Saturday, February 16, 2019

Please, Explain This to Me

There's a bunch of sketchy hombres down in Texas. Their pedigree traces back to a notoriously corrupt energy giant, EnRon.  After EnRon imploded and the principals were sent for a long stretch in jail (except the lucky one who died first) some of the surviving alumni created a new energy company they named Kinder Morgan - after themselves.

Kinder Morgan bought a sclerotic pipeline that runs from Alberta to Burnaby, BC, that was called the Trans Mountain pipeline. They picked it up for a song - cheap, cheap, cheap.  Back then new pipelines were all the rage. Another company with a dodgy track record, EnBridge plotted to carve a new pipeline route, the Northern Gateway, to carry Athabasca bitumen from the Tar Sands to Kitimat on the northern BC coast. Kinder Morgan, meanwhile, imagined using its existing route to build a far bigger pipeline to carry that bitumen to "tidewater" on the southern BC coast.

The Conservative government of the day was all for both pipelines but failed to come through. Then the election timer went and the political parties scurried around to garner votes.

It began as a rag-to-riches story for the federal New Democrats. Some thought they might actually prevail for the first time ever to become the government of Canada. They were vying with the Conservatives for the brass ring.

In third place, struggling to climb out of the ditch that had been dug for them by a succession of weak and poor leadership, came the Liberals led by a youngster with a legendary name, "Trudeau." Third place. Not a great starting position.

Trudeau went to war. He knew what people wanted and he knew that promises, like talk, were cheap. He wanted seats in British Columbia, all that he could get and he knew what the people of urban British Columbia wanted. And so he began inspiring everybody with talk of "social licence," proclaiming that only affected communities could permit projects such as pipelines. He promised to rehabilitate the federal government's tattered relationship with First Nations. He solemnly promised to implement electoral reform, vowing that 2015 would be the last "first past the post" election the voting public would have to endure. He said all the things we wanted to hear about protecting our coast, real anti-pipeline stuff. He promised that his government would boldly fight climate change and would faithfully "follow the science."

He said all the things he knew we wanted to hear and British Columbians handed him a basketful of seats he needed to cement a majority win.

He lied. Social licence, he lied. First Nations consultation, he lied. Electoral reform, he lied. Safeguarding the environment of British Columbia, especially the pristine and vulnerable coast, he lied. Following the science, he lied.  Boldly fighting climate change, he lied.

He lied. It was all lies.

He pulled off a great upset win. He very nearly got the support of two out of five Canadian voters. Not quite two out of five. In the rancid electoral system he solemnly promised to tear asunder, you don't even need two out of five to form a majority government.

Now, given that the essence of a democracy is government with the consent of the electorate, informed consent, two out of five is not consent. You don't have the support of three out of five of those voters. That's not consent. That's not democracy. Fortunately this young guy with the legendary name who inspired us so was going to set that straight. Except that he lied. Instead he offered up a very sincere, "I'm so very sorry but, fuck you."

He did nix the Northern Gateway pipeline. Instead he set about conniving and dissembling to push through the expanded southern line, the new Trans Mountain pipeline to tidewater.

That social licence business where affected communities must be won over? That got swept aside as municipalities across British Columbia's lower mainland united in opposing the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. The Trudeau government swept those municipalities aside.  When the people of those communities and our First Nations stood up to block this perfidy, the federal government rounded them up and threw them in jail. He lied. That social licence vow was utter nonsense to this newly minted prime minister.

This self-proclaimed climate change warrior almost overnight transformed into a bitumen baron, the prince of the Calgary Petroleum Club. He would be Big Carbon's boy and he is. Talk about a Trojan Horse.



During the election campaign, this youngster told us what we already knew, that the National Energy Board. the quasi-judicial body that approves Canada's high-carbon economy, was a stacked deck. It was rigged, dominated by shills plucked from the energy industry. What Big Fossil wanted, Big Fossil got.

Mr. Trudeau wasn't going to have any of that. No, he was going to clean house at the National Energy Board and he was going to see to it that all their "industry friendly" decisions were re-opened, reviewed, re-assessed. At least that's what he told us. He lied.

First Nations consultations. The youngster assured everyone that he was keeping that commitment. He was consulting Canada's First Nations, hearing them out, taking their views into account. They didn't see it that way and so the dispute progressed through the highest courts of the land. They didn't see it Trudeau's way either. He lied, again.

The government had to take a defensible position on the Trans Mountain expansion and so it ordered every federal department to provide their assessment and recommendations. But then, an envoy from the prime minister's office, corralled those mandarins in one room and told them, bluntly, their assessments had to support the Trans Mountain pipeline. They stacked the deck.

Vancouver's upstart online newspaper, the National Observer, interviewed senior officials about the prime minister's coercion.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity with National Observer, they say a high-ranking public servant instructed them, at least one month before the pipeline was approved, “to give cabinet a legally-sound basis to say ‘yes’” to Trans Mountain. These instructions came at a time when the government claimed it was still consulting in good faith with First Nations and had not yet come to a final decision on the pipeline.
Trudeau's then national resources minister, Jim Carr, insisted that his government had fulfilled its duty on First Nations consultation. Guess what? That was also a lie.
Sources from within different federal departments, however, provide a different perspective about how the Trans Mountain review happened. 
Their allegation is serious: that the process was rigged following lobbying by Kinder Morgan. 
According to the federal lobbying registry, the Texas company’s Canadian affiliate, Kinder Morgan Canada, reported lobbying federal officials in the government more than three dozen times in 2016 before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that he was approving the Trans Mountain expansion project.
To doubters, Mr. Trudeau assured them that his government "had done the science." They could safely move bitumen across British Columbia's seismically-active territory, across its many rivers and lakes, and they could safely sail an armada of supertankers through our pristine southern coastal waters. That was a lie.

Trudeau's environment minister, Dame Cathy McKenna, quietly approved the use of a particularly hellish concoction, Corexit, for bitumen spills. Even the manufacturer's labels on the barrels warn it's not safe for use in open waters. Corexit doesn't disperse oil. It binds with it and sinks it, out of sight-out of mind. Only this time it wouldn't be sinking ordinary crude. It would be disappearing toxin-laden sludge, bitumen, sending it to the sea bed where all marine life begins, the anchor of the marine food chain.

Now we've got the prime minister feeding us lie upon lie. We've got his environment minister lying to us. We've got that jackass Carr lying to us. We've got the heads of critical federal government departments forced to lie. That's a helluva lot of nonstop lying. It must be exhausting.

But our prime minister insists he's "done the science." Fair enough, let's see it. No, that's too much to ask. Well, let's ask Environment Canada and let's ask the Royal Society of Canada and let's ask Alberta's legendary hydrologist, Dave Shindler. Even Mr. Trudeau's own Enviro-Can confirms what Shindler and the Royal Society say - no, the science has not been done. He lied, again, as usual.

Is it unfair to Mr. Trudeau and his government to suggest that this persistent litany of bald faced lies isn't accidental, that there must be something they don't want to get out? I think that's not just fair but obvious.

Meanwhile, down in Texas, the hombres were getting nervous. Maybe it was time to stop beating a dead horse and just give up on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. Shut it down.

Faster than you can say, "first class, window seat," Trudeau had his finance minister, Morneau, winging his way to the Lone Star state with entreaties to Kinder Morgan. At first the government offered to guarantee the necessary funding  but that didn't work. And so they tried another approach - if you don't want it, why don't you sell it to us? We'll take it off your hands. Name your price. We'll write you a cheque.

And so the Trudeau government bought the Justin Trudeau Memorial pipeline, a.k.a. Trans Mountain.  Billions of dollars to buy a very old pipeline that Kinder Morgan had picked up for a song. Billions more to bury a new pipeline beside that old one. Now it appears the Kinder Morgan guys likely fleeced Morneau on the price.

It wasn't long before the scrutiny began and that seemed to goad the Trudeau government into announcing they were going to flip that pipeline to the private sector, suggesting the government might even see a profit from the sale. Only the private sector wouldn't touch it. Nobody wanted that damned pipeline. Wouldn't touch it with a ten foot length of bitumen pipe.

So, with one foot on the dock and the other in the boat that's drifting into open water, Justin's Canada made the leap and became a player in the bitumen industry.  Now all those First Nations and other protesters trying to block the Trans Mountain fiasco would be clashing with Ottawa, not some bunch of bandits from Texas. Ottawa was the new Kinder-Morgan but, in fairness, it was almost as good at duplicity, deceit and manipulation as the best of them.

Then there's the Sword of Damocles hanging over human civilization, climate change. Mr. Trudeau stepped boldly onto the floor of the Paris Climate Summit in 2015 to announce "Canada's back." We were even instrumental in building a consensus around the idea that the old 2 degrees Celsius goal wasn't enough. It wouldn't avert runaway global warming. We must have more ambitious carbon-cutting targets. We must not exceed 1.5 C of warming.

Three years later this government isn't even on course to meet Stephen Harper's laughable climate change targets. It's actually falling further and further behind. At the same time this government wants to flood world markets with the most toxic, highest-carbon ersatz petroleum of them all, bitumen. It's not taking any responsibility for those emissions either. That's on someone else. We're supplying the bargain-rate guns and the bullets but it's their finger on the trigger.

Here we are. Spring can't be far off and with it the resumption of pipeline construction. A pipeline laid on a foundation of lies.  And, with it, First Nations and other opponents of this monstrous pipeline will rally, be arrested and expeditiously slung into jail. It's become assembly line justice, no defences to be heard.

I realize I've gone on at considerable length about what transpired from 2015 to today but, as they say, the devil is in the details and there are so many details here that need to be remembered to make sense of what may happen when the ground thaws.

Liberals used to see themselves as the good guys and I think that was sort of true at one time. But they've come to let "good" be defined by what passes for a Conservative party these days. That's like saying, "vote for me, at least I'm not quite as bad as the other guy."  Goodness is surely something that rests on virtue. Where's the virtue in measuring yourself against Andrew Scheer and his provincial mini-me's, Kenney, Ford and Moe?

Many today are focused on this prime minister and ex-justice minister Jody. That might be a tale of corruption. It might not. Does it really matter? If you're looking for corruption look at that pipeline, look at this government's rank dishonesty, and then glance over your shoulder at a world about to burst into flames.

Please, explain this to me. Why, if this is so important to Canada, does it have to be cloaked in endless lies?


14 comments:

Trailblazer said...

Like the USA , Canada has two versions of the same political party .
Not much else can be said really, other than government by the elected ones is often overruled by the non elected ones.
Our only chance of change comes from the fringe parties ; the NDP and Greens and I am not too sure of the NDP!!
That leaves Elizabeth May.
WOW; it's back to that bottle of single malt.
TB

The Mound of Sound said...

Yes, TB, and savor every sip.

Danneau said...

I won't detail the lengths I had to go to procure a supply of my favourite single malt under the reworked LDB system. Even finding illusory refuge has become a struggle. Other than than and all else you've detailed above, life is pretty good. Attendons la suite!

John B. said...

Apologies if you’ve already listened to this interview:

https://player.fm/series/bc-humanists-podcast/donald-gutstein-the-big-stall

“So Big Oil, the major multi-national corporations – they’ve accumulated enormous power and wealth over a century … and an unrivalled ability to influence governments. ... I like to think of neo-liberalism as the ideology that sees the role of government to create and enforce markets, and prop them up when they fail. … Its vision is a world in which only markets have power. And governments have no power except to reinforce markets.”

- Donald Gutstein (from interview on “The Big Stall”, Nov 2018)

the salamander said...

.. will need a 2nd thorough read.. even a 3rd.. certainly at least a couple more visits to refer to specific stages & players. My 1st current thought is why we don't see such comprehensive factual condensations - following clear chronology via any Main Media ? (The Thee aside of course.. one of my 'Main' reads)

Instead I see fatuous op eds by the likes of greasy millionaire sleazoids like Joe Oliver, Peter McKay, senator Denise Batters & the like.. Jason Kenney, Andrew MacDougall - the former Harper communications spinner. All gifted lipstick artists who never met a pig they couldn't apply it too. Rex Murphy fer gawds sake !

I dunno.. the price Candians may pay for Justin Trudeau's abdication of honesty.. could be four hellish years of Andrew Scheer.. likely by a minority government propped up by an equally desperate NDP seeking their identity.. any identity.. even if its an identity such as 'sellouts'.

Canadians and our sold out Mainstream Media have failed to curb or put a short leash on our political parties, elected MP's and OUR government. We have let them get away with the almighty $$,$$$,$$$ as their 'situational ethics'

A recent tweet I saw on Twitter by @TheUSASingers said 'The Republicans clutch their bibles in one hand and the constitution in their other hand - neither of which they comprehend.. so there's that too for Canada.. the pedantic holier than thou, dishonest aspects of ' politics uber alles' a la Harper/Novak.. and now Trudeau, especially our fundamental rules of law, transparency, common sense and strict adherence to serving the citizens and constituents' Dreams Needs & Wishes.. and not their partisan irrelevant dreams needs, wishes & search for wealth

Anonymous said...

"Why, if this is so important to Canada, does it have to be cloaked in endless lies?"

Because Canada is an oligarchy and oligarchs live and love a lie.

Karl Kolchak said...

Slick hustlers like Trudeau and Obama are actually more dangerous than plodding troglodytes like Trump. The former are expert at putting most of the prog "opposition" to sleep with their empty platitudes. The only hope lies in revolutionary moments like the yellow jacket who might topple the oligarchy, and even then it is an extreme long shot.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
The Mound of Sound said...

Anon, you were so wildly off topic I deleted your "go Trump" rant. Shop that garbage somewhere else.

The Mound of Sound said...

Thanks for the link, John. It was very worthwhile.

Jane Johnson said...

Thank you for this article. superbpaper review for you.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
The Mound of Sound said...

Sorry, I can't tackle your Trump fetish but I'm sure you'll find plenty of professional help to guide you through your affliction.

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