An open letter to Joe Oliver

Dear Joe,

I started 2012 in a cautiously hopeful mood. Off and on, I've been cranky for years about how governments in Canada treat environmental questions, and certainly I've complained crankily about your current Conservative government for just this issue. But 2012, I decided, would be different.

We're citizens of the same country, we're living in the same environment, we're aware of the same questions, and neither of us wants to see the apocalypse come. It's not that I was planning a policy of accommodation, exactly, but I was going to do my best to understand where you're coming from.

And then on January 9, your open letter in the Globe and Mail ensured that I would be unable to hang onto this pledge. And then your utterly absurd interviews on CBC's program "On the Coast" and "As It Happens": ohmigod, ohmigod, ohmigod.

Nine days into the year, Joe Oliver, you broke me. I survived Stephen Harper's remarks Friday about this sort of thing, but you topped him. Nine days, and you broke me.

Let me count the ways:
  • If I'm reading you right, you think anyone worried about oil spills wants "to stop any major project no matter what the cost to Canadian families in lost jobs and economic growth." Bullshit.
  • I'm concerned that oil spills would themselves cause the loss of jobs in tourism, fisheries, and agriculture. The category "tourism" includes people working in restaurants, hotels, the guiding industry, skiiing, fishing, mountain biking, hiking, and so on. Without the oil spills that will occur, predictably, as a result of this "major project," there would be more jobs in more places.
  • The pipeline will HURT economic growth in all those places traversed by the pipeline, except when people get hired -- from outside the local communities, who'll be reduced to providing volunteers for these jobs -- to clean up after the inevitable oil spills.
  • The oil industry generates MONEY: it doesn't generate JOBS, in anything like the number of jobs that can be associated with a relatively healthy local environment that's not mopping up after yet another oil spill, happening at predictable intervals.
  • Your interview on "On the Coast" opened by saying that environmentalists want a "pristine age" for the environment, from the "dark ages." Again, bullshit. Actually, no, no more pulling punches: fucking bullshit.
  • There have been human influences on the environment since there have been humans -- humans are themselves part of "the environment." Yeah, anyone concerned about environmental matters is speaking on behalf of whatever we might imagine as "the non-human environment," but that's simply a balance question. If you'd spent any time reading the thoughtful comments of environmentalists, radical or moderate, you'd know that this "pristine" line is just the most utter bullshit.
  • I don't know which member of your communications team fed you that line, but you should maybe question that person's loyalty. When a conservative speaker uses the term "pristine" in referring to the environment, it signals precisely that you don't know the first thing about the discourse you're pretending to critique. Not the first thing.
  • Would I have an easier time with your whining about "foreign-funded environmentalists" if the Canadian oil industry was actually Canadian? Probably not. Everyone with power needs to be questioned regularly, including industry. But I can't believe you're unaware that this particular claim has humiliated you and your party on an international stage. You humiliated yourself on "As It Happens" with your comments to Carol Off about this, and about the distinctions between "industry money = good" and "enviro money = bad."
  • You think Canadians concerned about oil spills are connected to billionaire socialists?!? First of all, ain't no such thing as a billionaire socialist: if you mean George Soros, you mean a currency-speculating capitalist billionaire with diverse interests in democracy, social justice, and environmental damage. Second, an awful lot of us concerned Canadians aren't members of the groups who've received a modicum of funding from sources outside Canada.
So. You broke me. I've been quiet, not talking publicly about (to choose a couple of recent, fairly egregious examples) Jason Kenney's offensive remarks about the hijab's role in citizenship ceremonies, or about Peter Kent's ignorance about ecological systems, or anything else from the world of politics. Clearly you're not going to let me remain quiet.

You want to stop projects from being opposed by environmental groups, especially by groups receiving funds from American individuals or groups? Fine. Here come the rest of us.

Game on.

You might wish you'd stuck to fighting casually with groups, rather than getting so many voters upset with you.

Best wishes,


Fraze said…
Don't despair. The earth will recover, eventually.

Humanity might not survive the event, and the Conservative Party certainly won't… but the planet and its biosphere will persevere.
richard said…
Thanks, both of you!

Fraser, I'm not actually despairing, but thanks for worrying about me: no, I'm mad rather than depressed, which is altogether a much safer way for me to be.
fiona said…
Did you send this to him or to a newspaper? Make sure he sees it! Very good!
richard said…
Thanks for stopping by, Fiona! Great to hear from you.

Nope, I didn't bother sending it in to him - got some other correspondence in draft, though, more specific and asking questions. A broadside won't get much out of him or his office.

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