Canada's Regulatory System 'Broken'
January 13, 2012
Canada's Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver unleashed a fire storm of debate after he published an open letter in the Globe and Mail claiming "environmental and other radical groups" seek to "stop any major project no matter what the cost to Canadian families in lost jobs and economic growth."
"No forestry. No mining. No oil. No gas. No more hydro-electric dams," said Oliver in the open letter published in Monday's edition of the Globe and Mail.
The letter was published on the eve of the beginning of oral hearings Tuesday on the C$5.5 billion proposed Northern Gateway project that would bring Alberta oil sands bitumen to port at Kitimat, British Columbia. The current hearings are scheduled to wrap-up in early April.
"These groups threaten to hijack our regulatory system to achieve their radical ideological agenda," the minister asserted. "They seek to exploit any loophole they can find, stacking public hearings with bodies to ensure that delays kill good projects."
"They use funding from foreign special interest groups to undermine Canada's national economic interest. They attract jet-setting celebrities with some of the largest personal carbon footprints in the world to lecture Canadians not to develop our natural resources," he charged. "Finally, if all other avenues have failed, they will take a quintessential American approach: sue everyone and anyone to delay the project even further."
"They do this because they know it can work. It works because it helps them achieve their ultimate objective: delay a project to the point it becomes economically unviable," Oliver declared.
The Natural Resources Minister suggested Canada's regulatory system "is broken. It's time to take a look at it. It's an urgent matter of Canada's national interest."
Oliver urged that Canadian regulatory system "be based on science and the facts. We believe reviews for major projects can be accomplished in a quicker and more streamlined fashion. We do not want projects that are safe, generate thousands of new jobs and open up new export markets, to die in the approval phase due to unnecessary delays."
The Mining Association of Canada (MAC) issued a statement Tuesday applauding the federal government's announcement of improved timelines for the review process. "With over $137 billion of capital investment expected in Canada's mining sector over the next five years, an effective and efficient regulatory system is now more important than ever," the association observed.
"We agree with the Minister's assertion that viable, responsibly developed mining projects should not die in the approval phase due to unnecessary delays," said MAC CEO Pierre Gratton. "We'll be hiring over 100,000 people in the coming decade, but only if we can have projects approved and built in a timely fashion."
In an opinion piece published Tuesday in the Vancouver Sun, sustainability consultant Patrick Moore claimed that the U.S.-based National Resources Defense Council (NDRC) is ramping up a "$95-million-per year disinformation machine to shut down the Northern Gateway oil project."
A co-founder of Greenpeace, Moore was particularly critical of the use of anti-Keystone XL pipeline celebrity campaigners Kevin Bacon, Robert Redford and Leonardo DiCaprio to shut down the Northern Gateway project. The Keystone XL tar sands project pipeline was delayed by U.S. President Barack Obama last October.
"This notion of movie-stars working to block ethically produced Canadian oil from being shipped both south and west is surreal. ...Could these three American acting megastars and their NRDC celebrity colleagues possibly survive without the use of jet fuel to take them from one film location, festival or promotional junket to another?" Moore asked.
"Clearly, these image-conscious spokespeople have already said they won't opt for Canadian product derived under tight controls that protect the environment, workers' rights and the rights of women," he noted. "No, these actors will be forced by default to fuel up their Gulfstreams and Learjets with product from unethical, undemocratic and exploitive regimes like Saudi Arabia, Iran and Venezuela."
However, National Resources Defense Council's Susan Casey-Lefkowitz asserted in her blog that millions of dollars have reportedly come from foreign oil companies in support of the Northern Gateway pipeline, including China's Sinopec and a subsidiary of the China National Offshore Oil Corporation.
"Multinational oil companies are hijacking Canadians' ability to decide their energy future," she said.
In an open letter to Oliver, Canadian Green Party Chief Elizabeth May accused the Natural Resources Minister of being "hijacked by the PMO [Office of the Prime Minister of Canada] spin machine. The PMO is, in turn, hijacked by the foreign oil lobby."
May said she opposed the Northern Gateway pipeline for a number of reasons, including overturning the current moratorium on oil tanker traffic in the B.C. coastline. "Furthermore, running a pipeline through British Columbia's northern wilderness, particularly globally significant areas, such as the Great Bear Rainforest, is a bad idea," she asserted. "Nearly 1200 kilometers of pipeline through wilderness and First Nations territory is not something that can be fast-tracked."
"By characterizing this issue as environmental radicals versus Canada's future prosperity, you have done a grave disservice to the development of sensible public policy," May told Oliver in her letter.
- Source: Dorothy Kosich, Mineweb
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