Opinion: China deal and budget sacrifice democracy

Why would government and industry resort to such extreme measures to push Enbridge Gateway pipeline through?

Why, when so many people oppose the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project, would government and industry resort to such extreme measures to push it through?

The problems with the plan to run pipelines from the Alberta tar sands across northern B.C. to load unrefined, diluted bitumen onto supertankers for export to China and elsewhere are well-known: threats to streams, rivers, lakes and land from pipeline leaks.

The danger of contaminated ocean ecosystems from tanker spills; rapid expansion of the tar sands; and the climate change implications of continued wasteful use of fossil fuels.

The benefits aren’t as apparent. Some short-term and fewer long-term jobs, possibly for foreign workers, and increased profits for the oil industry – including state-owned Chinese companies – are all we’re being offered in exchange for giving up our resources, interests and future, putting ecosystems at risk, and forfeiting due democratic process.

Our government is ramming through another omnibus budget bill, and is set to sign a deal with China, both of which seem aimed at facilitating the pipeline and other resource-extraction projects. Its first budget bill gutted environmental protection laws, especially those that might obstruct pipeline plans.

The recent 457-page omnibus budget bill goes even further. Among other changes, it revises the Navigable Waters Protection Act (renamed the Navigation Protection Act) to substantially reduce waterways that must be considered for protection and exempt pipelines from regulations.

Meanwhile, the government is set to sign a 31-year deal on Oct. 31 that will give China’s government significant control over Canada’s resources and even over Canadians’ rights to question projects like Northern Gateway.

The Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement would allow China to sue Canada, outside of our borders and behind closed doors, if the pipeline deal were blocked or China’s interests in our resource industry hindered – for example, if the B.C. government were to stop Northern Gateway.

It also gives the Chinese state-owned companies “the right to full protection and security from public opposition,” as well as the right to use Chinese labour and materials on projects in which it has invested.

According to author and investigative journalist Andrew Nikiforuk, writing for The Tyee, “The deal does not require provincial consent. It comes without any risk-benefit analysis. And it can be ratified into law without parliamentary debate.”

Why would anyone want to sell out our interests, democratic processes and future like this? And why would we put up with it?

On the first question, Gus Van Harten, an international investment law professor at Osgoode Hall Law School, told Desmog Blog we must consider the possibility that government and industry know that changes in attitudes about fossil fuel extraction “may lead to new regulations on the oil patch, in that, climate can’t just be wished away forever, and that governments might take steps to regulate the oil patch in ways that investors wouldn’t like.”

He continues, “If you bring in a lot of Chinese investments, and you sign the Canada investment deal, you kind of get the Chinese investors to do your dirty work for you.”

In other words, as the world recognizes the already extreme and increasing consequences of global warming and shifts from wastefully burning fossil fuels to conservation and renewable energy, tar sands bitumen may soon become uneconomical.

The goal is to dig it up, sell it and burn it as quickly as possible while there’s still money to be made.

It’s cynical and suicidal, but it’s the kind of thinking that is increasingly common among those who see the economy as the highest priority – over human health and the air, water, soil and biodiverse ecosystems that keep us alive.

— David Suzuki and Ian Hanington

See www.davidsuzuki.org.

 

Just Posted

BC SPCA overwhelmed with cats, kittens needing homes

Large number of cruelty investigations, plus normal ‘kitten season’ to blame

Second beach closed to swimming at Elk/Beaver lakes

Island Health, CRD do not recommend swimming at Hamsterly or Eagle beaches

Transit extends weekend night routes, ups service levels across Greater Victoria

Says bus lanes have helped improve BC Transit service frequencies

Ringette returns to Greater Victoria

Locals are forming a new ringette association after going more than decade without

Ethnic media aim to help maintain boost in voting by new Canadians

Statistics Canada says new Canadians made up about one-fifth of the voting population in 2016

POLL: Should there be a ban on gas-powered leaf blowers?

We’ve all heard them, and most likely cursed them under our breath.… Continue reading

Greater Victoria wanted list for the week of Aug. 23

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Wife charged in husband’s death in Sechelt

Karin Fischer has been charged with second-degree murder in the death of her husband, Max

B.C. Hydro applies for rare cut in electricity rates next year

Province wrote off $1.1 billion debt to help reverse rate increase

Retired Vancouver Island teacher ‘Set for Life’ after $675K lottery win

Patrick Shannon plans to buy new sails for his sailboat

New police force in Surrey must avoid VPD, RCMP errors made in Pickton case: Oppal

Boots are scheduled to be on the ground by spring 2021

Man at centre of dropped HIV-disclosure case sues province and 10 cops

Brian Carlisle of Abbotsford says Mission RCMP defamed him and were ‘negligent’ in their investigation

Most Read