The tar sands are found beneath the Boreal Forest, a complex ecosystem that comprises a unique mosaic of forest, wetlands and lakes. Canada's Boreal Forest is globally significant, representing one-quarter of the world's remaining intact forests. Beyond the ecosystem services it provides (cleansing water, producing oxygen and storing carbon), it is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including bears, wolves, lynx and some of the largest populations of woodland caribou left in the world. Its wetlands and lakes provide critical habitat for 30 per cent of North America's songbirds and 40 per cent of its waterfowl.
The tar sands, if worked through to exhaust the 'resource', will clear cut 3,000 square kms of the Boreal Forest and infiltrate the rest of the forest with pipe lines and delivery routes. Studies suggest that this scale of industrial development could push the boreal ecosystem over its ecological tipping point, leading to irreversible ecological damage and loss of biodiversity.
As the environmental groups have become louder the business (and the Canadian Government) started to ramp up the propaganda campaign about how wonderful they are. They’ve gone so far as to intimate they are re-growing the Boreal Forest. News Flash, you cannot recreate the Boreal Forest and its diversity. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.
This week the campaign against the Tar Sands experienced a significant lift when film producer James Cameron, invited quite confidently by Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach, spent three days on a walk about in the region. He visited the communities, the mining operations, the tailings ponds and the government. Although the speech he gave at the end of his trip was lacking a clear call to action for the public, it did include a few memorable sound bites that made it into main stream media and inevitably launched an independent inquiry by the Tories [The Conservative Party in Canada].
But the Tories have already done their research and actually buried the investigation earlier this year.
So why were the Tories so quick to jump on this independent investigation? It echoes the defiance they displayed when Prime Minister Stephen Harper staged a black tie seal meat dinner for him and his cabinet ministers and aired it on the nightly news during the seal hunt. What kind of a warped person thinks this is a good idea? A worrisome authoritarian does and he’s leading Canada.
The Tories have launched this investigation because Harper himself is confident it will put an end to the environmental outcry for good. In Harper’s leadership style, that can be the only reason.
A little about the Tories: in power since 2006, the party gained its momentum in the west during difficult economic times between the 1920s and 1940s. Even during that time it was seen to favour business and ignore the interests of its citizens. When Stephen Harper took the helm, he took that to an international level. He has operated a closed door government and sprinkled his time in office with advertising campaigns and strategic moments in the spotlight to show what a warm and fuzzy person he is. For the most part, Canada doesn’t buy it, but he has had enough of the vote to stay in office, primarily due to lack of competition.
You could never call Harper a loved Prime Minister and indeed I believe if we knew the whole story we’d feel considerably less safe under his ‘leadership’ which is really all about him and nothing about the average Canadian. One day, the stories will be told.
Scientists at Natural Resources Canada have been told they need "pre-approval" from the minister's office before speaking to journalists. In his effort to control the message (and the media), Harper reveals his mistrust of citizens' ability to inform themselves and make responsible choices based on the best information available.
Personally I am very interested in the results of this independent investigation because if what the environmentalists/scientists say is true, the Tar Sands should be shut down altogether. We are destroying a fragile and necessary ecosystem to extract a limited finite supply of a dying energy source. Let’s put all of that money into what the future looks like and take this big black stain off of Canada and its citizens.
When we sing Oh Canada – Our home and native land – we mean exactly that. This is our home, not exclusively the home of business and not exclusively the home of the Harper government. It belongs to all Canadians and we deserve clean air, clean water and a basic level of respect that horrifyingly so, we now have to fight for and creep around in the dark to make sure it’s happening.
And creep we shall Mr. Harper.