An Open Letter to Joe Oliver

Elizabeth May

“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. They use funding from foreign special interest groups to
undermine Canada’s
national economic interest.”

- From your open letter of today’s date, January 9, 2012.

Dear Joe,

Your letter caught my attention.  I respect you and like you a lot as a
colleague in the House.  Unfortunately, I
think your role as Minister of Natural Resources has been hijacked by the PMO spin
machine.  The PMO is, in turn, hijacked
by the foreign oil lobby. You are, as Minister of Natural Resources, in a
decision-making, judge-like role.  You
should not have signed such a hyperbolic rant.

I have reproduced a short section of your letter. The idea
that First Nations, conservation groups, and individuals opposed to the
Northern Gateway Pipeline are opposed to all forestry, mining, hydro-electric
and gas is not supported by the facts.  I
am one of those opposed to the Northern Gateway pipeline.  I do not oppose all development; neither does
the Green Party; neither do environmental NGOS; neither do First Nations.

I oppose the Northern Gateway pipeline for a number of
reasons, beginning with the fact that the project requires over-turning the
current moratorium on oil tanker traffic on the British Columbia coastline. The
federal-provincial oil tanker moratorium has been in place for decades.  As former Industry Canada deputy minister Harry Swain
pointed out in today’s Globe and Mail,
moving oil tankers through 300 km of perilous navigation in highly energetic
tidal conditions is a bad choice. In December 2010, the government’s own
Commissioner for the Environment, within the Office of the Auditor General,
reported that Canada
lacked the tools to respond to an oil spill. 
These are legitimate concerns.

Furthermore, running a pipeline through British Columbia’s northern wilderness,
particularly globally significant areas such as the Great Bear Rainforest, is a
bad idea.  Nearly 1200 kilometers of
pipeline through wilderness and First Nations territory is not something that
can be fast-tracked.

Most fundamentally, shipping unprocessed bitumen crude out
of Canada has been attacked
by the biggest of Canada’s
energy labour unions, the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of
Canada, as a bad idea. The CEP estimates it means exporting 40,000 jobs out of Canada (figure
based on jobs lost through the Keystone XL Pipeline). They prefer refining the
crude here in Canada.  (The CEP is also not a group to which your allegation
that opponents of Gateway also oppose all forestry, mining, oil, gas, etc is
anything but absurd.)

The repeated attacks on environmental review by your
government merit mention.  The federal
law for environmental review was first introduced under the Mulroney
government.  Your government has dealt
repeated blows to the process, both through legislative changes, shoved through
in the 2010 omnibus budget bill, and through budget cuts.  In today’s letter, you essentially ridicule
the process through a misleading example. 
Your citation of “a temporary ice arena on a frozen pond in Banff” requiring federal
review was clearly intended to create the impression that the scope of federal
review had reached absurd levels.  You
neglected to mention that the arena was within the National Park. That is the
only reason the federal government was involved.  It was required by the National Parks Act.
The fact that the arena approval took only two months shows the system works
quite well.

Perhaps most disturbing in the letter is the description of
opposition to the Northern Gateway Pipeline as coming from “environmental and
other radical groups.”  Nowhere in your letter
do you mention First Nations.  (I notice
you mention “Aboriginal communities,” but First Nations require the appropriate
respect that they represent a level of government, not merely individuals
within communities.)  

The federal government has a constitutional responsibility
to respect First Nations sovereignty and protect their interests.  It is a nation to nation relationship.  To denigrate their opposition to the project
by lumping it in with what you describe (twice) as “radical” groups is as
unhelpful to those relationships as it is inaccurate.

“Radical” is defined as “relating to or affecting the fundamental nature of
something; far-reaching or thorough.” 
(Merriam Webster). 

that definition, it is not First Nations, conservation groups or individual
opponents that are radical.  They seek to
protect the fundamental nature of the wilderness of northern British
Columbia, the ecological health of British Columbia coastal eco-systems, and
the integrity of impartial environmental review.  It is your government that is radical by proposing
quite radical alteration of those values.

government has failed to present an energy strategy to Canada.  We have no energy policy.  We are still importing more than half of the
oil we use.  Further, we have no plan to
reduce dependency on fossil fuels, even as we sign on to global statements
about the need to keep greenhouse gases from rising above 450 ppm in the
atmosphere to keep global average temperatures from exceeding a growth of 2
degrees C.  The climate crisis imperils
our future – including our economic future – in fundamental ways which your
government ignores.

characterizing this issue as environmental radicals versus Canada’s future prosperity you have
done a grave disservice to the development of sensible public policy.  There are other ways to diversify Canada’s
energy markets.  There are other routes,
other projects, and most fundamentally other forms of energy.

urge you to protect your good name and refuse to sign such unworthy and
inaccurate missives in the future.


Elizabeth May, O.C.

of Parliament
Saanich-Gulf Islands

Party of Canada