The Harper Conservatives are well known for being defenders of the oil sands (no matter what effect they have on the climate), going so far as to modify the environmental assessment process in the latest budget so the project can go ahead more quickly.
The Tories became vicious when Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair suggested the Alberta oil sands were artificially inflating the Canadian dollar and that was hurting other industries across the country, particularly manufacturing in Ontario. The Tories demanded that Mulcair visit the oil sands before having any such opinion on them, and suggested that he could not have an open mind when he scheduled his visit.
Now, as Mulcair is in Alberta visiting the oil sands (though the Premier of the province — also a Conservative — refused to meet with him) a new report has come out from the Pembina Institute supporting his assertion that the development is causing a type of ‘Dutch Disease’ in the country. The report calls what’s happening in Canada ‘oil sands fever’ and says it differs from what happened in Holland but is creating “clear winners and losers” in the Canadian economy. The Pembina Institute encourages the government to look towards the growing clean energy economy to maintain Canada’s place in the world economy, because that’s where the future lies.
While in Alberta, Mulcair called for more environmental oversight, not less, and at the same time the province was working to clean up a May 19 oil spill, one of the largest in North America in recent years.
More oversight could prove beneficial, especially noting one line in the Globe and Mail article: “As with many recent pipeline accidents, Calgary-based Pace did not detect a problem, but was informed of the leak by another company after the spill was spotted from an aircraft.”
The Harper Government has, however, cut 776 jobs at Environment Canada, which will slow down the review process and could lead to more spills like this going undiscovered. They’ve also spent a lot of time silencing scientists who speak to reporters about environmental issues — but Environment Minister Peter Kent says the government believes scientists should be focused on ‘taxpayer funded research’ rather than interviews, but that they are allowed to speak up, as long as journalists make ‘reasonable requests.’
The oil sands fight will continue, with the Harper government on the side of the business and making sure nothing stands in the way of new developments and the opposition on the side of environmental sustainability and appropriate rules for the companies that are exploiting it for profit.
Photo Credit: jasonweoodhead23