Jim Irving’s frisson

Written by Emma Haché and Alain Deneault on December 4, 2018

“I’ve gotta give a shout out to this monolith of destruction,” said Amanda Lickers while showing a picture of the Irving logo during PowerShift Atlantic, a youth climate justice conference that happened in Halifax in 2014. Photo by Amara Possian.

Editor’s note: This commentary by Emma Haché and Alain Deneault is in response to Jim Irving’s letter to L’Acadie Nouvelle, published on November 29, that supported Premier Blaine Higgs’  position against the carbon tax.   

Mr. Jim Irving, let’s be frank. Of course, you approve of Premier Blaine Higgs’ course of action in your missive to L’Acadie Nouvelle that was published on November 29. Higgs spent decades of his career working at Irving Oil. He shares your ideology, now he responds to your needs. And please, spare us this rhetoric that your interests are also the public’s interest. The origin of your wealth is controversial. It is built on privileges accorded by public institutions, who turn a blind eye to the quasi-monopoly you hold in many areas, to say nothing of your intolerable accounting detours in Bermuda. You are a kind of unofficial state corporation, which explains why we find your name everywhere: arenas, libraries, museums, research centres, festivals. You want people to know where the real power lies, so that they know who to petition to get what they need.

So we have to keep following you, and believing in your version of prosperity, which remains yours, where we get to continuously shoulder big debts that justify the sabotage of our public services. This is what we are supposed to understand under the rubric of “economic common sense.”

You should know that we read your statements especially for their omissions. You say nothing about how legalized tax havens contribute to our province’s public deficits. There is nothing in your “analysis” on the costs of adaptation to climate change and massive industrial pollution that have occurred over the last century. How can the world continue under the mounting pressure of exponential economic growth you defend? Is it not the source of increasingly dramatic social injustice, threatened democracy, and environmental destruction?

Even the poor little carbon tax finds no favour in your eyes. It appears too radical, though in fact it is entirely insufficient to respond to the environmental, social and climate challenges we face. A 21st century policy would impose direct restrictions at the point of oil production. More and more, people aren’t falling for it. This is why your letter amuses them. Or shocks them.

Beyond that, what brings you to write after such a long silence? We don’t have the chance to read your letters that often. Perhaps a slight insecurity has come to tickle you? Will the lone francophone in the Higgs government not be able to carry your Good News? Are you worried public opinion will awaken? Is there something taking form, that hasn’t yet spoken its name? Could it be that from your lofty perch you sense that people are stirring and may begin to realize their own power? Is it a shock for you? A frisson?

Emma Haché and Alain Deneault are residents of Petite-Rivière-de-l’île in the Acadian Peninsula. 

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