“More Agreement than Not” — Canada’s Premiers in 2012

by John Brian Shannon

It was heartening to see Canada‘s Premiers working together today on the challenges facing Canada, it’s provinces and citizens. A provincially-led era of common-sense has appeared across the political spectrum in this country. How reassuringly Canadian.

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall felt comfortable enough to make the statement that between the provinces, there is “more agreement, than not.” New Brunswick Premier Robert Ghiz standing beside him indicated his full agreement.

Why can’t politics always be like this?

And I was pleased to see a high level of cooperation between the provinces on the topic of health-care. The Premiers want to lower costs for patients, enhance health-care  and harmonize their somewhat disparate systems. As I said, heartening.

Downplaying Northern Gateway pipeline tensions

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark quite rightly states that BC will be taking all of the risk where the Northern Gateway pipeline is concerned, while so-far receiving little benefit under the present proposal.

In fact, the number of Canadians who will actually benefit from this pipeline over its proposed 30-year lifetime are surprisingly few.

It must be said that during the one-year pipeline construction period, a few thousand temporary jobs would be created. But no more than a handful of oil executives will benefit, but benefit they will — handsomely. And it’s not rocket science to do the math on oil and pipeline company stock market shares, as American citizens own far more of these stocks than any other national group. Less than 15% of the total stock in this market segment are owned by Canadians.

From the British Columbia standpoint, does it really matter to BC citizens if some Ontario or Texas oil executive can afford to buy yet another Bentley at Christmas?

Especially when the risk of damage to wildlife, citizens and to the economics of the region could be catastrophic. Tourism, fishing, forestry, farming and real estate values can dramatically change for the worse in the case of only one major spill. Taken together, these sectors represent billions of dollars per year for the people of BC.

It might interest you to know that under the Canadian Constitution, resources are owned by individual provinces on behalf of the citizens of those provinces. As the owners of these resources, citizens nowadays have precious little say in how they are accessed, developed or sold — and to which entity they are sold. Let alone have any say on the per-tonne selling price of those resources for decades of time.

Premier Christy Clark of British Columbia, acting with parallel support from the leader of BC’s official opposition party, the Honourable Adrian Dix, has questioned the present situation and both politicians have called for an examination of risk/net benefit for British Columbia’s citizens in this matter.

The next logical step is to hire the most reputable, global, petroleum-wise accounting firms available, to have them determine the cost to repair damage to the environment and to cover employment and profit losses resulting from the worst-case oil spill at sea — or wherever the pipeline route crosses the interior of this scenic province.

Whatever the full cost happens to be for a full clean-up and remediation along with the full compensation costs for affected individuals and businesses, that should be the minimum price of admission in order to receive the necessary permissions and permits to build and operate an oil pipeline route  through BC — or through any province for that matter.

A worst-case scenario security-deposit is what all British Columbian‘s should require of companies wishing to cross BC territory with oil pipelines or oil shipping terminals located in the province.

If the appropriate deposit is paid in full and in advance, at that point, even I will put up with an oil pipeline and trans-shipment terminal in BC. Especially if the highest standards and practices are put into place to ensure lower risk for British Columbia.

When a pipeline gets taken out of service (and removed) after years of successful operation (without a single spill) the security deposit — principal only — should be returned to the company.

You’d think that insurance companies would be all over this.

If these proposals were passed into law, it might encourage oil execs to direct their teams to build world-class pipelines which never leak and require the use of double-hulled supertankers as part of their corporate policy. Double-hulled tankers are the law in the EU (since 1996) and the U.S.A. (since 1990) and both have in place, severe penalties for non-compliance. In the GCC nations and Japan it is long-standing convention (but not law) that double-hulled tankers are required anywhere close to the coastline.

Canada, with the most scenic coastline on the planet located here in the province of British Columbia, has no such law nor convention. Pathetic.

IF the price formula outlined above seems too high for pipeline or shipping companies, that’s too bad. We don’t need it. We’re not getting anything from it except risking the wealth and beauty of our province, so take it somewhere else. No really, please. Take it somewhere else.

We can’t jeopardize British Columbia’s pristine coastline, wilderness, rivers, creeks, lakes, farmland and ranchlands. Nor can we risk BC’s entire multi-billion dollar tourism, fishery and forestry industries and the hundreds of thousands of jobs they provide, because comparatively small numbers of people in Alberta, Ontario and the U.S. want a shiny new car next year.

John Brian Shannon writes about green energy, sustainable development and economics from British Columbia, Canada. His articles appear in the Arabian Gazette, EcoPoint Asia, EnergyBoom, the Huffington Post, the United Nations Development Programme – and other quality publications.

John believes it is important to assist all levels of government and the business community to find sustainable ways forward for industry and consumers.


Check out his personal blog at: http://johnbrianshannon.com
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