Koch-Oil, Part 2: Canada’s love-in with US Big Oil

Written by John McMurtry on June 23, 2019

Athabasca tar sands. Photo from CounterPunch. Source: NASA Earth Observatory.

In Canada, the governing corporate media and parties have had such a media-transmitted love-in with Big Oil that even Alberta’s NDP Premier Rachel Notley militantly demanded over years that the US-dominated tar sands mega project receive ever more rights and public subsidies to run its toxic tar-sand crude over neighboring BC mountains and the inland whale-inhabited ocean channels as a moral obligation to Alberta.

The spell of ‘national unity’ to sell Alberta’s US-controlled oil sands is not broken even as the forest fires and floods in BC and Ontario rage beyond all records from the fossil-carbon-destabilized climate. Now six new pro-developer premiers of Canada and the leader of the federal opposition are shouting that any more delays to the Big-Oil pipelines are “breaking up the country.”

US Big Oil led by the Kochs’ political war chest and already covertly dominating the US Senate and Presidency, has long gotten its way by such polarizing propaganda. Yet in Canada the line is swallowed whole and spread by the national media as the “unity crisis” facing the country.

Big Oil’s crucial step in putting the tar sands into the driver’s seat of Canada politics has gone beneath the radar. First of all it assumes a premise which no one questions that all the toxic raw product must be piped through Canada unprocessed “to market” (i.e., US refineries), and that Canada must duly enforce this off-shore refinement “as a national priority.” Once this full false premise is established as a given, it follows that the toxic Alberta crude must be piped raw across the BC mountain forests and aquifers, and then into its paradisal inland ocean channels for oil-tanker transport – now demanding a rising and rarely mentioned seven-times more oil-tanker traffic with toxic product that cannot be cleaned up.

Any ‘delays’ to this (never named) US-Big-Oil agenda with Canada juniors are then attacked as against ‘national unity.’ They are called ‘illogical’ and ‘punishing Alberta’- even when the time is legally required for amending legislation that has been ordered by the Supreme Court of Canada and for negotiating with the first nations whose lands and waters will be overrun by the the dirty-oil project in a period of ‘national reconciliation.’

In fact, the governing premises here are lawless and driven by what the Kochs specialize in – a fanatic anti-government agenda claiming to be for tax-payers and citizens. The rule of law is implicitly dismissed. Carbon pricing legislated by elected government – which sane oil corporations now accept as economically required – is ferociously attacked.

Even Parliament’s long-passed Bill C-48 protecting the Northern BC Coast from heavy oil-tanker traffic (tankers carrying over 10,500 metric tons of tar-sand crude) – a bill supported and voted for by over two-thirds of MP’s – is attacked in the Senate of Canada backed by Big Oil and Alberta.

Thus the single most important legal protection of Canada’s greatest environmental treasure, one that has been the negotiated decision of Parliament and a condition for the oil-pipe through BC, is marked for elimination. The federal Conservative Party goes along, and its ever-smiling leader Andrew Scheer has promised if elected in the approaching federal election to abolish Bill C-48.

The worst part of the whole multiplying Big-Oil tar sands mega-project may be the mammoth toxin-filled tankers ploughing through and despoiling the world’s most awe-inspiring green inland coasts in BC. It is like the Vietnam coast in this sublime natural beauty, but even more than Vietnam, it is an ecological paradise carrying a world of whales, eagles, biodiverse life and breathtaking music of nature with thriving Indigenous peoples protecting the environment since ancient times in a breathtaking music of life from rising green peaks to the fish depths of the ocean.

That the current Big Oil forces, Alberta Conservatives, the federal Conservative Party, many in the Senate of Canada, and various corporate media and fronts are all seeking to reverse the already-legislated Bill C-48 protection of even the Northern BC coasts from this grossest abuse of majestic life and beauty at every level and scale of Creation demonstrates how cancerous the Big Oil tar sands mega-project has become.

Yet in the unseen, historic shell-game going on behind the scenes, there is a convenient perpetual side-show of attacks on PM Trudeau whose unforgivable sin is not to push the oil-pipes and tankers through BC fast enough.

Led by Jason Kenney as Premier and the so-far invisible Koch brothers, the Conservative Party across provinces and federally has formed into an implicit war against any public control over and regulation of Big Oil. Any legal impediment to the massively toxic extraction and export through Canada’s most pristine natural environments to US control, refineries and far more profitable foreign sale is reverse portrayed as an attack on Alberta and a strike at Canada’s unity as a country.

The assumed absolute necessity of this pipeline and tanker extension of the multiplying tar sands project is, in fact, the demand of US-led Big Oil to loot and pollute Canada’s natural resources for value added in the US (including for oil sale back to Canada at multiplied prices). Yet every politician is supine before the transnational Big Oil powers involved. Even Liberal leader Stephan Dionne who won the Liberal leadership in 2006 on an environmental platform dared not question the Koch-led tar sands mega-project. “There is too much money in it,’ he responded to environmentalist concerns.

With all these unseen premises against Canada’s common life interests now cast as unalterable necessity, the trap is well set. As a federal election must occur before October 21, all the wheels are being oiled for Conservative toppling of the Liberal government and override of any resistance to the biggest force-play of US-led Big Oil in Canada’s history.

Read: Koch-Oil, Part 1: Big lies and ecocide writ large in Canada

This article was originally published by CounterPunch. NB Media Co-op is publishing it with permission of the author, in three parts. John McMurtry is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. His most recent book is The Cancer Stage of Capitalism: from Crisis to Cure.

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