A Day for Celebrating
My co-worker told me on Monday that the third Monday in January is called "Blue Monday" - Christmas is over, debt is high, people have been back at work for three weeks and with no holiday in sight, depression looms. Well, not today! Today is a day for celebrating.
First of all, it snowed on Gabriola Island. But, more importantly, today President Obama announced his decision to deny the Keystone Pipeline application by TransCanada. Obama says he did not have adequate time to make a full assessment on the pipeline's safety and its environmental impact. His decision unleashed a barrage of criticism from pipeline supporters but has been hailed as an act of bravery by environmental leaders.
In a message to 350.org supporters, Bill McKibben says, "For years, the knock on the President Obama was that he backed down too easily in the face of opposition. Not here. When Republicans in Congress forced the issue again by passing a 60-day time limit on the President's final decision, he stood strong and denied the permit. And that was despite the most explicit threats from Big Oil: that they would exact ‘huge political consequences’ if he did the right thing on Keystone. Make no mistake—this is a brave decision." It seems the Republican hard-nosed approach gave Obama the window of opportunity he needed.
Of course, the Keystone Pipeline is not the only pipeline proposal coming out of the Alberta Tar Sands so here’s another reason to cheer - an agreement struck by Calgary-based Enbridge Inc. last month, which was supposed to prove to Canadians that there is aboriginal support for the Northern Gateway pipeline, has officially collapsed.
Gitxsan hereditary chiefs voted to reject the deal that would have given the First Nation $7 million in profits over 30 years. This overturns an earlier deal agreed upon without full consent of all elders. Gitxsan elders have been blockading the GitxsanTreaty Office to protest the lack of proper representation.
Earlier this week, the Federal Joint Review Panel, comprised of representatives from both the National Energy Board of Canada and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, began hearings into Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline proposal. Unlike President Obama, Prime Minister Harper does not seem concerned that adequate time be allocated for due democratic process.
In an open letter posted on the Natural Resources media site, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver complained about the 4000 plus speakers who have requested an audience with the review panel.
"Unfortunately, there are environmental and other radical groups that would seek to block this opportunity to diversify our trade. 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.
These groups threaten to hijack our regulatory system to achieve their radical ideological agenda. They seek to exploit any loophole they can find, stacking public hearings with bodies to ensure that delays kill good projects. "
Primer Minister Harper has expanded this theme stating that, “Growing concern has been expressed to me about the use of foreign money to really overload the public consultation phase of regulatory hearings just for the purpose of slowing down the process,”
Interestingly enough, foreign companies which have invested or plan to invest in the pipeline or tar sand project are welcome to speak.
The letter and the Prime Minister’s comments have outraged Canadians from all walks of life. I certainly know several people attending the hearings and they do not have any outside funding. They are paying out their own pockets or have been fundraising for months in order to attend. In the words of Sue Custance, our production manager, “These are ordinary thinking Canadians. I guess that what it takes to be a radical these days, thinking!” The people who wish to speak at the hearings are Canadians with legitimate concerns and a wish to partake in the democratic process.
But I will give the last word to political satirist, Rick Mercer, who always says it best…