stands for big oil - nothing else

First, I want to apologize in advance for the length of this blog. So much has happened over the past week I can’t be pithy!

I want to start by thanking everyone who sent kind and encouraging words this week via email, phone, Facebook and Twitter. I also want to congratulate the 1300+ of you who proudly declared themselves “radicals” in their letters to Joe Oliver. The response has really overwhelmed me.

The Insightful Comment of the Week Award came from Day #1 of the Northern Gateway Pipeline hearings and goes to Ellis Ross, Haisla Nation Chief,  who said of Enbridge’s proposed pipeline: “No matter how idiot proof you make it, they just keep making better idiots”. I found this to be the ultimate precautionary statement, and a great way to kick-off the hearings!

As you are aware Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver kicked-off the week with a bizarre and McCarthyian attack on the environmental movement, First Nations and thousands of Canadians!

In his virulent ‘open letter’ to the media (my response is here) he suggested anyone with tough questions or concerns about Tar Sands mega-projects like Keystone XL or the Northern Gateway Pipeline were “radical” and accused environmental groups opposing them (like us) of being financially-backed puppets of " foreigners" and “billionaire socialists” (which we are obviously not). 

Let me remind you the pipeline is 1177 kilometres long, runs over mountains and across important salmon rivers, and through a unique (and pristine) forest ecosystem. It also requires lifting a 30-year ban on oil tanker traffic off the BC coast. All serious stuff - there’s nothing radical about having concerns here.

It sure shook-up my week, I’ll tell you. But like all battles it brought out the best in people.

This week’s events are, of course (or unfortunately), clearly part of a new republicanesque anti-environmental smear campaign by the Harper government. I’ve been musing for months that this was going to happen (it’s funny how you can predict something and still be surprised by it).

What’s important to point out is that while it was a federal minister declaring war on Monday, by Wednesday it was leading the vanguard.

I soon found myself on TV with’s director of disinformation, I mean spokesperson, Kathryn Marshall. She was doing a good job channeling Ezra Levant, smearing Canada’s environmental organizations while at the same time attempting to confuse the issue with the "meddling job-killing foreign interests" line. The CBC Power & Politics segment really is a must-see. Be sure to watch it. claims to be standing up for Canada and Canadian jobs. In actual fact, they don’t and have no interest in doing so. They do, however, have amazing ties to the Conservative government. It’s all outlined in a new article: The Oxymorons Personified: Meet Your "Ethical Oil" Team. Read it and learn all about who Kathryn Marshall really is, and who she is in (the Conservative Party) bed with.

If was sincere in its cries of foreign influence, they would be raising concerns about the huge money being spent to influence the outcome of the Northern Gateway Pipeline hearings by foreign and multinational corporations. Environmental organizations spend a fraction-of-a-fraction-of-a-fraction of what these corporations are spending, so why are they the target? And why didn’t criticize their BFF, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, when they hired former US Ambassador to Canada, foreigner David Wilkins (a George Bush-appointment), to lobby for the Keystone XL pipeline, or when they appointed former U.S. Consul General for Alberta, Saskatchewan and the NWT, foreigner Tom Huffaker, as their Vice President of Policy and Environment. But I digress.

Ironically, refuses to say whether they have received funding from Canadian corporations controlled by foreign entities! After all their trash talk they have the audacity to refuse to answer this simple question! I’m serious - it’s true. You can’t make this stuff also refuses to say if it gets funding from Enbridge, the corporation that would build the Northern Gateway Pipeline. Is Enbridge behind insists, with no proof to back up their claims, that the majority of their funding comes from “grass-root” supporters. I and others have a hunch it really comes from “gas-route” supporters (perhaps I’m being harsh and’s Kathryn Marshall just misspoke). But if was sincere in its concerns about environmental organizations being transparent about their funding (which they are – it’s all publicly available) they would have no hesitation disclosing where their own funding comes from. Who pays for their staff and expensive media buys? Who’s funding their smear and misinformation campaign? Who knows! refuses to provide the information to the public. No transparency at all – zilch, nada, nothing. Throwing stones from glass houses comes to mind. So does Orwell’s 1984 … but I digress again.

Before I move on from the standing up for Canadians jargon of, I’d like to point out the important issue of property rights of the 40+ different First Nations who live along the pipeline route and deserve a say on what’s being built on their lands. Are these First Nations not Canadians too? Perhaps I missed it but I haven’t seen standing up for their rights or express concern for their future.

An ethical would be standing up for democratic public participation, transparency and freedom of speech. They would be supporting -- cheering -- the democracy-in-action we’re seeing at the Northern Gateway Pipeline hearings in BC. They would not be maligning the 4500+ individuals and organizations that just want to use their democratic right to thoughtfully express their views and maybe ask some tough questions.

The reality is big oil and their surrogates don’t give a dam about democracy or public participation in Canada or any other country in the world. In fact they despise it. It’s much more profitable for big oil when governments will just ram their mega-projects down the throats of their people. It’s much “more efficient and predictable” as they say in oil-speak. Just look to big oil’s record in countries of the often-corrupted developing world - that’s how they like it. also clearly doesn’t care about Canadian jobs as they tell us. If they did they’d oppose the Keystone XL scheme to send unprocessed Canadian bitumen (and the processing jobs that go with it) to Texas, or at least argue for diverting all-or-part of the planned $5 billion investment to the renewable energy industry - which would create 5-8 times more the number of jobs with a comparable investment. These high-paying jobs, I might add, are clean and green – and they don’t create new greenhouse gasses or cover ducks and salmon with oil.

The economic reality is Canada is getting left behind by just focusing on the Tar Sands. By not seriously diversifying into renewable energy we are watching the rest of the world pass us by. The folks behind know that the countries embracing renewables and the new high-tech green economy will have the strongest economies of tomorrow, and will produce most of the new high-paying jobs of the future that the world is chasing. They just don’t care.

When it comes to Canada's environment and natural heritage, certainly doesn't care. If they did how could they support ramming an 1177 kilometer pipeline through the majestic Great Bear Rainforest - the only place on Earth where the rare Kermode Bear (a.k.a. “Spirit Bear”) still exists, or support lifting the successful (and very popular) 30+ year ban on oil tankers off BC’s coast which has prevented a Canadian version of Exxon Valdez from happening? Did I mention Enbridge pipelines had 175 recorded spills in the U.S. alone since 2002?

What does actually stand for? Well it’s obviously the oil industry and their Conservative (and Republican?) backers. I know some of you are saying “duhhhh” right now. But I think the more important question is: What do the architects, operators and mouthpieces behind stand for? The answer is nothing. These people will soon move on to their next high-paying smear job – be it against teachers, women’s groups, health care organizations, minorities, the arts community, etc.

Meanwhile, at Sierra Club Canada we will continue to wake up every morning and do everything possible to help ensure our children have a safe and healthy non-toxic future that includes clean air and water, intact wilderness and a stable climate.

You can count on that.

John Bennett, Executive Director
Sierra Club Canada

P.S. - Can you chip in with a $10 or $20 donation? 2012 is shaping up to be the toughest year we’ve ever faced (on issues and financially). I promise I’ll put every penny to good use. Thanks for your consideration.




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