Future’s So Bright

Corey Bonnar

As most of you are aware there is currently some turmoil in the Northwest regarding the consent for the construction of a natural gas pipeline through traditional unincluded First Nations territories. As someone who has spent the past decade living and working in the Northwest, this resonates with me for a number of reasons. From the perspective of a capitalist and an environmentalist, I would argue that this mega project will have negative long term impacts. From the perspective of meaningful reconciliation between Canada and its First Peoples and the recent legal standard for the industry to not only have the duty to consult First Nations but to obtain consent, this situation is nothing short of tragic. Let us first explore the obvious reason we are all supposed to jump on this excellent opportunity to avoid increased transportation of raw resources for export via rail and consider the huge economic benefit this will bring to all Canadians. Some of you may recall Christy Clark’s promised $100 billion dollars “prosperity fund” in her 2013 throne speech, a fund to reduce the tax burden on British Columbians and erase our provinces $60 billion dollar debt. Great speech. Fast forward to 2019 and take a look at the reality of this beacon of hope that is Canada LNG. First of all, the gas is to be exported to Asia for Chinese, Japanese and Korean industries to store, sell and burn as needed. The construction of the massive export terminal will be awarded to either a European/American consortium or a Japanese/ American consortium. Most of the high-level work and jobs will go to “foreigners”. Some lucky Albertans/Newfies and a few British Columbians will also get job opportunities. I understand these are good opportunities for Canadians to learn new skills working on the construction and the up and downstream processing. This could be five golden years for a select few to make lots of money. I also understand the spinoff for local small businesses and the opportunity to grow profits and cash in on the short-term economic boom. Not to mention inflated rents and real-estate prices for homeowners. However, please educate yourselves before digging in on your pro-pipeline / pro-Canadian / pro-economy positions. As of now, Shell has only one Japanese buyer and no guaranteed prices for the gas which is currently selling at around $3.50/ MMBtu’s – a far cry from the prices they speculated they would fetch back in 2011-2012. The LNG modules are all designed, engineered and constructed in Asia and then shipped over to Kitimat. In reality, Canada’s economic participation in all of this is less than 25% of that $40 billion – still a big number and still lots of local jobs and opportunity but not a Canadian project built by Canadians. Do we secure 10 years of mediocre gas sales to Asia and then when renegotiating a new contract get low-balled so badly that the partnership disintegrates or changes hands and legal names so many times that we aren’t sure who controls the facility anymore? Does the industry go belly up with the aging infrastructure falling into the lap of the Canadian taxpayer? Do we get lambasted by our international friends for all the carbon we emit with the natural gas-powered cooling systems that are currently part of the design? More taxes maybe? What will happen to our domestic gas prices in the winter? Will we still have an abundant supply? Maybe we can sell the ageing infrastructure to the First Nations communities for a bargain to manage and maintain? Is it possible in 20 years the rest of the world will be so far ahead with investments in new energy technology that Canada becomes a “developing” country? We can always sell our water, right? Or maybe oil and coal will make a comeback? The point is, even without arguing the environmental impacts on water, soil and air pollution caused by this industry, or the inevitable transition of this pipe from gas to oil exports, or the further dividing and conquering of our already splintered communities, this is a short-term economic plan at best. It is all the worse to try and ignore the moral decrepitude of continuing our oppression and violence against Canada’s first peoples, the ones who generously welcomed the waves of European cast-aways who brought with them boatloads of disease, poison and deceit. I know many people of European descent will argue they are not responsible for the actions of our ancestors’, just our own poor behaviour. I understand, however, there comes a time when we need to have the courage to face the ugly truth of our shared Canadian history and hopefully learn something from it, like right and wrong. Again, the arguments about environmental stewardship and moral obligations will undoubtedly fall on the daft ears of those who argue that those who use oil and gas are hypocrites for not whole-heartedly supporting further exploitation, or that climate change is a conspiracy and we don’t need any swimming lessons or gardening tips, or even those who have so cynically decided to throw the towel in on hope and change because it is obvious the game is rigged and only the billionaires will get a seat on the rocket ship anyway, so to heck with it, let’s all stop worrying about the temperature in hell. I get it – but if we get back to the economics of this, the real reason the “silent” majority argues so fiercely and blindly attacks anyone who isn’t spewing the same ignorance, is for the 3, maybe 5 years of stable paychecks that can afford new sleds, new boats, good drugs, expensive tastes and cool vacations to Mexico, I get it. But somewhere in the back recesses of those muscles under our skulls and in the deepest centres of our hearts we know that this is a further sell out of a better future and a cleaner soul.