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What Happened to Canada?

J. Mijin Cha

Yesterday, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver posted an open letter in protest of growing opposition to the Keystone XL and the Northern Gateway pipelines. In his letter, Oliver claimed that “environmental and other radical groups” were trying to “hijack our regulatory system to achieve their radical ideological agenda.” Oliver also accused pipeline opponents of using funding from foreign special interest groups and "if all other avenues have failed, they will take a quintessential American approach:  sue everyone and anyone to delay the project even further.”

Where to start?

First, what Oliver is labeling a “quintessential American approach,” is actually a fundamental aspect of democracy -- holding government accountable. Opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline filed suit against the project because TransCanada began clearing a path for the pipeline in Nebraska before the project had been approved. Acting before a project has been approved is illegal under federal law, hence the lawsuit. What Oliver is denouncing is actually one of the few tools citizens have to force agencies and big polluters to abide by environmental statutes.

More concerning is Oliver’s claim that opponents to the various pipelines have some radical ideological agenda. The extremely negative impact of tar sand mining is widely documented. Plus, not only are the vast majority of the jobs created from the pipelines temporary but their job creation potential pales in comparison to the Department of Energy’s loan program, which created 60,000 jobs in the solar and wind industries and the job-creating mercury regulations, which will create 8,000 permanent jobs and 45,000 temporary construction jobs in the next five years. What exactly is radical about rejecting a project that is terrible for the environment and terrible for job creation?

And, in reality, Oliver and other fossil fuel apologists are the true radicals. Even though renewable energy investments create three times the jobs as fossil fuel investments do and bring us closer to energy independence, they continually ignore these realities and beat the same (oil) drum. What’s more radical than ignoring facts and sticking to dogma to the detriment of national security and economic growth?

The influence of the tar sand lobby in Canada is becoming increasingly clear. Not only did Canada withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol, but its Natural Resources Minister releases an open letter with a clear bias towards tar sand mining even though his actions do not reflect the opinion of Canadians, as recent polling shows half of the population opposes both pipelines.

Ignoring the opinion of the majority of the citizens and acting in favor of fossil fuel interests — now that is quintessentially American.