It is a great moment to be a Canadian. Three weeks ago Peter Kent, our environment minister, announced that Canada will withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol. Failure to do so, he explained, would oblige us to purchase $14 billion worth of carbon credits from abroad (backup link here).

As someone who thinks Kyoto was a mirage (even its proponents admit it would accomplish nothing meaningful) I’m thrilled that $14 billion worth of tax dollars will be spent on schools and hospitals instead.

People who think it’s sensible to throw away billions on an imaginary solution to a problem many scientists aren’t even sure exists are welcome to do so out of their own pockets. In the meantime I’d love for someone to explain how this is remotely sustainable.

Yesterday things got even more interesting here in Canada. Our Minister of Natural Resources, Joe Oliver, issued an extraordinary open letter. I have concerns about some parts of the ruling Conservative Party’s agenda but Oliver is manifesting the sort of political leadership I can get excited about. There’s starch in that man’s spine (backup link here).

Before we turn to the contents of his letter, let us remind ourselves that Oliver was elected by ordinary Canadians. In his riding four candidates threw their hat into the ring. Oliver attracted 47% of the vote last May. A Green Party candidate who ran against him earned a mere 3 percent. To put this another way, for every person who voted for the Green Party’s candidate, 15 others voted for Oliver.

That gentleman, therefore, is accountable to the public. His behaviour over the next four years will necessarily be constrained by concern that he might join the unemployment line come next election. Democracy is a system with checks-and-balances.

Activists inhabit an entirely different world. Rather than being accountable to the public, activists think it’s their job to scold and nag the rest of us about our environmentally sinful ways.

No one gave them the authority to do so. Nor did they earn it. They just decided, like bullies in the playground, that they should be the boss of the rest of us.

In an inspiring display of courage and plain speaking, Oliver has stood up to those bullies. His open letter argues that creating jobs is important. This is, after all, a country in which 1.4 million people are actively seeking work but can’t find any.

Trading our natural resources – which happen to include “oil, gas, metals and minerals” – with other nations, he says, “will help ensure the financial security of Canadians and their families.” As an elected member of our Parliament, Oliver is morally obligated to care about Canadian families.

There is, however, a problem. In Oliver’s words:

Unfortunately, there are environmental and other radical groups that would seek to block this opportunity to diversify our trade. Their goal is 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 hydroelectric dams.

These groups threaten to hijack our regulatory system to achieve their radical ideological agenda. 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. 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 to achieve their ultimate objective: delay a project to the point it becomes economically unviable.

Hearings began today regarding a proposed pipeline intended to transport Canadian oil to our west coast so that it may be exported. I’m all for public input, but in this case 4,000 individuals and groups wish to testify. If Oliver is correct and the sole aim of many of these people is to gum up the gears so that nothing ever gets accomplished we need to confront this new reality (backup link here).

Writing in the National Post, Terrence Corcoran points out:

If the hearings could accommodate 10 people a day through 200 sitting days a year, it would take two years just to exhaust the list of intervenors.

Superficially this looks like democracy in action. But if Oliver’s accusations are true, what’s really going on is a sick perversion. A small group of activists – some of whom are receiving lavish funding from left-leaning US foundations – are behaving as though their personal opinions deserve more weight than the economic well-being of the rest of us (see here for further info).

Today Joe Oliver is my hero. We need dozens more like him – to name these problems, to confront them, and to help us find a way forward.


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