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Tar Sands superman

John Bell

April 25, 2012

Stephen Harper is nothing if not thorough.

His agenda, whether in majority or minority government, has been to turn Canada into the “Saudi Arabia of the 21st century”.

Harper always reveals his real intentions at big international meetings.

It was at the 2006 G8 summit that Harper announced his intention to convert Canada to the new “energy superpower”.

Recall his words: “[Global investors] have recognized the emergence of Canada’s global energy powerhouse. Or as we put it, the emerging energy superpower our government intends to build. This is no exaggeration.”

It was at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, in January, that he announced his intention to raise retirement age to 67, and to sweep aside the democratic environmental review processes that threaten to hinder his dream: to rape the Canadian landscape and extract every last ounce of saleable resources.

Recall his words: “[W]e will make it a national priority to ensure we have the capacity to export our energy products beyond the United States and specifically to Asia. In this regard, we will soon take action to ensure that major energy and mining projects are not subject to unnecessary regulatory delays–that is, delay merely for the sake of delay.”

He used the same forum to reiterate his devotion to continuing tax cuts for the rich and to limiting “growth of our health care spending.”

Harper loves to play the big-wig on the international stage. We could speculate that playing Tar Sands Superman in front of potentates, bankers and bosses reveals a drive to compensate for personal shortcomings. One thing is beyond speculation: his penchant for making profoundly important policy statements to foreign nobs and nabobs is yet another expression of his contempt for democracy and for the Canadian people.

So it should come as no surprise that the most recent budget contained a continued commitment to tax cuts for said nobs and nabobs, screwing with our pensions, and opening the door wider for provincial health care privatization.

Budget documents are huge, so small details get overlooked. Also tucked into the most recent budget is “$8-million…to help the Canada Revenue Agency target registered charities.”

Preventing truth spills

Yes, Canadian charities are like kryptonite to Tar Sands Superman. And no charity is a greater traitor to the petro-state than the Suzuki Foundation.

Government rules state that if charities use more than 10 per cent of their revenues for “advocacy” they can lose their charitable status. In an effort to forestall CRA’s crackdown on the organization he created to educate Canadians on environmental issues, David Suzuki has resigned from the board of the Suzuki Foundation.

In an open letter to Canadians, Suzuki stated: “I want to speak freely without fear that my words will be deemed too political, and harm the organization of which I am so proud. I am keenly aware that some governments, industries and special interest groups are working hard to silence us…. This bullying demonstrates how important it is to speak out.”

Also under attack from Revenue Canada is ForestEthics. In a maneuver designed to thwart Harper’s tax gambit, ForestEthics has split itself into two separate entities: a charitable one to do research and education, and an advocacy group to directly take on Harper’s petro-agenda.

Every Canadian should be outraged at the gross, political use of our taxation system to silence dissent. This same tax system that delivers more than $1.4 billion in subsidies per year to the fossil fuel industry is now spending my money and yours to gag important voices at a crucial time for the environment and the future Canadian economy.

You can be sure that CRA will not be harassing equally all charities that dabble in political advocacy. I’m thinking of the Fraser Institute, the right-wing think tank that, as far as I can see, spends all of its efforts to advocate for “free-market” privatization, climate change denial, union-busting and other corporate-friendly policies. For more on the FI’s less than charitable operations, have a look at David Climenhaga’s excellent article on

The taxman is attacking environmental groups guilty of the “crime” of providing scientific proof that new west-bound oil pipelines, and the coastal super-tanker traffic that goes with them, are environmental disasters waiting to happen. The Suzuki Foundation work leads to the inescapable conclusion that unfettered Tar Sands development is an environmental disaster already happening.

At the same time as he is trying to gag enviro-NGOs, Harper has announced sweeping changes to the environmental review process. Public input–what we used to call democracy–is sharply curtailed. Some “small” projects won’t have to do any review, and I guess it is up to the government to decide what qualifies as small.

More of the oversight is to be done by the Environment Ministry. Oh did I mention that hundreds of scientists and researchers at Environment Canada are being laid off? Or that those who remain are thoroughly gagged by their political masters?

And Harper would hand environmental responsibility to the provinces. Corporations are delighted. Witness the reaction of Travis Davies, from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers: “We’ve got provinces here in Canada that have been doing very good regulatory work for a very long time–in the case of Alberta, for almost a century.”

Harper has all but declared that he is going to stop the review process into the Northern Gateway pipeline project. He is going to ignore the voices of people in community after community, First Nation after First Nation, that are virtually unanimous in opposition to the pipe.

Harper and Joe Oliver, his Natural Resources Minister and chief Tar Sands booster, refer to all this as “strengthening environmental protection.”

He is going to build his Petro-Canada come hell or high water, which pretty much describes the future that climate change will bring if we don’t stop him. In Harper’s own words: “This is no exaggeration.”

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