By Don Denton
Why does Prime Minister Stephen Harper appear to dislike British Columbia so much?
One would have thought, given his permanent residence in Calgary, that Harper would like the West and it appears that he does, as long as you consider that Alberta is the West.
The Harper government – I say Harper instead of Conservative, as it appears more and more that the federal government is rigidly run by one man, not by a body of duly elected Conservative politicians – has received more than its share of negative publicity.
Take the omnibus budget bill (the 425-page Bill C-38) that passed into legislation last week. It’s a giant package of smaller bills that neither you or your elected representatives really got to see or understand. Proper examination was impossible, given the time allowed for debate and the sheer number of changes involved.
Some of those legislative changes are to the Fisheries Act, changes that will weaken protection of fish and their habitats. Given that much of British Columbia’s fisheries and habitat are in danger already, why would a government choose to weaken that protection now? Is it because it makes it easier for multinational companies to pillage our waters?
The other issue causing consternation has been the attacks by the Harper government on environmentalists.
So OK, what does this have to do with Harper hating British Columbians, you ask?
Take a look at the two issues mentioned above. What areas of the country receive the most benefit from the government’s legal changes to legislation?
Alberta is favoured, followed by the other prairie provinces. The changes seem to ignore Quebec and dump on the Maritimes and B.C.
The government wants to push a pipeline through to service the Alberta oil fields.
Now, there’s no doubt we all benefit in some ways from a healthy gas and oil industry. It’s also no doubt that Alberta’s share of the benefits are far larger than anyone else’s, and there appears to be less concern in Alberta about the environment.
What does B.C. get? A pipeline that is contentious and could cause tremendous environmental damage if it was to burst or be damaged in some other way. Residents of B.C. have and should have concerns about the pipeline and they need to be addressed.
Instead we have the federal government attacking the groups who are asking those questions on our behalf, questions our government reps should be asking, but aren’t.
The attacks on environmentalists have been characterized as attacks on American interests that want a say in Canadian affairs. While worth a look, I think the issue of U.S. funding of Canadian environmental groups is a bit of a red herring. The Stephen Harper-supported think tank, the Fraser Institute, receives funding from American sources, too. That funding includes the Koch brothers, Americans with massive oil interests in Canada.
It seems that our PM just doesn’t understand what an environmentalist is in British Columbia, or that B.C., unlike Alberta, has a history of activism on all sides of the political spectrum.
It may be a group with international ties, but often it’s locally based. Even more often it’s a single person, the person who gives up their weekend to remove invasive species from city parks, your neighbour who helps to rehabilitate fish habitat, or the kid who paints fish symbols by storm drains. These people are our family, our friends, our neighbours and coworkers. They are British Columbians.
They are not terrorists.
They are not anti-Canadian. They are British Columbians who are concerned about the health of their province, their country and all of its residents.
Harper may feel that Alberta and business take precedence. But the prime minister has to understand Canada is not a one-size-fits-all country, and that he was elected to represent all of our interests, not just his personal concerns and those of his home province.
Don Denton is photo supervisor for Black Press Greater Victoria.