When the dealin's done...

May 22, 2014

It’s been a busy week for government propagandists. Why?

Back when I was a reporter I had a mantra I would chant to myself while writing: Who, What, When, and Why. Who, What, When, and Why? It’s particularly effective when applied to government stories, so let’s apply it to last week’s series of announcements.

WHO: The federal government that has turned a deaf ear to climate change and mitigation, and stripped itself of the ability to protect the environment by gutting the Environmental Assessment, Fisheries and Navigable Waters Acts.

WHAT: New rules for tankers that raise the ceiling on corporate liability but not enough to ensure taxpayers won’t be making a big contribution to cleaning up the next disastrous oil spill. A day later the national energy board announced new rules for pipelines. Again, the liability limit was raised – but not much and taxpayers will still be left on the hook for future pipeline disasters too (of which you can count on). Then on Thursday the Prime Minister headed out to New Brunswick to announce $500 million in funding for a conservation plan. Oddly for this government, the conservation announcement brings Canada into compliance with an obligation under a UN environmental treaty Canada is signatory to (they left that part out).

Don't get me wrong -- I'm all in favour of better rules. Come to think of it I'm in favour of better rulers, too. The problem of course is the weather and treacherous waters aren’t governed any rules we control.

WHEN: All the announcements took place in one week in May.

WHY: All this sudden action from an otherwise moribund government begs the question of motive. Did someone wake up one morning last week and hear the birds singing? Is that why they chose to finally do something to protect nature? Did they finally come to the correct realization that their lives -- and those of their families’-- depend on nature to survive? Or is something else afoot? Although I would like to believe the former I think it’s the later.

The Gambler

The federal government is expected give Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline the green light in about three weeks. Last week’s Conservative parallel universe of announcements was an attempt to get out in front of the story and justified concerns about pipelines, tanker traffic and conservation that will re-emerge. Consider it the opening barrage (or should I say barge opening) in a new PR war to soften up the public for the bad news.

Unfortunately, right to self-determination of citizens and first nations has been ignored. Petro democracy, if you like. At every turn people have rejected Northern Gateway. Opposition has been, and remains, at unprecedented levels; it reaches deeply into communities. New announcements and new money for TV commercials won’t do a thing to change the fact that citizens will NEVER allow this project to happen. I’m not a gambler, but you can bet your house on that fact.

The Prime Minister would be wise to recall the wisdom found in a famous country song, and know when to fold’em. Unfortunately, our dear leader doesn’t think that way. In fact, you can count on him to double down on the future of our planet and loved ones.

Hold on to your hats everyone--we’re in for a bumpy ride.

John Bennett, National Program Director
Sierra Club Canada Foundation
1501-1 Nicholas Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1N 7B7
John on Twitter / Bennett Blog


Northern Gateway: Isn’t it time to reject the past and embrace the future?
Bennett Blog (June 17, 2014)