Saturday, June 01, 2013

On meaningless spin

Far too many people who should know better have tried to find some significance in the B.C. government's submission to the Harper Cons' Northern Gateway rubber-stamping process. So in case anybody needs a refresher course, here's why we shouldn't see it as an important development.

To start with, B.C.'s announcement doesn't represent a "decision" in any meaningful sense of the word. After all, the B.C. Lib government signed an equivalency agreement (PDF) three years ago in which they agreed to let Stephen Harper decide any environmental questions related to the Northern Gateway pipeline - meaning that the say of Christy Clark and her government at this point is no greater than that of any of the witnesses the Cons have sought to shut out of the process.

Now, it's true that in the absence of the equivalency agreement, there would have been some substantial uncertainty as to the relative authority of the federal and provincial governments. But it's the B.C. Libs who chose to resolve that uncertainty in favour of giving the Harper Cons sole decision-making power.

And the Cons have gone out of their way to abuse their newfound power to decide what process will apply to the pipeline. At last notice, that process included (among other glaring flaws) a refusal to allow participants to ask questions about concerns which Enbridge and the government don't want to talk about, a limitation to the National Energy Board's authority stating that it has no jurisdiction to say "no" for environmental reasons, and a cabinet override to allow Harper to say "yes" even if the NEB finds the science to be so damning as to make it impossible to build the pipeline safely.

All of which is to say that Clark's posturing this week has precisely zero substantive impact on the formal approval process for Northern Gateway. And given that the Cons have made it clear that they're not interested in letting the public interest get in the way of tar-sands profits, there's little reason for optimism that Clark's intervention will suddenly cause them to develop a conscience.


  1. Greg, I believe you miss the point. Do you think Harper will risk the consequences of suppressing mass civil disobedience that is at least tangentially supported by the position of the provincial government? Greg there is an astonishing contingent of lifelong, law-abiding grey hairs just like me who are fully prepared to risk prosecution and possibly even incarceration to prevent this. And we're just one group prepared to stand up and stop this.

    It won't take much for this to get out of Harper's control.

    1. I'll readily agree that the one factor which could make a difference is a substantial protest movement. But I don't see Clark's declaration as a meaningful addition on that front - in fact the more people think she's done anything to look out for their interests, the less likely they'll be to take action on their own.

  2. Greg,

    Excellent observations...both the initial post & subsequent response to 'The Mound Of Sound'.

    Dan Tan