Is Canada’s oil sector harming the rest of the economy? According to Bank of America Merrill Lynch, the evidence points to yes. In a new report, the bank has come out squarely in favour of the “Dutch Disease” theory — the not…
This article is spot on. While the oil and gas boom has had positive economic impact for Canada, it has caused pain for other sectors.
The unholy trinity of the Alberta tarsands industry, the Conservative Party and the right-wing media has gone all-out in its attacks on Neil Young for his stance against their destructive policies and actions. One thing that these corporate wolves and subservient sheep overlook is that, of course, Neil Young is right.
The main arguments by the Conservative tarsands mob are that:
1) Young hasn’t lived in Canada for a long time, so he has no right to talk about anything that happens in Canada.
2) He’s a rich rock star, so he has no right to talk about anything, period.
3) Young uses oil and oil-based products, so he has no right to say anything bad about the oil industry or the governments that subsidize and promote that industry.
4) The Alberta tarsands industry is the only economic sector keeping Canada’s finances afloat, funding our social programs and preventing our have-not provinces from going bankrupt.
5) The Alberta tarsands industry is the only economic sector offering good-paying job opportunities for Canadians, even for workers without much education, training or experience.
6) The Alberta tarsands industry is actually ethical, environmentally friendly, doesn’t cause health problems, is good for Natives and doesn’t smell.
These talking points are bullshit, and here’s why:
1) The environment is worldwide, the economy is worldwide, and politics are worldwide. We all have the right to talk about any issue we want to talk about (although the elites are increasingly cracking down on that right). We don’t all have to agree with each other, but we all have the right to express our views.
2) Rich corporate parasites bombard us with capitalist propaganda 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and nobody questions their right to say what they want. Anything that counteracts the powerful, well-oiled propaganda machine is welcome and desperately needed – even if that challenge comes from a wealthy musician who lives in California most of the year.
3) Blowhards who say that humans who use oil or oil-based products should never say a bad word about the oil industry are chock-full of shit. Using that logic, anyone who lives in society should never criticize anything at all, since we all benefit from society in some way. It’s the good ol’ “love it or leave it” attitude that’s popular amongst right-wing assholes when their team is in power, but mysteriously absent when their opponents have the upper hand.
Besides, most of the tarsands oil is not meant for Canadian consumption, so it is irrelevant whether Canadians use oil and oil-based products. Alberta tarsands bitumen is to be shipped to China and the United States, where it will be refined and consumed, or sold back to Canadians as value-added finished products. If the tarsands oil was refined and consumed in Canada, then perhaps the pro-tarsands crowd would have a point, but until that day arrives (which will likely be never), they have no leg to stand on.
4) The Alberta tarsands sector represents a tiny percentage of Canada’s GDP. Most of the Alberta tarsands projects are owned by foreign companies (mostly Chinese and American), and most of the profits go out of the country. Compared to the profits they funnel out of Canada, they pay very little in taxes and royalties in this country.
As for the myth that Alberta supports the have-not provinces, that misconception comes from people not understanding how Canada’s equalization program works. The money for the transfer program comes from individual and business taxpayers across the country – not from provincial governments.
Alberta, in fact, used to be a have-not province, supported financially by taxpayers in other Canadian provinces. Now, considering Alberta is sitting on lots of oil and natural gas, their provincial government should be running surpluses while maintaining the best infrastructure and public services in North America. Instead, Alberta’s back-to-back Progressive Conservative governments have been running deficits, growing their debt and allowing their infrastructure and public services to crumble. This is mostly due to keeping their taxes and royalty rates artificially and irresponsibly low.
For the longest time, Ontario was a have province, but has recently become a have-not province, almost entirely due to federal Conservative and Liberal free trade/globalization policies that have decimated Ontario’s manufacturing sector (and other sectors in which jobs can be offshored). Even though Ontario is currently a have-not province in terms of government finances, much of the tax money that goes into the equalization program comes from Ontario workers and businesses in the first place! Ontarians are merely getting some of their own money back!
5) Yes, the Alberta tarsands industry offers many high-paying job opportunities, but at what cost, and for how long? The Canadian and Alberta governments have spent billions of tax dollars directly and indirectly subsidizing the tarsands industry, with relatively low returns. If they had invested that money in green energy (or even in building a no-so-green oil refinery), the economic return would be much higher, and the environmental cost would be much lower.
The high-paying Alberta jobs might not continue to be so high paying, for three reasons. First, more Canadians from across the country – and immigrants from across the planet – have been moving to Alberta to get those jobs, thus putting downward pressure on wages, benefits and working conditions.
Second, the weakly enforced Conservative temporary foreign workers program is making this worse, by allowing employers to fire Canadian workers and replace them with poor, desperate, lower-paid temporary workers who are willing to accept substandard conditions. This brings down the wage rates and standard of living for everyone else.
Third, the federal Conservatives and the Alberta Progressive Conservatives have been weakening unions and reducing all workers’ rights. They have been doing this for one reason and one reason only: to lower labour costs and increase profits for big corporations.
6) Anyone who believes the talking points from profit-motivated tarsands corporations over verified facts presented by scientists and people on the ground is either delusional or in on the scam. Don’t forget, “tarsands” is a word that the industry itself used for a long time, before their marketing and public relations experts told them to replace the word with “oil sands” and the even more innocuous “energy”.
As for being environmentally friendly, the oil companies only do what governments force them to do. They follow the letter – not the spirit – of the law (unless they think they can get away with breaking the law). Whenever corporations are forced to pay small fines, they just consider it the cost of doing business, since the profits from their violations far outweigh the penalties. Environmental laws have been gutted in Canada anyway; natural resources companies almost literally re-wrote Canada’s new environmental legislation for the Harper Conservatives.
History shows that whenever there is a man-made environmental disaster, either those responsible pay a tiny portion of the cleanup costs or they declare bankruptcy and start up business again under a different name. Taxpayers are stuck with the tab.
And yes, according to people who are willing to tell the truth, the polluted air in Fort McMurray does stink.
In summary, Neil Young is right, the tarsands Conservatives are full of crap, and we need to get off our butts and do something about it.
In the Cree language, the word “athabasca” means “a place where grass is everywhere.” Here in Alberta, the Athabasca River slices through forests of spruce and birch before spilling into a vast freshwater delta and Lake Athabasca.
But 100 miles upstream, the boreal forest has been peeled back by enormous strip mines, where massive shovels pick up 100 tons of earth at a time and dump it into yellow trucks as big as houses.
For those who have started to follow my blog, or anyone who is now discovering it, hopefully my writing is inspiring conversation with friends and colleagues about the lack of civil debate in our society. As a filmmaker, currently focusing on making documentaries, I have ben troubled by the rise of the filmmaker as celebrity commentator. I guess it’s easy to lay the blame on Michael Moore on the one hand because he popularized that form of film. And certainly we have seen that it can be very effective in delivering a specific message and political agenda.
I don’t want to pass judgement on the value of the Michael Moore style of documentary, I do watch his films and have been entertained, annoyed, etc,, but just to say that it is not the style that I choose for myself. I like to make thought provoking work that challenges the audience. I don’t necessarily want to provide answers. I likely don’t have the answers to start with, but I also feel that with major issues we need more vigorous conversation, and a documentary can be a great way to inspire debate. Not the screaming at each other brand that has become so popular because people like watching a train wreck, but getting back to real civil exploration of ideas. I remember back in the 70’s there was a show on CBC called “The Great Debate”. It was great example of how listening to great thinkers engage in an intellectual battle of ideas can be entertaining.
As a filmmaker, one of my challenges is to try to make films that are relatively speaking “objective”. I think the meaning of that word in journalism and documentary filmmaking has been blurred, and I have been attempting to sort out why. I’ve even used the term with regards to my current project.
It is important then to examine if objectivity is a reasonable goal for a documentary film? There are a number of challenges with being objective. To be objective means to not allow personal feelings or opinions influence the representation of facts. In deconstructing this sentence I would point out some flaws I see in how this applies in my case to making films, and open the debate to how my reasoning may apply beyond the world of documentary film.
First of all, humans are emotional beings. I would suggest that it is impossible to separate emotions from rational thought. We may be challenged in recognizing our emotions, or being able to attach a word to what we’re feeling, but our emotions are always present, not matter how hard we may be trying to be rational and logical.
As a challenge, take a moment right now to close your eyes, and identify what you are feeling, where that feeling manifests in your body, and what word identifies that emotion.
Secondly, we must look deep into the notion of how facts are represented. There is the obvious issue of who determines what the facts are in a given story, what facts are chosen, what ones might be overlooked, and that facts can sour over time. The saying “history is written by the winners” has great relevance. Another example of how difficult it can be to determine the facts, especially when the human element is involved, is the variation in stories that happen when multiple people witness the same accident. Stories from witnesses can vary greatly.
Dealing with testimonies and interviews is extremely challenging when making a film. a typical feature length documentary for example may be between 90 minutes to two hours. However, that film may be edited down from forty to one hundred hours of footage. My interview with Paul Roberts, author the book “End of Oil”, that I shot for my 2006 film “Pay Dirt” was close to two hours long. Mr Roberts was an awesome interviewee, and he gave some fantastic well thought out, complex answers to the questions. In the end film we were able to use probably five to six minutes of that interview. We had to make difficult choices in boiling down his answers to the sound bites that had relevance to the story we were telling.
In editing a film we constantly make choices about what to keep in and what has to go. Decisions are often not guided by the quality of the content, but that amount of time we have to tell the story. Our choices are guided by the ideal of objectivity and balance, but choices by nature are influenced by our emotions, how we feel on that day, in that moment, My perceptions of what is important might be vastly different from another filmmaker cutting the same footage.
We can then look at issues of choosing the interview subjects, locations, the questions for the interview, where the camera is set up, when the camera is turned on, etc. There are many factors that go into the making of a documentary that have nothing to do with objectivity. Personal opinions, tastes, biases always permeate the decision process.
In writing this blog, I am letting my own opinions flow through onto the screen as I write. It is important that I do this as part of my process of exploring the subject I have chosen. Does that mean I cannot produce an end product film that achieves a goal of relative objectivity? I hope not. I know I cannot be completely objective. I think that absolute objectivity is a false goal in the grande scheme. What I can do is give my best effort to ensure that I am always fair, balanced and transparent. But even these things will be open to debate, and likely some will judge that my biases got the best of me. That’s okay, art is a subjective field. Documentary filmmaking by it’s nature opens the door to subjective judgments from the audience, and that is a great thing.
In the end, I will judge the success of this project by the quality of debate that it inspires. My hope is to raise awareness around energy issues, and increase energy literacy. I’m sure there may be a few other things, but I’m going to end here. I hope that some of you will share your thoughts on what I have written.
When Dr. Faisal Moola tweeted at Tim Hortons on June 4, little did he expect the Twitter tsunami of ugly and racist abuse that ensued.
Moola, an adjunct professor in the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Forestry, swiftly became a casualty of a vicious digital propaganda war that erupted after Tim Hortons chose to terminate its agreement to host Enbridge ad on its in-house TV screens.
The ecology scientist, who doubles as the David Suzuki Foundation’s Director General of Ontario and Northern Canada, was slammed for being anti-Canadian, foreign funded, and an Arab with obvious Middle Eastern oil connections. Some told him to “get out of my country” and “fall down a set of stairs.”
“I was being vilified as, ‘you have no credibility to speak about this issue’, because you are an Arab. You come from a country that benefits from conflict oil. You are a threat to the country, to the country’s economy and such,” he said.
Secwepemc Women Warrior Society say no to Kinder Morgan pipeline
Their opposition is to the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline proposing to cut through the heart of their Secwepemc Nation, crossing countless clean rivers, creeks and streams, carrying 890,000 barrels of crude oil per day, coming from the controversial Alberta Tar Sands. No Pipelines! No Surrender! No Compromise! This unceded Secwepemc and we speak for our Sacred Water! Our land is not for sale!
Secwepemc Women Warrior Society said a resounding No! to the Kinder Morgan pipeline today at an illegal engagement session between government and elected chief and council in Kamloops. The session was to push forward the federal government’s recent Eyford report on West Coast energy infrastructure and supposed “tanker safety”.
The women’s opposition is to the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline proposing to cut through the heart of Secwepemc Nation, crossing countless clean rivers, creeks and streams, carrying 890,000 barrels of crude oil per day, coming from the controversial Alberta Tar Sands.
According to Secwepemc Women Warrior Society, Defenders of Mother Earth: “We take this uncompromising stance of No Pipelines! No Infrastructure! that is threatening our Sacred Water. We need clean water for our future. Without clean water there is no life.”
Environmental and other “radical groups” are trying to block trade and undermine Canada’s economy, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said Monday.
Oliver’s comments come one day before federal regulatory hearings begin on whether to approve Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline, which would deliver crude from Alberta’s oilsands to Kitimat, B.C., for shipment to Asia.
More than 4,300 people have signed up to address the proposed pipeline over the next 18 months.
“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.”
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May says running a pipeline through British Columbia’s northern wilderness is a bad idea that can’t be fast-tracked.
“Unfortunately, I think your role as minister of natural resources has been hijacked by the [Prime Minister’s Office] spin machine. The PMO is, in turn, hijacked by the foreign oil lobby,” she wrote in an open letter in response to Oliver.
May says there are other ways to diversify Canada’s energy markets, other routes and other forms of energy.
“By characterizing this issue as environmental radicals versus Canada’s future prosperity you have done a grave disservice to the development of sensible public policy,” she said.
That we are now characterizing environmental groups as “radical” is almost as disturbing to me as the fact that our government seems to view “socialism” as a bad word.
“This is Our Home”, a peaceful march and rally to protect the natural environment against pipeline development, will be coming to the community of Fort Langley on April 11. The rally coincides with the Provincial Premier’s meeting in Quebec to discuss climate change.
Susan Davidson, one of the organizers from the PIPE UP Network said: “We are joining with the many people who are marching in Quebec on that same day who are also concerned that the National Energy Board will not even let us talk about climate change when we discuss pipeline projects.”
The organizers, including artist and activist Brandon Gabriel, expect hundreds of participants in this family friendly rally beginning with a march from at the Kwantlen Sports Field to the Fort Langley Community Hall at 12:30.
A paint-in to decorate and paint banners, flags and signs to be carried in the rally is happening this Thursday from 3 to 6 p.m. at the Fort Langley Community Hall. For more details, please see the event page on Facebook.
I know there are all sorts of stereotypes about country folk & cowboys, but ignorance doesnt equal fact. I know that my dad taught me to love & respect the land, to love & respect animals & to love where I come from.This province has been overrun with industry over the past few years, with fewer & fewer ranches left standing.
Corb takes a stance against the oilfield & coalbed methane industries who are ruining our beautiful land & poisoning our animals & people. I commend him for openly expressing these views in this ultra Conservative place, especially singing stereotypically close minded country music (ever hear of Toby Keith??)
CORB LUND: THIS IS MY PRAIRIE
This is my prairie, this is my home I’ll make my stand here and I’ll die alone They can drill, they can mine o'er my smouldering bones Cuz this is my prairie, this is my home
The water is poison, my calves are all dead My children are sick and the aquifer’s bled They want a big pipeline right thru Pop’s grove This is my prairie, this is my home