Frequent readers of this blog (are there any other kinds?) will know that I self-identify as a "red tory" - I favour fiscal conservatism, whilst being to the left socially. A more appropriate label, however, might be "christmas tree tory" - a fiscal conservative who is red on social issues and whose primary value is green. The environment is my biggest single issue - and while having never voted Green in my life (a topic for another post, coming very soon), I am a big believer in the overwhelming need for our leaders and citizens to embrace the issue of sustainability. As in, right now.
Imagine my dismay, then, upon my return to read that 500 ducks had died after landing in a Syncrude tailing pond filled with toxic waste.
The province requires that sound deterrents be used to keep fowl away from ponds such as this one - and with great success. In this particular case, the devices had not yet been deployed, and the province is already taking steps to lay charges against Syncrude which may result in a fine of up to $1 Million.
That's $2000 per duck. You don't even pay that for duck in Paris.
Now, as I said above - this is absolutely inexcusable. I will grant that this is the first time in the 30 years of oilsands development that something like this has happened. Further, I'll admit that freak accidents sometimes occur despite the best safety precautions being taken. But that isn't what happened here... the best safety precautions were NOT taken, and as a result 500 ducks landed in a pool of toxic waste, and (quite predictably) died.
Nearly as disturbing, though, has been the reaction of the political left.
You could see the smirks from miles away... instead of offering up workable solutions on how to avoid catastrophes like this in the future, the capital-L Liberals, their friends in the blogosphere and their "Big Green" lackeys have insisted on showing us pictures of dead ducks (the ducks died, we get it) and saying the only way to stop this from happening is to stop oilsands development completely, and vote Liberal.
Neither of those is going to happen, and they know it, so they lock in their expressions of smug moral superiority and fire back with a "then you're getting what you deserve". You almost get the impression they want you to believe that Ed Stelmach and Mel Knight went on a bender one night, and snuck around poisoning the ponds themselves.
"There is no correct way of doing things or seeing this issue but OUR way. Suggestions to the contrary are obviously being made by intellectually stunted, inferior people." Sounds vaguely like it belongs in the late 30's, wouldn't you say?
Also sticking in my craw about this is the suggestion, mainly in the blogosphere, that the Tories have spent $25 Million to "re-brand" the projects as "Oilsands". The argument I'm reading is that they're supposed to be called "Tarsands".
Guys, with ALL due respect - remove your heads from your rectums.
The only re-branding going on here is your continued insistence, against all evidence to the contrary, that these projects have EVER been popularly called the "Tarsands" by anyone with any public credibility prior to very recently, when you all decided that sounded dirtier, and more likely to cause public outrage. For 30 years, the undisputed public "brand" for the areas being developed today has been "The Oilsands". The first time I ever heard the projects referred to as "Tarsands" by someone I considered credible was on a CityTV debate between 2 bloggers in Edmonton during the recent provincial election - and the blogger who used the term was quite clearly doing his damnedest to "re-brand" the projects as "tarsands" for his own political reasons.
I don't want to lose sight of the main issue, here... Syncrude screwed up, and had a major impact on the environment. But this wasn't due to a LACK of government rules, it was due to their CONTRAVENING of government rules. If the Liberals, or the liberal blogosphere, has practical suggestions on what to do to avoid this in the future, then by all means fire away. But "close the tarsands" and "vote Liberal" are NOT practical solutions (because they're NOT going to happen at this stage), and every time you make them, you just further cement the public perception of you as not credible. Making good suggestions for the public good NOW rather than holding them close to your vest for the next 4 years so you can "debut" them at election time at least makes the "vote Liberal" more likely.
The oilsands are a dirty, dirty business. There's no getting around that. There are many, many tailing ponds just like the one in question, full of toxins and poisons that will kill animals, plants, and people if they're not properly contained. If it were MY call, I'd be working on alternative energy sources right NOW - because the higher petro-energy costs go up, the more likely we are to wake up tomorrow and find that Ford or Honda has mass released a fully electrical car, because nobody can afford to buy gasoline. When we finally reach that tipping point, and the value of the oil in those oilsands bottoms out, if we as a province don't have something else, ready to pick up the multi-BILLION dollar slack in terms of royalty revenue, residual economic impact and job losses, we are going to be SCREWED.
That's the whole point of sustainability - relying so totally on one resource, which poisons our environment, for our economic well-being puts us at the mercy of our own largess and the world market for that resource. Once the oil runs out - or the demand for it dries up - we'll wake up to find ourselves broke, unemployed, and living in a poisoned environment. That's right - we'll be Toronto.
We have GOT to diversify our economy, and if we decide we want to be an energy powerhouse for the 21st century like we were for the last half of the 20th, then we'd better start working on alternative sources for that energy - because in the year 2105, when this province celebrates its bicentennial, crude oil is going to be as relevant as music recorded on wax cylinders is today.
So liberals, environmentalists: I'm with you, without reservation, on these points: This sucks, it should never have happened, and we have to do something.
I'm open to CONSTRUCTIVE suggestions.
Blaming Stelmach for Syncrude's failure to follow the rules? NOT constructive.