Tuesday, April 17, 2018

"Here I Stand" - The Late Rafe Mair on an Independent British Columbia. He Saw This Coming, a Lot of Us Did.

Lawyer, Social Credit cabinet minister, columnist, broadcaster: Rafe Mair was one of those legendary firebrands British Columbia occasionally produces. Mair died in early October, 2017, seven months after he had penned a call for British Columbia to leave Canada.

His words never rang truer than now when we're getting browbeaten and strong armed by our federal government and threatened by the malignancy on our eastern frontier, Alberta. Mair had them both foremost in his mind when he wrote this.
I find I no longer come close to sharing the values Canada now stands for – I’m not talking about opinions but a philosophy of life, a set of basic values. 
As a core value, I value the environment above the desire of bankers and developers to make money and bought and paid for politicians to support them. I accept the need for societal sustenance but do not accept plunder in the name of progress. 
The flashpoint is the Trudeau supported revival of the Alberta Tar Sands and the Prime Minister compelling BC to sacrifice both principle and its environment to the transport and sale of Tar Sands product to places that will be under no constraints as to its use. I believe Canada must accept responsibility for safeguarding water, land and air in places it exports products and services. I cannot be loyal ro a country that has no such values.
...I have long felt more British Columbian than Canadian. When BC Minister for constitutional affairs working on amending the BNA Act to become the Constitution, I observed the perpetual second class treatment of BC and saw how no one cared that the Senate was an ongoing, deliberate putdown of my province, observed its woeful lack of representation on federal boards and commissions, lack of BC prime ministers and utter absence oF BC Governors-General, the disgraceful Prussian arrogant treatment of BC’s fishery by the federal government, the unthinking and uncaring expectation that in the 1970 FLQ crisis that it was fine to put BC, which wasn’t involved under martial law (no one would surely suggest that a murder and a kidnapping in BC by BC separatists, would have resulted in Ontario and Quebec being placed on martial law). The put downs seemed endless and started early. 
My generation grew up learning that Canadian explorers were Cartier and Champlain, Indians were Iroquois, Algonquin and Huron, and some limey, Sir Isaac Brock was a Canadian hero. I learned about Captains Cook and Vancouver, Quadra and Russian settlements in British History in a private school and about Simon Fraser and David Thompson at UBC. I didn’t read a decent history of BC until from Dr. Walter Sage and Dr. Margaret Ormsby in secohd year UBC and the real history of the land of my birth until I was nearly 70 and interviewed Dr. Jean Barman on her classic, The West Beyond The West. I doubt one in 100 kids of my vintage could name the first BC premier or the rich Victoria merchants, without a suggestion of public support, who sold us out to Ottawa for a mess of potage and a railway to help Ontario grab our resources cheap.
...The real reason I want BC out is a question of principles, or values, if you prefer. I’m not talking about political issues but basic tenets of belief.
The Meech Lake/Charlottetown Accords disclosed a basic gap between the Central Canadian elite – the people the late Denny Boyd called “Higher Purpose Persons (HPPs)”, who know best, – and those ignorant idiots in BC who refused to accept special powers for one province. 
After Elijah Harper killed Meech Lake, BC said next time it won’t be the premiers deciding but the people in referendum and thus it was that The Charlottetown referendum was held and 67.9% of British Columbians said “we’ve had enough of your patronizing crap – get stuffed!” 
Then Justin Trudeau decided, cross my heart, hope to die, to give Canadians a better voting system. To do it democratically, we’ll hold cozy neighbourhood meetings around the Country, then the House of Commons will meet, and the Liberal Party will cram through a reformed First Past The Post with a preferential ballot and presto! by an amazing coincidence, The Liberals will have its way and should carry Central Canada forevermore.
HPPs said there mustn’t be a referendum because, er, the people can’t understand these complicared issues and remember what happened when they voted on Charlottetown! In fact the HPPs were right for the wrong reason. Trudeau understood it was a Liberal Party Permanent Election formula he was after and wasn’t going to let those troublemakers in BC spoil it all for the elite, the HPPS as they did with Charlottetown in 1992. It was safer to break your word and lay low.

...I am an environmentalist. When we lose our environment, be it the extinction of a species we’ve never heard of, a valley sustained by its fauna, flora and water or a run of herring it is a huge tragedy. That list, as you know, is endless. Reading reports from Paul Watson and the Sea Shepherd breaks the heart. 
Does that mean that I oppose all industry and development? 
That’s a pretty silly question. We have to work, eat and survive. But to the Canada exemplified by Trudeau, development, without more than cynical word service for the values I care about, trumps everything. Bear in mind throughout the balance of what I have to say that the Precautionary Principle is the law of Canada
Definition – The precautionary principle (or precautionary approach) to risk management states that if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public, or to the environment, in the absence of scientific consensus (that the action or policy is not harmful), the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking that action
Start with fish farms. Recently disease spreading from farms to wild salmon was scientifically demonstrated yet another time. The evidence of assaults on our wild salmon by sea lice from fish farms and disease from farmed fish, not to mention damage to other sea life and to the ocean floor, has piled up for 15+ years, is overwhelming yet, in as few words as possible, what was Fisheries Minister and DFO answer to the plethora of evidence generally and to the latest report? “BC, GO FUCK YOURSELVES!” 
Forgive my language but when I look at the work Alexandra Morton has done, the long underfunded battle of First Nations, the impact of this fascist government on commercial fishermen and, yes, sports fishermen, going back to Confederation that’s the only way I can translate the Federal Government’s attitude of sacrificing our precious resources to a large Norwegian despoiler of nature.. 
Does this offend your basic set of values? It certainly does mine! 
...The Alberta Tar Sands, the world’s biggest natural polluter, produces a tar like substance artificially liquefied, which if spilled, especially on water, is virtually impossible to clean up as it usually sinks too quickly to be dealt with, a spill defined as minor into the Kalamazoo River, in Michigan, in 2010, has not yet been cleaned up and probably never will be. The federal government has approved the Kinder Morgan pipeline to bring this from the Tar Sands through BC to Burrard Inlet (Vancouver Harbour) them taken by tankers across the Salish Sea, through or near the Gulf Islands through the Straits of Juan de Fuca to the Ocean. 
The company claims this will “only” add 400 tankers a year but as the Duke of Wellington said to a man on a London street who hailed him ‘Mr. Robinson, I believe’, “Sir, If you believe that, you’ll believe anything!” 
Spills are inevitable. So are tanker collisions and serious ones. Great damage will be done to our precious sea life, lives will be lost. And for what? 
Does this offend your basic set of values? It certainly does mine! 
A final word. Many things make up a nation but in my view shared values outrank all the rest combined. These aren’t political quarrels I have with Canada, though I have lots of them. No, these are fundamental values I can’t live without and Justin Trudeau can’t live with. None of these values destroy industry but put it, and what we are deeply committed to in British Columbia, on a level playing field where he who would impact the very essence of our homeland has the onus of proving he will do no harm or none which we whose home it is will not accept
British Columbia, my home, has been pushed around the 85+ years I have lived, worked, served, loved and, yes, loafed in her. To be called a bad Canadian because I want to protect her wild life and their habitat and don’t want to assist uncaring capitalists and their captive governments to spread ruin here and elsewhere has finally become too much
I hope you understand but that’s irrelevant, “Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise.”

I somehow think those words are destined to live on. Eventually, maybe not this year, perhaps not next but, eventually, we're going to get out of this empty shell of a country where choice comes in meaningless options of Harper or Ignatieff, Trudeau or Scheer, pale suits stuffed with wet cardboard. We cannot solve the challenges of this century with leaders of their meagre calibre.


Toby said...

There are several forces coming down the pipe which will change everything, global warming, the end of the oil era, over population, etc. We have all posted about them many times. All of these put the 18th Century nation states at peril. There are going to be re-alignments. One of the re-alignments could easily be BC leaving to become part of some form of Cascadia.

It's a geographical thing. BC was part of the old Columbian District until Queen Victoria traded half of it away. The obvious advantages of such an alliance are still there. Being artificially attached to the entity on the other side of the mountains becomes increasingly fragile.

Note: I'm observing, not promoting.

The Mound of Sound said...

I didn't mention that in this post, Toby, but there will be other powerful changes coming, stressors in some ways, that will fray the ties of Confederation and and weaken the viability of vast nation-states.

A year or so ago the editor of the environmental web site, Grist, did a map that delineated the United States according to what climate change held for it, region by region. It was obvious that some places, the hot,dry regions such as New Mexico and Arizona will probably be unable to support the populations they currently have. With the High Plains aquifer, the mighty Ogallala, now beginning to run close to empty under a few states grain farming is now having to give way to open-range grazing and many farm towns across that region are being abandoned. Harper's magazine did a piece on these new ghost towns a couple of years ago.

Canada shouldn't be as hard hit as the States but we won't be immune to climate change stresses either.

the salamander said...

.. wicked ass posting - essay
Rafe was never ever a lazy journalist
never lazy at anything
He defined 'vibrant'
cooked with the burner on high

I advised my son - a skilled shooter & video editor
to connect with Rafe, Damien Gillis or Alexandra Morton
and get to the hot spots.. back their play
salmon, lumber, bears, wolves
the Salish Sea.. risky stuff
but he wasn't ready to leave Ontario
and be with such exemplars.. yet

Anonymous said...

Mound, what Rafe Mair said makes sense and I've never lived in BC. What's maddening is that there's a solution to this constitutional problem that includes the interests of BC residents and takes away the stick Kinder Morgan is using to beat us with. The solution requires us to jettison our biggest constraint on policy-making in the national interest - NAFTA.

As James Laxer points out, NAFTA limits both our ability to address climate change and to deal effectively with the TM pipeline problem. NAFTA's proportionality principle and its Chapter 11 ISDS mechanism effectively lock us into a high-carbon future. The proportionality principle prevents us from altering the proportion of bitumen, oil and natural gas we export to the US. It stops us from phasing out bitumen faster than the other less polluting products or refining significant amounts of bitumen to make it safer to transport. Now let's say Trudeau takes a walk in the snow and suddenly decides to address GHG emissions as aggressively as possible. If Canada remains bound by this principle to 2050, we would produce almost 1,500 megatonnes of GHGs more than we would have if we were proportionality-free.

The bigger problem is the ISDS mechanism that allows US multinationals to sue Canada before unaccountable tribunals that have a record of siding with oil and gas companies fighting environmental and resource regulations. It's beyond my understanding why Trudeau continues to champion this mechanism that has already cost Canadians $219 million in awards and settlements, $100 million in legal fees and that is currently being used as a cudgel by Kinder Morgan to shakedown his government.

Trudeau should call KM's bluff and demand that proportionality and Chapter 11 be removed from NAFTA at the current negotiations. Trump wants to get rid of Chapter 11 anyway, and it's Trudeau who's insisting on keeping it! If Trump goes ballistic and tears up the agreement, fine. The end of NAFTA can be blamed on Dolt 45, KM won't be able to sue under ISDS, and Canada will be free to act in our own national interest without US Big Oil and former Enron con artists at our throats. Recovering full control over our resources will be worth the expected hit to our Ontario manufacturing sector, and I say that as a former autoworker who is hoping to receive a pension. NAFTA never did much for BC's softwood industry anyway.


The Mound of Sound said...

Trudeau has the spine of a box jellyfish, Cap. Kinder Morgan came up with this shakedown deadline and Trudeau folded, sending his envoy, Morneau, to Texas with the federal chequebook.

Trudeau is not as bright as I had hoped. He has the intellect of his mother, not his legendary father. He's full of bromides but bereft of vision.

I don't believe the Liberals have had a great leader since Pierre Trudeau. Chretien was mediocre at best, his success largely due to the civil war that raged between the PCs and Reform/Alliance. Pretty easy to score a majority when you're pushing on that open a door.

Dion was no one's first choice and for good reason. After that disaster the Liberal rank and file became messianic. They annointed Ignatieff because they believed his intellect was akin to Trudeau's. Ridiculous. Trudeau had a powerful intellect but he had real fighting experience from the campaigns against Duplessis, real courage. Ignatieff - a history teacher who wrote some books.

Then they went for Justin, scion of all things Trudeau. A drama teacher with no more life experience than Ignatieff. An empty vessel and that's what we're stuck with today.

I recently went to a site of the Nobel organization and read the fascinating biography of Lester "Mike" Pearson. What a rich and full life he brought to his premiership. Small wonder he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Shakespeare put it this way, "whilst I, by looking on praise of him, see riot and dishonour stain the brow of my young," Justin.

Our man is lousy at the helm and worse at navigation.

Hugh said...