By Henry McRandall
Canada’s Alberta Tar Sands have long been recognized as perhaps the world’s single biggest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions, making the North American country perhaps the biggest per-capita contributor to global warming.
So what is Canada proposing to do about this catastrophic phenomenon?
Well, with a Conservative federal government in Ottawa and a Conservative provincial government in Edmonton, the plan seems to be to open the tar sands exploitation zone to all comers.
Exploitation of the Alberta Tar Sands began a number of years ago with just four foreign oil companies – three American and one French – setting up massive installations in the western province’s northern wilderness.
Conscientious scientists warned the federal and provincial governments right from the outset that the petroleum monstrosity would produce horrific environmental and human consequences. But their warnings went unheeded.
And every credible study that has been done on the impact since the beginning of oil production confirms the devastating consequences.
But for the neoliberal and neoconservative governments that ruled then and now, this shocking reality was of little import or impact.
There were other considerations that mattered more.
First, the energy industry is a major contributor to the coffers of the supposedly moderate Liberal Party and, especially, the coffers of the extreme right-wing Conservative Party.
Second, there was the revolving door of highly-paid employment between the petroleum industry and government regulatory agencies.
And third, there was the opportunity for many Conservatives and “friends” of the Conservative Party to become very wealthy.
On top of that, there was enormous pressure from the energy-starved U.S. for Canada to develop the tar sands and export the product to Amerikkka.
In fact, under the corrupt and economically debilitating NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement), the Tories had agreed to guarantee Amerikkka equal rights to Canada’s energy resources.
Any single one of those factors might have been enough to prompt the wild-west development/destruction of this vast energy reserve. But taken together they were a recipe for dire disaster.
The tailing ponds from the massive constructs are devastating the once-mighty Athabaska River and killing many of the residents of the vast Arctic-tundra-like wilderness.
Most of the people who live in the region are aboriginal Dene, native peoples whose lives, livelihoods and health have rarely been of much concern for the Conservatives, either federal or provincial.
The heavy metals – including but not limited to lead, cadmium, mercury and other savage carcinogens – are destroying lives and ecosystems for hundreds of kilometres surrounding the extraction zones.
Cancer rates among the Dene are soaring and so are the rates of other debilitating diseases that are fueled by the toxins in these super-heated energy lodes.
But what are the lives of a few hundred despised Dene when proper, “upstanding” white men stand to make millions or even billions in scantily-taxed profits?
Greasing the palms of Canada’s Tories
By Henry McRandall