The Federal Liberals’ support for the Trans Mountain pipeline makes a mockery of any promise to give Indigenous peoples the veto on developments affecting them, and to recognize Indigenous sovereignty while also trashing commitments on climate change. The difference between Tory all-out support for all pipelines, up to and including climate change denial, and Liberal support for some pipelines, despite their intended reform of the environmental review process, is at best stylistic. There is no difference of substance.
The Liberal government has received cautious support from environmental groups for its recently announced changes to the environmental impact assessment process, undoing some of the damage caused by Harper era removal of environmental protection and community input. (The new proposals fall short of implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), since they would allow the federal government to overrule objections of Indigenous peoples rather than requiring assent from them.) But the current pipeline proposals were pushed through the weakened and arbitrarily restricted process set up by the Harper government. The gaps in the process are clear. BC’s ability to delay the project rests on the fact that virtually no research has been done on the effect of spills on coastal waters or the cost or possibility of clean up. It is not even well understood whether spilled bitumen would float or sink. In this context, pressing ahead with projects which gained approval under the preceding rules is like telling the patient to go ahead and take the pills even though dangerous side effects have been discovered since the doctor wrote the prescription.
Meanwhile the federal NDP is hampered from speaking out by the out-break of trade-war posturing by the BC and Alberta governments, one of which has its own environmental betrayals already to its credit, and the other which campaigned and formed a government on a policy of going along with the existing one-sided dependence on resource extraction in the Alberta economy.
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley claims to be speaking not just for Alberta but for the interests of all of Canada in promoting pipelines. In fact she speaks not for the interests of Alberta or any other part of Canada, but for the interests of multi-national, largely foreign owned monopolies in the oil and gas sector who have no capacity for and no interest in generating reliable employment and are the last entities on the planet to be trusted with stewardship of the environment.
It is not in the interests of Albertan workers to remain dependent on traditional resource extraction for employment or economic development. As in every other sector, the major players in the tar sands are introducing technology such as self-driving trucks to eliminate jobs permanently. Other sectors of the global economy, including capitalists and governments in oil importing regions, are forging ahead with new technology that will make oil and gas obsolete, quite possibly destroying the potential markets for the tar sands products before the pipelines can even be completed. Even a small decline in demand will push prices lower, making expensive tar sand output uncompetitive. It should also be noted that a pipeline can’t move a single barrel of oil from A to B until the whole pipeline has been built from A to B, unlike renewables where every individual windmill or solar panel can start producing energy the instant it is wired into the grid. The ever-increasing urgency of climate change mitigation, the logic of technological innovation and the vested interest of petroleum importing countries in reducing their imports make it more obvious every day how short-sighted and self-defeating it is to attempt to prop up the status quo in the economy. Canada’s working class, both unionized and non-unionized, has borne the brunt of a weakened industrial sector and the increased power of corporations with ever more sweeping and one-sided “trade” agreements. Meanwhile the corporate sector has amply demonstrated its lack of initiative to fulfill either employment needs or human needs.
The way out is not petty squabbles between jurisdictions, but sweeping re-structuring of the economy with all levels of government taking a hand in directing the change, controlling the assets and protecting working people from being sacrificed. The CPC calls for no new pipelines, winding down the tarsands, guaranteeing workers in the oil industry jobs in renewables or other sectors including jobs in an expanded manufacturing sector, upholding promises of nation to nation relationships between Indigenous peoples and Ottawa, and urgent action for climate justice and reversing climate change. It’s past time for working people to take a hand in creating a government that functions in their interests and is willing to take action.
Special resolution of the Central Committee, Communist Party of Canada, Feb 11th, 2018