This week, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver lashed out at environmentalists opposing the Northern Gateway pipeline as “billionaire socialists from the United States who are trying to undermine the Canadian economy.” In an open letter, he wrote that “environmental and other radical groups” are trying “to hijack our regulatory system to achieve their radical ideological agenda.”
Mr. Oliver’s tirade is just the latest in a series of moves intended to squelch opposition to the Conservative government’s determination to ignore environmental concerns if they slow its economic agenda. In a democracy, power rests in the hands of the people. An informed electorate will examine, question and challenge. The Harper government paints those who take that responsibility seriously as a lunatic fringe of “left-wing ideologues.”
Environmentalists and Radical Groups on the Chopping Block
The Harper government is using its majority to stifle opposition from an informed electorate. By limiting debate, threatening funding cuts and reducing staff that produce reports independent of corporate influence, they clear the path for their pro-industry agenda.
Environmental artist Franke James discovered the consequences of objecting to government policies when her international tour had to be canceled because of the Canadian government’s pressure on her sponsors. Apparently the Harper government was sensitive about her questioning Canada’s environmental record. In Dear Prime Minister she had posed questions a lot of Canadians are asking, such as, “Why are you making us choose between the economy and the environment?”
The Canadian Environmental Network also experienced the government’s intolerance of “environmentalists and radical groups.” Last fall Environment Canada pulled more than a half million dollars in funding from the 34-year-old national organization that has been instrumental in drafting significant environmental legislation. They were notified in May 2011 that they could expect funding to be renewed. In October 2011 funding was denied, and Canadians lost the networking link between 640 small environmental groups and the federal government.
Photo 1 from Thinkstock; Photo 2 from Dogwood Initiative via Flickr Creative Commons
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