Stephen Harper is a Monster

By: Bill Henderson

Stephen Harper is a monster.

Actually he’s a pudgy, middle-aged leader of a minor, peripheral country. But no one person on the planet today is doing so much right now to endanger future generations and all we know and love.

With the passage of his omnibus budget bill Canada’s prime minister has dictated that business is more important than the environment. As our Bottleneck predicament (PDF) tightens,  Bill C-38 openly cuts back several decades of legislation and regulatory protection of the environment in order to facilitate the flow of bitumen to Asia. Harper – like other neolib governors globally – is scared to death about our economic future, and raw commodity export, especially bitumen from the tarsands, must be accelerated for jobs and economic activity to keep Canada’s economy’s head above water.

Bill C-38 is supposedly a budget bill but includes a retroactive gutting of the Environmental Assessment process that environmentalists and First Nations have been utilizing to hold up projects like the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline. There is also a marked weakening of fisheries protection legislation because this pipeline to Asia must cross over more than a thousand rivers and creeks in the mountainous terrain of British Columbia, most of which are home to spawning salmon. There is even a multi-million dollar investigation of the charitable status of ENGOs who have been opponents of pipelines and environmentally degrading fracking, mining and other raw resource production.

Stephen Harper is a monster because his government will do whatever it takes to try and keep the economy’s head above water even if it means nine out of ten people will not survive in the second part of the century, civilization and our remarkable cultural evolution are at risk, or even possibly, with feedbacks, our extinction with most of the species with which we now share creation. (PDF)

The Alberta tarsands is Canada’s special megaproject, Canada’s economic engine. The Bank of Canada continues to warn that the high level of household debt and overvalued real estate in this country have left the economy vulnerable and Harper is betting on tarsands expansion to provide jobs and economic activity, but currently the glut of oil in North America has depressed both demand and price. The Northern Gateway and Kinder-Morgan pipelines to Canada’s west coast and the Keystone pipeline to Texas (for refining and re-export to Asia) are key. Bill C-38 is intended to remove any impediments to construction.

But expansion of the tarsands (and increased coal mining and fracking of natural gas) is a criminal disregard of the climate change science. As IEA chief economist Fatih Birol and others have repeatedly warned: we must stop building fossil fuel infrastructure that will lock us in to emission trajectories that are deep into extremely dangerous climate change – a 4-6C increase in this century when we now know that even a 1C rise is risky given the melting Arctic and our increasing knowledge about tipping point dangers.

It is incredibly foolish short-term, self-interest governance to ignore the burgeoning climate change science and gut environmental legislation to increase fossil fuel production in an attempt to protect Canada’s wider economy. But Harper is less a fool and more of a monster because he must  have been extensively briefed on the climate danger but still chooses to risk catastrophe for our children’s world. It is the economy, stupid!

Being called a monster is a MVP badge of honour in Canada’s hockey parlance and Harper is a monster to the business community and is surely being applauded by those who desire the bitumen. He is now a canny vet on the world stage exemplifying the economist/politico who finds a way to fragment the opposition so that business can continue to build a world more friendly to business. A monster now for his team, a monster hated worldwide in the future when the consequences become clear.

But Stephen Harper is really a sock puppet monster. Business is the powerful fist inside the sock puppet. Bill C-38, the Gateway pipeline and tarsands expansion are steps crossing a Rubicon in a tipping point direction we know we should not be going. Business has bought deep capture of all of our institutions; business controls governments like Harper’s. It’s future like all our futures is at risk. It’s not too late to reverse direction. Reverse direction or we are all lost.

About the author: Bill Henderson is an activist living in Gibsons, B.C.