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Clash Of Titans: Canada Battles Powerful Green Lobby

The Harper government’s confrontation with the opposition parties over Bill C-38 was the parliamentary manifestation of an epic clash between two titanic constituencies. In one camp are resource extraction entrepreneurs seeking less fettered access to the treasures of Western and Northern Canada. They look to Asia for investors and customers. The rival camp are rentiers from Central and Atlantic Canada who are economically and ideologically aligned with their counterparts in Western Europe and the US Northeast. They want to preserve the wealth within their realm. They favour neo-corporatist and quasi-autarkist policies.

In the May 2, 2011 election Prime Minister Harper and his Conservatives capped 5 years of leading minority governments by winning a majority of House of Commons seats. In the next 10 months they:

  • pulled Canada out of the Kyoto Protocol on climate change;
  • delivered notices of impending redundancy to 3,500 civil servants employed in 3 bastions of state enviro-activism (Parks Canada, Environment Canada, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada);
  • slashed the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency’s budget by 43%;
  • cut 10% from the budget of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (the principal propaganda organ of Canadian environmentalists);
  • discontinued funding for the EcoENERGY retro-fit and renewable energy programs
  • publically denounced Canadian environmentalists for: (a) hijacking consultation processes, (b) accepting funding from foreign radicals, and (c) laundering political money behind a curtain of charitable activity;
  • allocated $8 million to the Canada Revenue Agency to investigate the improper use of charitable donations (a move aimed at environmental non-profit societies);
  • eliminated the $547,000-a-year stipend for the 34-year-old Canadian Environmental Network (a pivotal non-profit within the Canadian green movement);
  • eliminated funding for sacred green cows like the Experimental Lakes Area, Prairie Shelterbelt, etc.

These salvos onto the environmentalists’ camp are of trifling consequence compared to the Harper government’s Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act (Bill C-38)…

TABLE OF CONTENTS

The Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act (Bill C-38)

The BOSO Coalition

Canada’s Environmentalist Vanguard

Canada’s Green Academic Establishment

Clash of the Titans

Bibliography

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Clash of the Titans

The Harper government’s confrontation with the opposition parties over Bill C-38 was the parliamentary manifestation of an epic clash between two titanic constituencies.

In one camp are resource extraction entrepreneurs seeking less fettered access to the treasures of Western and Northern Canada. They look to Asia for investors and customers.

The rival camp are rentiers from Central and Atlantic Canada who are economically and ideologically aligned with their counterparts in Western Europe and the US Northeast. They want to preserve the wealth within their realm. They favour neo-corporatist and quasi-autarkist policies.

At issue is the pace and extent of the development of Canada’s natural resources, especially the petroleum, natural gas, and mineral deposits of Western and Northern Canada.

According to the federal government’s Responsible Resource Development, and accompanying press release, Canada’s natural resource sector directly employed 760,000 workers. Mining and energy account for 10% of Canadian economic activity and 40% of exports. Natural resources form the backbone of our economy.

Looking forward:

“It is estimated there could be more than 500 major resource projects representing some $500 billion over the next 10 years in Canada’s energy and mining sectors.”

However the authors caution:

“We are not the only country in the world with rich mineral and energy resources.”

Other countries also possess exploitable natural resources, and the competition for investment and markets is fierce. The time to act is now.

The $50 billion a year investment estimate is a “conservative” figure. The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) claims the oil and gas industry alone made investments of $51 billion in 2010. The Mining Association of Canada (MAC) maintains there is $136 billion worth of mining-related projects in the works.

CAPP members produce 90% of Canada’s natural gas and crude oil. According to CAPP, the upstream petroleum industry is Canada’s largest private-sector investor and the provider of 500,000 direct and indirect jobs. They estimate their industry revenues to be $110 billion a year. CAPP unconditionally endorsed Bill C-38.

MAC’s 32 members are the largest mining companies in Canada (Barrick, BHP, Teck, etc.). According to MAC, mining employs 308,000 workers in extraction, smelting, and fabrication. The average weekly wage of a Canadian mineworker is $1,632. Mining companies generate 19% of investment in Canada and pay over $8 billion in taxes and royalties per year. Half of all railcars in Canada are filled with the output of Canada’s mines.

MAC’s 2011 Annual Report complains Canadian environmental regulation is too complicated and unpredictable. The Report denounces the environmental approval process for lacking timetables and accountability. The Canadian mining sector is in dire need of infrastructure investments that are being held up by a cumbersome enviro-regulatory regime.

Unsurprisingly, the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association (CEPA) endorsed Bill C-38. CEPA represents companies operating 100,000 kilometres of pipeline in Canada and the USA. These pipelines move 1.2 billion barrels of oil and 5.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas each year. CEPA members transport 97% of Canada’s natural gas and on-shore crude oil. Canada exports $60 billion worth of oil and gas a year.

CEPA wants a streamlined “one project one review” enviro-assessment system with strict timetables. Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline travesty is not unique. Presently 3% to 5% of the costs of building a pipeline in Canada are the costs associated with environmental assessments and related bureaucratic processes.

Also onside is the Canadian Construction Association (CCA) – a lobby group representing 17,000 construction-involved companies. CCA was calling for change before the 2012 budget, and on the day it was introduced into parliament CCA issued a press release explicitly endorsing its proposed reforms to the environmental assessment process.

Even more sanguine was the Canadian Chamber of Commerce (CCC). On March 30, 2012, CCC published a document not merely supporting proposed changes to the environmental assessment regime but taking credit for it. Alongside a giant red-lettered side-bar reading “Achievement” and beneath the bold headline “What We Got For You” CCC boasted:

“The government has acted on key elements of the Canadian Chamber’s ‘Top 10 Program’ for restoring Canadian competitiveness.”

And:

“The government will bring forward legislation to achieve the goal of one project one review in a clearly defined time period.”

CCC members are 192,000 businesses of all sizes and from all sectors of the Canadian economy.

Bill C-38 was also endorsed by the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada; the Canadian Building Trades; etc.

*

Opposition to the Harper government’s revamping of environmental policy arises from those whose fortunes are affixed to that narrow swath of Canada running from the Maritimes, across southern Quebec, through Ottawa, and around the golden horseshoe of Toronto-Windsor. The assets in question are shopping malls, apartment blocks, office towers, gas stations, media outlets, energy utilities, and farms. These assets are mostly owned by 100,000 private individuals and by several dozen banks and institutional investors. Notable members of this vested interest group are provincial and municipal governments, their employees, and these employees’ pension funds. Indicative of the big players within this camp would be the Sobeys, Westons, Irvings, the Desjardin Group, and the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan.

Confronted with the proposition of throwing open for development the natural resources of Western and Northern Canada, the representatives of this vested interest group might well ask:

“What’s in this for us?”

The answer is:

“Not much.”

If the Harper program is successful, then Kitimat, Prince George, Whitehorse, Yellowknife, Grand Prairie, Fort McMurray, and Prince Albert will burst like popcorn kernels on a hot fry-pan. Hundreds of thousands of tradespeople, entrepreneurs, labourers, tenants, and consumers will emigrate out of Atlantic and Central Canada for points west-by-northwest. This rush will benefit Canadians in general, but it will exert a protracted economic drag on the areas being left behind.

Many in Canada’s old metropoles advocate for renewable energy, recycling, and the “100 mile diet.” Such policies seek to emancipate the metropoles from dependence upon the hinterland and to stem the outflow of money and skills.

Fools believe this clash is about saving caribou.

Environmentalism is Fascism, June 2012