Make hay while the sun shines. So goes the old adage to never let a precious opportunity slip through your fingers because you never know when another will come along.
That pretty much sums up the spot Harper's majority has opened up for Enbridge and it's proposal to build a pipeline connecting the Athabasca Tar Sands to a supertanker oil port in Kitimat, B.C. This is Big Oil's big chance and they know only the guy now in office can be counted on to pave their way. It's no coincidence that, just one day after he won his majority, Harper went public dismissing the West Coast supertanker/pipeline opposition as something of an annoyance that would not be allowed to, "damage Western Canada."
If Harper understands one thing, it's not to squander an opportunity. He also has the gift of shrewdness, the cunning to grasp the vulnerability of others. All of these factors suggest but one conclusion: that Enbridge, with Harper clearing the path of disorganized opposition, will be moving quickly to make the pipeline/oil port a fait accompli.
It seems that Harper may test his new majority muscle on this venture. He has never had this political license and he probably will be eager to explore his imperial power on something so cherished by his benefactors. It will also be something of a learning experience for Harper's opponents both within and beyond Parliament. Can the environmental, progressive left and centre mobilize and effectively organize in order to push back? Have we really been relegated to meaningless bickerers as I'm sure Harper believes?
There are some of us now seeking ways to rally and unite like-minded but sometimes disparate groups - environmental, First Nations, labour and political - to stand together against Harper, Big Oil and the governments of Alberta and British Columbia (to the extent they fall into Harper's camp).
The goal must be to inform and energize public opinion. Anecdotal evidence suggests the public is woefully uninformed on this venture. Most seem to think this is about shipping oil, not corrosive bitumen sludge alive with acids, toxins and heavy metals. Few have any idea of what the loss of a tanker load of this vile product would mean for coastal British Columbia. Few have a working knowledge of the treacherous waterways of Kitimat that pose a near constant hazard to navigation - strong currents, big tides, high winds, limited visibility - compounded by the standard shipping hazards of engine failures, loss of steering, fires and basic human error.
It may not be possible to stop the Harper/Enbridge juggernaut. Big Oil is well positioned to make its supertanker port a reality. But that doesn't render opposition moot or pointless. There are several meaningful benefits to be had. It is important to show the public that, having to choose between the security of the B.C. West Coast and Big Oil profits, Harper is solidly and entirely on the side of Enbridge.
It must also be recalled what this pipeline/tanker port project is really about. It is intended to open a bitumen market to Asia that will allow Big Oil to jack the Americans on price. The U.S. is already prepared to buy every drop of bitumen Alberta can send them. Harper/Alberta/Big Oil are are happy to put British Columbia in real peril to ensure they get every last cent out of their sludge.
The Deepwater Horizon fiasco and tanker disasters like the Exxon Valdez stand as an object lesson on what can go wrong and what precautions are necessary for when it does. There must be pre-positioned equipment; ready, highly trained crews; and even purpose-built ships on standby to be called into action immediately they're needed. That is enormously expensive. This pipeline/oil port venture is about one thing - profit. That means Big Oil and its minion, Harper, will have every incentive to cut corners. Public awareness of the hazards of bitumen and the pipeline/oil port is about the only way we'll have to force the TarHeads and their Petro-Pol pals on Parliament Hill to act responsibly.