The Epistle of Q — Chapter Seventy-Five

Okay, help me here, when are we really going to understand how this country has any money at all to invest in infrastructure, in training, in getting back to balanced budgets?

I am getting more puzzled every day. Is it just me, or are leaders here in BC really inconsistent?

A couple of fays ago, once again I read a news item that has me scratching my head. Grand Chief Stewart Phillip (of the Union of BC Chiefs) is going to lead another protest against economic growth. In another newspaper he actually said that if Kinder Morgan proceeds we will have another Oka…

OK, let’s back up a bit. Wasn’t this Grand Chief the one who convinced his band a couple decades ago when he was their chief to block the road to Apex (the local ski resort). What did that achieve, other than creating considerable ill will within the community? In the end, he turned down several very lucrative offers from the provincial government and real estate on the mountain did pick up again. But what changed on the PIB itself – next to nothing until Jonathan Krueger became Chief and worked hard at developing a real partnership with the community and the city officials.

As for Oka (in western Quebec along the Ottawa River near the provincial boundary with Ontario), it was a dispute started by a municipal golf course wanting to expand into a traditional Aboriginal burying ground. While the tactics were somewhat extreme, at least there was some understanding on the part of us outside the community, that the Aboriginal people around Oka had reasonable justification for wanting to protect a burial grounds – we all would probably want that if it was our own ancestors who were buried in land under dispute.

So where’s the linkage here. First of all, not all First Nations are opposed to the pipeline. So the Grand Chief only speaks for some of his constituents – much like our Premier (as not even a majority of British Columbians are anti-pipeline). Secondly, how does the Grand Chief travel around the province and the country: An earlier story a couple of years back indicated he was driving an SUV and the model was not plug-in electric. And does he think those jets he rides in when he visits Ottawa are solar-powered? Thirdly, the picture in the paper indicated he was wearing contemporary, synthetic clothing – does he not know that petroleum products are key to the manufacture of the same? Fourthly, where does he think the billions of dollars the federal government provides Aboriginal governments and individuals comes from – a secret off-shore account? Fifthly, how are we ever going to pay for all the infrastructure up-grades we need? Some say the royalties go to the province wherein the resource is mined – that’s generally true. But what people don’t take into account are the federal income taxes that are levied and paid from the provinces where the workers call home. It also doesn’t acknowledge the other taxes such as gst/pst, airport levies, excise taxes that are paid when people leave one place to go work in another.

I’m not picking on the Grand Chief any more than he is picking on me. He is simply playing in the same orchestra as the Premier, David Suzuki and the myriad of foreign money supported protesters. It’s this century’s protest mecca like Vietnam was ours in the last century – again the difference was that was a real war. Try to re-create Oka now and there could well be violence but it won’t be symbolic of anything other than a real lack of how the economy in this country works.

I’m willing to bet that by 2050, most cars will be electric or plug-in and a number of forms of trucking will be electrified. But we have to get there and we have to have some money to pay for the transition. Think of how much the economy of BC will be boosted by building this pipeline. The work done in BC will be done with a good deal of input from BC residents and businesses (including Aboriginal), and there will be plenty of PST paid as well as provincial income tax. And after it is built, there will be some high-paying, highly skilled people manning the terminals, patrolling the lines, and working at our west coast refineries. Moreover, not all the input to the pipeline will be bitumen – in fact, with some serious negotiations, instead of tilting at windmills, it’s possible that we could take ourselves off any reliance on US oil and petroleum products (and the loaded tankers that come into port now).

It would be great if we could have a rational debate. It would even be greater if the Grand Chief would acknowledge that almost all of his people and the governments he represents use petroleum products as well as federal monies every day. Many also use many provincial services. It would be really special if he would recognize that we all are living here now (it’s no longer the 1500’s but the 2000’s) and if we don’t work together to utilize our natural resources (both renewable and non-renewable), we won’t make it to 2050.

Why? Because if we ignore our potential wealth (all our resources that are currently in demand only if we can get them to market at the best prices) and if we don’t start investing these profits in the new normal (the climate of the second millennium), the Chinese will completely take over our agriculture (by buying up all farmland, just not the new farmland in the north) and all the food will be shipped overseas, the USA will completely ignore us and simply send us the immigrants they don’t want, the rest of the world will forget about us, because we have nothing to bring to the table. Rich countries make important decisions – internally and externally; poor countries are just poor.

Grand Chief Phillip, I challenge you to become a real leader and help get people to a new level of wealth and help the rest of us from falling into poverty. Let’s move our oil and gas as quickly and as profitably as we can while we begin training our young and investing in their creative geniuses so that come 2050 Canada is still one of the best, most innovative and desirable countries to live in.