"Socialist Foreign Interests" (a.k.a. China Romance)

Just got a news release from the Prime Minister's office (me and thousands of others). Now all that trash talk about "radical" environmentalists and "socialist foreign interests" is starting to make sense.

The release outlines all the trade deals the Prime Minister signed in China. Topping the list is an agreement to accelerate the selling-out of Canada's natural resources to China, especially oil.

Unlike NAFTA, there will be no debate in Parliament. Unlike Kyoto, there will be no vote in Parliament. It's a done deal. The horse has left the barn (or should I say the oil has left the pipeline?). But I digress.

Soon the prime minister will have to come home and deliver on his new commitments. The question that remains to be seen is, of course, just what did he commit Canada to? I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

Mr. Harper and his gaggle of Oil patch CEOs are a big hit in China – at least if you believe all the communiques from the PMO’s media room or the glowing coverage on Sun News Network.

On the eve of the visit, China backed the Syrian dictatorship by vetoing an important UN vote to stop the violence? The oil barons could see a communications nightmare unfolding, spoiling all their Gateway dreams. Maybe that’s why so many of them accompanied Harper on his visit to China - to make sure he didn't get cold feet. Ethical oil? But I digress again.

The oil barons were worrying for nothing. In the end, Harper threw Canada’s moral reputation out the window. Be it support of nasty dictatorships like Syria and Iran, or the plight of millions of Tibetans, nothing was going to get in the way of business in China. Money trumps morals.

I don't know about you, but I originally found the whole China Romance a bit confusing. But it’s all coming into focus now.

You’ll remember that since the Northern Gateway pipeline hearings started a couple of weeks back, we’ve been hit with one accusation after another -- like a boxer taking combinations of rights, lefts and uppercuts. We're still on our feet, but before we could properly deal with one outrageous claim, we were hit with another, and then another, and then another.

The most outrageous were the lines about “billionaire socialists” and "foreign special interests" using environmental and First Nation groups as puppets to interfere in “Canadian decisions” about its natural resources.

At first, I admit, I was baffled by the whole ‘billionaire socialist’ line. It seemed to me to be an oxymoron. Who would qualify as both a "socialist" and a "billionaire", I thought. Where would you find socialist billionaires trying to interfere with Canadian decisions?

Then I got it! Is it coming to you yet? Hint - it’s not an individual but a big country that, according to CSIS, is is actively engaged in spying-on, and wooing, Canadian politicians.  

If you haven’t figured it out the answer is China! Makes sense now, doesn’t it. They’re the socialist billionaires we kept hearing about.

And the line about “socialist foreigners" interfering in “Canadian decisions” is the clincher. Would China not fit into that designation? After listening to CBC Radio’s The House with Evan Solomon last Saturday, China would appear to fit perfectly. The point was also pounded home by an Op-Ed Feature in the Ottawa Citizen on the same day.

So what will the payoff be now that we have new agreement with China? Some say a full-fledge free-trade agreement like NAFTA is just around the corner, so we need to start thinking about what it all will mean, and how we will respond.

Here are some preliminary thoughts on what we can expect from the Harper regime:

·         Fast-tracking and watering-down of environmental assessments

·         Further gutting of environmental protection

·         Further gutting of environmental monitoring

·         Further marginalization of science in the development of public policy

·         Further suppression of democratic public participation

·         Further erosion of rights, particularly First Nation rights to determine their own future.

I doubt very much that the 4500+ groups and individuals will ever get a chance to testify at the Northern Gateway Pipeline hearings. Even if they do, their testimony will undoubtedly be cut very short.

We should start thinking seriously about blocking construction via the courts and other strategies, because as we duck and bob to avoid the jabs, the knockout punch is coming.

John Bennett is the Executive Director of Sierra Club Canada. Follow John on Twitter.

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