The Enbridge pipeline is a hot topic these days. Like most big issues, it is representative of the divide between Canada’s left and right. The left are against the pipeline due to environmental concerns, and the right have been promoting the pipeline because of its economic benefits. As usual with the left/right paradigm, the debate has become too simplistic, and we are missing out on some of the key issues that should be discussed.
I first became interested in pipeline politics when I was living in East Europe after the fall of the Berlin wall. Travelling and working in countries like Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and the Ukraine I was able to see first-hand how pipelines are much more complex than being simply environmental & economic issues. Unless Canadians can understand the full-picture of pipeline politics, before we build a pipeline, we are in danger of many unintended consequences.
Pipelines are almost always a challenge to a country’s sovereignty. Unlike projects in countries like Azerbaijan & the Ukraine, the Enbridge pipeline will only run through one country- however, the ultimate destination for the oil will most likely be China. If the pipeline is not constructed, the oil will most likely be going to the United States. So, by default, the Enbridge project puts Canada front-centre in a (cold) proxy war between these two countries.
Azerbaijan faced a similar challenge. In their case it was the US/Europe (who wanted the pipeline to run through their ally in Turkey) and the Russians who wanted it to run through their territory. The result was that both sides exerted a great amount of influence on the country’s government- both covert and overt. Some of the pressure was applied through trade deals and governmental relations, and other through NGO’s like George Soros’ Open Society Institute who supported the West. The result was often that foreign powers ended up having more influence on the country’s internal politics than did the people of Azerbaijan.
Does this sound familiar? Well, it should, Canada is experiencing the exact same phenomenon today. The people on the left, who oppose the pipeline, are being led by the George Soros funded TIDES Foundation. TIDES also has invested a lot of money in political lobbying and funding local elections. For example, the majority of Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson’s campaign was funded through TIDES- is it then any wonder that he spoke out so vociferously against the pipeline?
The Chinese have taken similar tactics supporting the position of the right. But, rather than paying-off environmental activists, they are taking actions like purchasing Canadian energy & engineering companies. And, as it was exposed in the National Post last week, CSIS is currently examining Chinese covert actions to build relationships with indigenous leaders. There’s also the curious incident in 2010 when CSIS head Richard Fadden stated that municipal leaders and cabinet ministers in BC are being influenced by the Chinese government.
So, regardless if we build the pipeline, or not, Canadian politics are already being strongly influenced by powerful foreign interests. If we don’t pay attention to this issue, and insist on full transparency from both sides of the debate, we are in great danger of losing our sovereignty just as they did in Azerbaijan.
Will Canada become the new Belgium?
Remember Wiebo Ludwig- Canada’s Don Quixote? Ludwig was a radical environmentalist Dutchman (a Frisian, the most crazy of the Dutch) who became famous for attacking natural gas pipelines and wells after he claimed a gas well had poised his family and his farm. Ludwig passed away earlier this year- but his spirit is still alive.
The Conservative government has got a lot of attacks for planning for the eventuality of environmental terrorism, but we have already experienced this before- Ludwig was not the only one. Back in 1982, a group of eco-terrorists who are known as the Squamish Five blew-up the Dunsmuir BC Hydro substation in protest of a controversial hydroelectric project.
Today, we have radical anarchist environmental organizations to worry about. The TIDES/Soros Rainforest Action Network was co-founded by Mike Roselle, formerly of Earth First!, a group of radical environmentalists who have had incidents with bombs & violence in the past. Then there’s the Deep Green Resistance, a group that had many members in the Occupy Movement, modern-day Luddites who believe the only way to save the Earth is to smash the machines of the Capitalist system.
Building and operating the pipeline is likely to create serious security risks. One of the reasons people like Ludwig, and the insurgents in Iraq have been so successful in their work is that pipelines are very long, and it is nearly impossible to protect them. Without a comprehensive security plan, it is likely we will see such incidents in the future. Even with one, it is likely that the building the pipeline will result in some problems.
The government’s relationships with indigenous communities is, at best, rather shaky. One of the greatest challenges in British Columbia is that treaties don’t exist with most indigenous communities- as the radical environmentalists like to remind us, BC is mostly unceeded territory. This means that there will be a lot of challenges to building the pipeline through contested land.
There’s not a good history of building large energy projects on or near indigenous territory. As projects like Cameco’s uranium mining in Saskatchewan, and the Oil Sands in Alberta have shown us, the environmental consequences on indigenous communities can be harsh, and long-lasting. Mistakes of the past haven’t been forgotten.
Canada’s far left has been using such issues as a wedge to create division between the government and indigenous communities. And, on the other end of the spectrum, the reactionaries on the right have been working to influence the chiefs and band councils with power and money. Meanwhile, the Chinese government appears to be building relationships of their own.
Many indigenous leaders succumb to the influence of the right, and many of the disaffected align themselves with the radical left environmentalists. Ultimately, as things stand, it is a lose-lose situation for the majority who are left sitting in the middle.
We have yet to have broken ground on the Enbridge pipeline yet only the debate of its construction is creating great division, and loss of sovereignty, within Canada. Adrian Dix, and the NDP’s focus on environmental aspects is important, as it Christy Clark’s discussion on how to bring more profitability. But, by simplifying the debate to our current focus on environmental and economic issues, both sides are doing Canadians a great disservice.
It is time to expand the debate to include sovereignty, security, indigenous and other relevant issues. Unless we make this a priority, we are liable to facing many unintended consequences in the future…