from Alberta” (where else?). A columnist for Postmedia’s Calgary Herald, Ewart previously was employed crafting messages for the oil and gas industry. Yet here he seeks to advise those who would stand in the way of the oil and gas industry.

Of course, this is about the protest by the good citizens of Burnaby against the expansion of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline. If their fight hadn’t had a great deal of impact, energy colossus Kinder Morgan wouldn’t be squawking so much through its spokesperson Ali Hounsell, nor would Ewart be dragged from his squirrel cage in Calgary.

But no, this protest was, according to Ewart, a terrible mistake and totally unhelpful to the pipeline opponents’ cause. He goes on to whine about protesters shouting at attendees of a Kinder Morgan dinner at a restaurant. Ewart is very offended. Somehow this was an abuse of free speech.

Besides, he lectures, there are “more than enough places to oppose, officially and unofficially, pipelines.” Officially? What would that be? Please don’t let Ewart be implying the National Energy Board.

The supposed public review of Trans Mountain by the NEB was aptly declared “fraudulent” by former BC Hydro CEO Marc Elisen as he quit his participation in the sham. The proceedings are a waste of taxpayers’ money. The fix is in. It is very little more than an industry love-in.

The NEB is worse than useless because it pretends to offer wholly independent assessment, but the very opposite is the case. Most evidence is not admitted. That which is admitted is not subject to cross-examination.

In fact, when it comes to major projects intended to further the gains of oil companies, there is no “official” venue affording an unbiased hearing, no way to be sure there will be an unbiased assessment and an unbiased recommendation by the governments of either B.C. or Canada.

Why we protest

I live on the Sea-to-Sky highway north of West Vancouver. Here the local politicians are doing everything possible to raise issues about the proposed liquefied natural gas plant and pipeline in Squamish. But they simply are not being listened to.

The Squamish council, a brave council indeed, has essentially been told by the federal government that whatever it does is farting against thunder because it has no authority.

This means that authority must rest with the provincial and federal governments.

Those petro-friendly governments, as I’ve explained many times before, are structurally immune not just to neutered opposition parties but even to critical perspectives by their own backbenchers who dare not defy the party line.

This brings me back to “the view from Alberta” courtesy of Postmedia’s former oil patch flack Ewart.

Why does Ewart suppose that the people of Burnaby, and their allies from around B.C., raised so much hell?

Does he not realize they were provoked by a sense that this is a last resort after other democratic avenues have been subverted and rendered farcical?

Perhaps Ewart believes protesting British Colombians are ill-informed and ill-educated.

Does he not realize they have concluded they have no other alternative than to expose themselves and their family to legal penalties including jail?

To dwell upon Ewart’s ridiculous article is merely to give credence to those Albertans fuzzy on democracy, the ones who believe they have a constitutional right to sacrifice the environment of neighbouring B.C. in order to sell their toxic tar sands to Asia to make themselves money — or, as it’s turning out, save their asses.

Volunteering for Big Oil

On the same day, the Sun found another pro-pipeline voice living in Vancouver, a beaming young man named Christopher Wilson. What might be his expertise to assure us that tanker traffic is “safer than ever?”

The Sun tells us only that Wilson is an “educator” who “is the B.C. representative for canadaaction.ca, a volunteer movement for Canadians to take action and work together in support of the resource sector.”

I went to canadaaction.ca yesterday, Feb. 1, to try and learn about its volunteers and backers, only to read the website is “taking a quick break.”

Hmmm. As Wilson extols the virtues of exporting oil through his province from Alberta, he cites the reassurances of the Fraser Institute. Now, of course we all have come to rely upon the Fraser Institute for completely unbiased opinions on matters of this sort. The fact that it has been funded by the bitumen refining, oil tycoon Koch brothers and other entities with ties to fossil fuel corporations is irrelevant. Right.

May I offer a small reality check for Christopher Wilson, who volunteers his time not to protest, but to “support” the aims of the oil industry?

Despite what the Fraser Institute says, all tankers are safe until one hits something and spills its cargo into the ocean or along shores. Mathematically, it is a certainty that there will be tanker accidents on our coast if the proposed pipelines go through. A certainty.

Election with much on line

We are in an election year and, as you may have determined, I’m angry. I see people travelling up and down the Sea-to-Sky gazing at Howe Sound, that world-renowned gem. I am desperately concerned that this beautiful place is going to be desecrated for the purpose of fossil fuel shipments to the Far East, and I want to weep.

I open our province’s supposed newspaper of record and there, on a single day, are two columns that pretend to tell me I am misplaced in my concerns and should question my solidarity with like-minded protestors.

I cannot accept the implicit message that Prime Minister Stephen Harper really knows what’s best for us. The 2015 election is the last chance we have to demand, and seize, the right to decide our own fate.

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