Wednesday, January 18, 2012

When is "Foreign" Money and Influence, Not "Foreign" Money and Influence?

The Harper government has tried a new strategy in pushing through the Gateway Pipeline.  Apparently, we are now under attack by "foreigners".  "Foreign" money is driving the debate.  "Foreign" radicals are trying to stop progress.

And yet "foreign" ownership of the Tar Sands has accelerated since they took power.  Our new Natural Resources minister is in fact an investment banker.  He sees our natural resources not as something that need to be protected, but something that can be exploited.
Foreign corporations, some controlled by national governments, have been using their economic clout to buy into Alberta's oil sands and take control of our natural resources.  U.S., French, British, Chinese, Thai, Korean and Norwegian interests have all bought stakes in oil-sands projects. According to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), international companies have invested nearly $20 billion in the last three years through mergers, partnerships and outright purchases of projects.

This increased foreign investment raises questions. Who has the right to develop our natural resources? Who sets the rules for how these resources are developed? Who controls where the resources are processed and sold?
For Harper to use the "foreign" argument is hypocrisy at its worst.
Not only is he selling off all of our industry to global interests, but he used "foreign" influence to gain power.  Top Republican pollster, John McLaughlin takes credit for Harper's career

Within the past year, John McLaughlin has helped elect Iain Duncan Smith, the leader of the Conservative Party (United Kingdom); Stephen Harper, the leader of the Canadian Alliance Party (Canada); Virginia Attorney General Jerry Kilgore; and a historic 30-seat Republican majority in the Virginia House of Delegates.
The American NRA is writing our gun laws. Frank Luntz and the Americans, including Dick Cheney, helped to write our environmental policy (summarized as "screw the environment, we're going drilling") and Religious Right leader James Dobson poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into Stephen Harper's anti same-sex marriage campaign.

Mike Robinson has an excellent piece in the Edmonton Journal today:  History repeats itself with Gateway debate:  Old questions linger about wisdom of project.
He wonders why the Harper government is working so hard to push this pipeline through.  Mr. Robinson knows the dangers because he was involved in similar debates decades ago.  The only difference was that many public meetings took place with First Nation communities, where the environmental impact would be felt the most. 
Looking back, I was glad the B.C. offshore play never happened, be-cause at the local information sessions we heard too many seasoned fishing boat skippers talk about 80-foot waves, high tidal energy, howling southeasters in Hecate Strait and the growing fragility of the marine ecosystem.

I also heard scores of First Nations speakers decry putting their home-lands and food chains at risk for the sake of oil. I also remember having a few beers with technical members of the company's public-information team. Privately, especially after a raucous community meeting, they would confide to me that high wave and wind action would hamper and disrupt oil spill boom placement and slick-licker deployment, and a major blowout or spill near a tidal estuary would likely be very difficult to contain.
Another concern of mine is something not getting a lot of media attention.  The secret deal signed in Texas, that allows the U.S. to send its troops to Canada in the case of a "civil emergency".  Stuart Trew, a researcher with the Council of Canadians, rightfully said:
... there is potential for the agreement to militarize civilian responses to emergency incidents. He noted that work is also underway for the two nations to put in place a joint plan to protect common infrastructure such as roadways and oil pipelines.  “Are we going to see (U.S.) troops on our soil for minor potential threats to a pipeline or a road?”
A license to invade?

The threat to the pipeline would of course be a threat to Stephen Harper's benefactors, like:

Thailand's state-owned PTTEP who bought a 40-per-cent stake in Statoil's Kai Kos Dehseh project for $2.3 billion.  "Statoil is a Norwegian company whose largest owner is the government of Norway, with 67 per cent of the shares. Under the terms of the deal, Statoil remained the majority owner and operator of the project, which ends up being a Norwegian-Thai, public-private enterprise developing Albertan energy resources."

Korean National Oil Company that took over Calgary's Harvest Energy Trust for $4.1 billion ($1.8 billion in cash and $2.3 billion in assumed debt). The deal allowed the Korean state-run company to grab an estimated oil production of 50,000 barrels per day (b/d) and 154 million barrels of oil-equivalent reserves.  "In 2006, the Korean firm set up an office in Calgary and purchased the Black Gold Oil Sands leases near Conklin. These leases gave the company 10,000 b/d of bitumen for about 25 years."

PetroChina now owns 60-per-cent share of Athabasca Oil Sands Corp.'s giving them a majority share in a company with access to more than five million barrels of oil.

Chinese company Sinopec, a majority-owned subsidiary of a national company, paid $4.65 billion for Houston-based ConocoPhillips' stake in Syncrude. What makes this deal significant is that under the terms of the deal, the state-controlled Sinopec has a veto on the critical decision of whether the company should upgrade bitumen here or export it in raw form overseas.

In January 2011, Enbridge announced Sinopec's funding of the $5.5-billion Northern Gateway Pipeline.

And what do Canadians get out of all this?  The bill for cleanup, the threat of an American invasion and the joy of listening to our prime minister warn of "foreign" involvement in a Canadian (??!!?) pipeline.

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