Thursday, June 19, 2014

Martha Hall Findlay's Ghastly Paean to the Northern Gateway Pipeline

Well I see Martha Hall Findlay has wasted no time soaking up the ethos of the School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary. Or the oily fumes.

And has penned a passionate paean to the Northern Gateway pipeline. 

Every nation-building project in Canada has required negotiation, balance and compromise: Northern Gateway is no exception. You don’t build a nation by saying “No”. You need to ask “How".

And although I was inclined to ignore it, because I've heard it all before in those oil company ads we are endlessly bombarded with in this country. 

Because we are going to be hearing even more of those greasy arguments now, and it will be important to counter them.

I thought I would draw up a list of my talking points:

(1) Northern Gateway is not a nation-building program. It's a plan to enrich Alberta while other Canadians settle for lousy low wage jobs. 

In the ruins of the factories the Dutch Disease helped destroy...

It's not a nation-building program it's a nation-busting one.

(2) There has been no negotiation, balance or compromise, in the process leading up to the approval of the pipeline. The fix was in from the beginning, the process was a sham. And what doesn't Martha understand about no means NO?

(3) Our social programs do not depend on the oil industry which makes up only about 15 per cent of our economy, creates jobs only in Alberta.

And this is crazy:

We can, and should, become the world leader in the technologies for spill prevention, spill containment and remediation, both land and sea.

Because we shouldn't be aiming to be world leaders in cleaning up the mess the oil industry makes. Even if it is a profitable business.

We should be trying to protect the pristine environment of places like BC, and aiming to be world leaders in green industry development, which will provide the jobs of the future.

(4) At a time when climate change is the greatest threat humanity faces, we should not be asking HOW to expand the out of control development of the Tar Sands, we should be asking WHY?

Why should we be proud of helping to torch the planet in the name of short-term greed? 

And have those oil pimps no shame?

Like their deranged leader....

And his friends in the MSM.

Or the University of Calgary.

But yes, the next time Martha Hall Findlay pens one of her ghastly paeans to the Northern Gateway Pipeline, may I suggest that she add some background music.

To make it even more ringing, or jarring.

Like the soundtrack from this movie....

Because trust me Martha.

We do get the message...

We're just not buying it.

Because it is time to draw the line.

It is time to ask WHY?

And of course, it is time to join in a real nation-building project.

And defeat this ghastly leader...

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  1. John B.9:08 AM

    When I read this nonsense about “nation-building” and how Canada should seize the opportunity to become the world’s centre of excellence in the practice of dealing with oil spills, I almost fell off the chair. Despite the obvious tragedy in that a professed “School of Public Policy” could stand behind such a ridiculous notion, I was laughing as uncontrollably as I had when I first saw the “Springtime for Hitler” routine in the Mel Brooks movie back in ’68 or ’69.

    Then I remembered Ms. Hall Findlay’s previous major input to the public on the question of supply management of agricultural products. When you have the time, take a look at the paper she produced for Jack Mintz and the School of Public Policy on that subject back in 2012 and see if you can find serious discussion of the systems of massive agricultural subsidies employed in our competitor countries and trading blocs or any suggestions as to how Canada might consider dealing with them. The free-and-open marketplace certainly doesn’t provide any useful advice on this question.

    Report available at:

    Lectures provided by libertarians are always very interesting but should seldom be taken seriously. And they really should refrain from delivering history lessons. I think this woman has become a shill.

    1. hi John...yes I too was stunned when I saw that Hall Findlay was suggesting that the pipeline was a good idea, because we could profit from oil spills. And you're right, Springtime for Hitler might be even better as the musical background that Ride of the Valkyries. ;)
      I also remember her position on agricultural subsidies, and where she wanted to take the Liberal Party. So all things considered the University of Calgary is probably where she belongs...

  2. Martha Hall Finley get out of town. Who put a big dollar donation in her basket?

    1. hi Steve...hey watch it, she's in Calgary now. If you start talking like a commies, the posse will throw YOU out of town... ;)

  3. Noah Patterson10:12 AM

    We do need oil, that is not going to change any time soon, but we do NOT need to be expanding oil extraction and delivery systems. Canada has far much more to gain by pursuing clean energy, even if the opportunity to be a global leader there has been squandered by a decade of Conservative regression. Martha is slightly correct in that we can become a world leader in spill prevention and clean-up, but given that we haven't gone anywhere near that in decades, there is no reason to think we're going to start now. It's just an empty platitude to sell the Gateway pipeline. Expanding oilsands growth in no way suggests we're going to suddenly become global masters of contamination control. We've had generations to do that, under both Liberal and Conservative governments, and neither have pursued that path.

    We need oil for manufacturing, obviously. The machines we're expressing our thoughts on would not be here if not for oil used in plastic manufacturing. But we don't need to create new, and more, oil opportunities for that.

    1. Anonymous2:12 PM

      We don't need oil. That is one of those old "repeat it often enough and it makes it true" fallacies. Plastic could be made out renewable sources... like hemp fiber. Energy is available in many many different renewable sources. If we had subsidized Tesla, Schauberger, solar, wind, hydro or geothermal with the same amount of money and resources as we have done to oil over the last century we would be hundreds of years ahead as a species. Not only is oil not necessary, it is in fact a restraining force in the development of mankind, not to mention a harmful force that is destroying all life on this planet. So no, we don't need oil, just as we don't need a bullet in the head. The reason why they push oil is cause it is easily CONTROLLABLE! that is all.

    2. hi Noah...I have never called for the total shutdown of the Oil Sands, I'm more realistic than that. I just want to see them controlled, and not allowed to expand even more than they already have. But what we really need to do is concentrate cutting down on emissions and above all developing green industries or we will be in big trouble when the Age of Oil comes to an end as it surely must...

  4. I wonder how much of this is because she feels slighted that the party never picked her to lead but gave an almost unheard of first vote 80% win to Trudeau who is opposed to this particular pipeline for what are clearly very sound process reasons (and yes process reasons count and matter, this whole file is almost the textbook illustration of why I've screamed for a decade that process issues really matter and where Harper was his most dangerous to us). I've never been as impressed with her as some others have been, she always felt a little off to me despite her public image, and I learned to trust my instincts about politicians since they rarely steer me wrong (legacy of growing up around them from all three parties I suppose).

    That said, and with the provision that this is in no way a defence of this pipeline process nor its results, because it is not, I think we need to remember that since we are one of the largest energy exporters in the world and clearly one of the richer resource nations in the world that if we do not export we not only face the possibility of economic damage but also sovereign. Why do I say that? Because it is increasingly obvious to me that over the next several decades the main potential source for conflict is resources, and if we are seen as hoarding ours (regardless of the reasons why for it, people when they start feeling desperate stop caring so much about these sorts of things) we invite having others including those we think are friends or at least not enemies to make these decisions for us.

    So there is unfortunately not the simple answer of not building any pipelines, nor not exporting such resources at all, but we CAN clearly do a much better job of doing so in a sane and rational manner, which this pipeline process and its routing clearly is not. Who in their right bloody minds puts a delivery system that requires using what is rated at the fourth most dangerous waterway in the world? I mean really! (I give loud and mad props to Elizabeth May for the past couple days, since the CPCers have been in witsec this has enabled CBC to invite her onto the MP panels, and of all I've seen she has been the best at making good factual arguments devoid of political overtones about why this is so incredible stupid a plan specifically even if you think we need to be an energy exporter in general, no mean feat that)

    to be concluded...

  5. Conclusion:

    I've always thought Alberta should process the bitumen at home and ship the refined product, we need to become more than just a raw exporter nation, and prior PMs understood that far better than Harper's totally retrograde thinking on this matter. Alberta loves taking all of the positives to their oil resources but little to none of the negatives whenever they can manage it, well on this file they need to share the pain as well the pleasure of their position in my view instead of passing the buck.

    I do think though we have to accept that the future will force the issue about us exporting, so instead of trying to prevent it altogether we need to find ways to make it as low risk as can be done and plan accordingly. We need proper institutions to review applications and create requirements that suit that need (we used to have one called the NEB and another called Environment Canada, but they have both been destroyed by Harper's program of process "reform" aka destruction over the years he has held power) instead of simply being the advocate for an energy company as we saw in this project. So this is an area where nuanced thinking is not a bad thing, but MHF's thinking is not to my mind an example of nuance but of selling out.

    I think the federal Liberal party dodged a bullet when she failed to win leadership despite her attempts over the years, especially if she can sanction this pipeline and the process that enabled this project to emerge in this form. This was one of the ugliest of the process abuses we have seen from the Harper government (interesting that this time it was the government of Canada that approved it, not the Harper Government(tm) we have been hearing about for the past 8 years) to date, and one of the more obvious ones to watch too. There is no legitimacy conferred to a project approved by a process so flawed and tilted to favour one side over all others like this one was, and to think anything other than that shows ignorance, deception, or delusion. I do not pretend to know what goes on in another persons head, but MHF is clearly in one of these three camps on this file IMHO if she can say what she did as quoted in that G&M article you linked to Simon..

    1. Hi Scotian...I think Hall Findlay is just becoming more and more conservative as the years go on, and if she continues in the same direction I wouldn't be surprised if she ends up being a Con leadership candidate. As for the oil sands, as I told Noah I am in favour of rational and controlled development, which would also include a carbon tax to encourage and finance the growth of green industries, because the end of the age of oil may be closer than most people think. Solar power in particular is making huge progress, and if other technological breakthroughs come along, we will be left living in an obsolete and non-competitive economy.
      And of course, when Big Oil starts trying to make us believe that there enterprise is nation-building, or good
      for humanity, all I can do is laugh...

  6. e.a.f.2:57 PM

    nation building are they fucking kidding me??? What builds a nation is roads, railways, medical services, good education, adequate housing, preserving our water and land. That's what builds a nation. A nation is built on things like the CBC.; an armed forces we can be proud of, which peace keeps instead of goes to war and then abandons its Veterans; a leader in medical research--like we did come up with the polio vaccine; provides a quality education for all its children.

    Oil is about big money which only the elite benefit from. These oil companies aren't even truly Canadian anymore. They are owned by China, the Red Army of China, the Koch brothers and the list goes on.

    We want to become experts on oil spills, etc. Why the hell would we need to become that. I thought they kept telling us there wouldn't be any, so why do we need to be experts in oil spills. eh,........

    Social programs do not depend upon "big oil". We had social programs in Canada, long before "big oil". The social programs did more and more money was spent. How we did that was by a fair and equitable tax system. "big oil" doesn't even pay adequate taxes and royalties.

    Loved the picture of the helicopters from the Vietnam war. The Vietnam War just wasn't about communism and capitalism. It was about who was going to get the oil off the Vietnam coast. During the time of the war there were articles about the oil they believed to be on a continental shelf type coast off of Vietnam. The Americans wanted that oil.. They lost the war. Now China has approx. 100 ships off the coast of Vietnam exploring for oil. Vietnam has asked the Chinese government to get their ship out of their seas. China has declined. China didn't invest in the Vietnam war because of any ideology. They invested in it because they like the Americans suspected there was oil off the coast of Vietnam. Oh and by the way, Harper ought to know, its a better, easier to refine oil than Canadian tar. As soon as China has a better source of oil, it won't even remember Canada's name or Harpers.

    1. hi're absolutely right, nation building is about much more than outing a huge hole in the earth and making huge profits for Big Oil. Especially since as you point out wherever there is oil there is corruption and war. The scary part is that the Chinese are doing a better job relatively speaking of greening their economy since many of their people are choking in the fumes they are creating. We need to be smarter or the future will leave us behind...

  7. e.a.f.9:28 PM

    I suspect the Chinese government has decided it maybe better to pollute other countries and not their own. Polluting your own country can be very expensive, especially the clean up.

  8. mary eberts9:10 AM

    Celebrating the building of the trans-Canada railway as our first (and foundational) national project, as Ms. Hall-Findlay does, misses a couple of very important points. The activism of the Chinese-Canadian community, in particular, has brought to light the terrible death toll of the workers imported from China to cut the tracks through the mountains. After the railway was built, Canada had no further "use" for Chinese workers, and used repressive head tax legislation, and ultimately a total ban on immigration, for many decades, to bar them entry to Canada. The railway was not only built on the backs of its construction workers. Canadian government policy was to use a host of dubious tactics to remove Indigenous peoples from the proposed route of the railway and the settlements Canada hoped would grow alongside it. Bands with reserves in important urban centres were removed to remote sites through bureaucratic force, or sheer trickery; many have land claims still to those old reserves, now the site of thriving western cities. Recent scholarship has also documented the planned and deliberate use of starvation to aid in the removal of Indigenous peoples from the railway's proposed route.
    Our historical record about the horrendous costs of these mega-projects is only being corrected because of the research and the advocacy of those who were sacrificed for them, and of their allies. The same research in a contemporary setting reveals the price that will be paid for the Northern Gateway pipeline, both along its route and in shipping product by sea, and also in its encouragement for the environment-killing extraction practices used to get the bitumen out of the ground in the first place.
    We cannot build a country with practices that harm, and kill, its peoples and the very air we breathe.

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