by Bruce Mason
A Tar Baby. That’s what we have on our hands, or on any other appendage or orifice that it makes contact with. Obviously, the proposed expansion of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Pipeline, and the ongoing national kerfuffle, is a ‘sticky situation.’ A Tar Baby is defined as a difficult problem, only aggravated and exacerbated by any additional involvement and myriad attempts to solve it.
There are some 300 versions of the Tar Baby story, across virtually all cultures. The gist of them all: a villain constructs a doll of tar and turpentine, or any available adhesives, to entrap the curious unwary, who become more entangled the more they touch it. The Canadian version is crafted from heavy, tar-like bitumen and toxic, highly flammable condensate.
Poor Justin champions and embraces the Kinder Morgan Tar Baby and is now firmly attached and contorted, beyond hope of redemption or release. Born with a silver spoon in his mouth, the former drama teacher has perfected the art of speaking out of both sides of it, reading from a teleprompter script that more pipelines are just the thing to combat looming, man-made climate collapse. Using the same argument: buying endless rounds of booze cures alcoholism, third helpings are a sure-fire fix for obesity and another carton of smokes is a clinically proven treatment for lung cancer. Stuck logic.
Notley clings to the Tar Baby from the dark corner into which Alberta has painstakingly painted itself. Norway has banked a trillion public dollars from its oil sales. At the same time, Albertans have squandered their Heritage Fund fortune, running up a $45 billion Tar Sands clean-up tab, abandoning thousands of orphaned wells, while bragging about the ‘Alberta Advantage’ – unlike the rest of Canada, they pay no provincial sales tax. Surprise, the Alberta ATM is desperately stuck near NSF.
An enduring phrase from the place just east of BC is “Let the Eastern bastards freeze in the dark.” It was commonplace in another energy war, back in another Trudeau era. Now it’s karma time. A reality check and a banquet of consequences.
The saying I picked up during my time in Alberta (lost years playing music from Medicine Hat to Fort Mac) is “Stick with me Baby and you’ll be farting through silk.” Notley and her ilk covet fine Chinese silk, exchanged with a lesser share of Texas petro-dollars, fashioned by corporate elites, nipped, tucked and dumbed down by a shameful corporate media. Too much gas to go around.
The flatulence is still audible across the Rockies, from well-heeled Albertans scooping up Super Natural BC property or taking selfies in downtown Vancouver and texting that this would make a nice place for other pipelines and a flotilla of Aframax tankers.
An “economic crisis.” Or a “constitutional crisis.” It all depends on the flavour or the week and your low-information vendor of choice. My grandmother would say, “Your failure to plan is not my crisis.”
Nor is it in anybody’s best interest, “national” or otherwise. And fewer folks are buying the “jobs, jobs, jobs “ mantra. (Or is it Jawbs?). They come and go, boom to bust, providing as much long-term comfort as a weak Chinook in a frigid foothills’ winter. As sad and lonely as Ian Tyson’s Four Strong Winds.
A few honest, competent journalists still ply the trade, including Michael De Sousa, who reported that Trudeau’s hastily and inadequately revamped National Energy Board was instructed “to give cabinet a legally sound basis to say “Yes” to Trans Mountain.” The order from on high was issued weeks before sham consultations with First Nations. Some Tar Baby and wary Indigenous people have seen the movie many times. Shiny beads, fire-water and smallpox infected blankets no longer do the land-swap, old bait and switch trick on our Aboriginal people, very much on the rise and in leadership in anti-Tar Baby roles.
In her refreshingly straight-forward essay, Here’s what you don’t know about Kinder Morgan, Green leader Elizabeth May has debunked the KM Tar Baby. The expanded pipeline wasn’t thoroughly reviewed and actually produced a pile of “worthless assertions, untested as evidence.” Much vaunted national interest” does not include energy security, net employment benefits, environment, climate, GDP or anything other than getting the pipeline approved. The case for Kinder Morgan is a sleight-of-hand card trick.
“I am choking on the lies and hypocrisy of Kinder Morgan, the NEB and now the Trudeau Liberals. It’s a miracle I can remain civil in my non-violent civil disobedience,” she confessed.
Another of a few adults standing in the House of Commons, Burnaby MP Kennedy Stewart had a recent ‘news flash’ for his political colleagues: Kinder Morgan has not yet received final permission from the NEB; one-third of the route hasn’t been approved, KM, the bastard child of disgraced Enron, wants to delay future route hearings; of the 157 required conditions, only half the boxes have been ticked and paperwork hasn’t even been filed for 50, with others rejected outright; and KM has also not even filed paperwork for 600 outstanding permissions of the 1,187 permits required from the B.C. government. Once again, some see the KM Tar Baby for what it is. Literally, a pig in a dilbit pipeline poke.
With his one free hand, Justin Trudeau is trying to pickpocket $2+ billion in public funds to bail out this rapidly sinking ship of fossil fools. Put in perspective, a million seconds is 12 days, a billion seconds is 31 years. Millions are what oil execs are paid in bonuses. Billions are what Canadian taxpayers could pay for the proposed KM Tar Baby monstrosity.
We’re stuck, burning fossil fuel, releasing murderous greenhouse gases while choking on the plastic we make from what’s left over in this crude cycle. It belongs swirling at the bottom of a toilet. Let’s finally flush the unhealthy Kinder Morgan Tar Baby and clean up our act.
A last word from Elizabeth May: “No one can force BC into saying ‘Uncle;’ we’re too busy saying ‘Mother Earth.’”
We can do better and more and more of us are already embarking on a clean energy path, globally. Getting unstuck is just a first, overdue step for Canada.