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Let’s take our resource policy back into our own hands

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Let’s take our resource policy back into our own hands

Opinion: In Canada’s interest to find export markets beyond the U.S. for our oil

Written by: Cary Pinkowski for The Vancouver Sun, January 17, 2014

Neil Young’s recent rant against the oilsands makes me think it’s time we Canadians stand up for our country. Young left Canada more than 40 years ago. He lives on a ranch in heavy-oil producing California and holds concerts made possible by fossil fuel, but doesn’t appear to recognize irony when he sees it.

Contrary to Young’s comments, Canadians should be very proud of our leadership on economic, environmental and social issues. Despite this strong record, anti-resource development grants from foreign foundations are flowing to Canadian activists at a rate that would rival any oil pipeline.

This was reported last month in an important revelation from Vancouver-based researcher and writer Vivian Krause. No matter which political party you back, everyone should be appalled that U.S.-funded groups are attempting to influence Canadian public opinion, thereby dictating Canadian energy and environmental policy.

Recently, Krause showed how U.S. money continues to flow to Canadian environmental, youth, and native groups apparently in order to lock up some of Canada’s most productive resource regions.

U.S.-based foundations including the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the Bullitt Foundation have funded Canadian organizations to hurt Canadian enterprise.

ForestEthics appears the proudest of its achievements in Canada: “In the last six months of 2012, we amassed more than 25,000 new supporters for (the anti-Enbridge) campaign and helped organize the largest act of Canadian civil disobedience in the history of the pipeline fight,” the U.S. group claimed in its submission to the IRS, uncovered by Krause.

Moreover, ForestEthics, based in San Francisco, claims to have generated 87 per cent of the letters sent to the National Energy Board against the Enbridge Northern Gateway project.

Krause’s research into U.S. tax returns for charitable foundations has revealed that the U.S.-based ForestEthics has been working to stigmatize the Alberta oil industry since 2009. ForestEthics reported to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service that “by stigmatizing ‘dirty’ sources of energy, we can make it difficult to finance and sell these products.”

Activists downplay the significance of U.S. donors supporting Canadian campaigns to stigmatize Canadian enterprise. Peter Robinson, CEO of the David Suzuki Foundation, compared U.S. donors stopping Canadian oil exports to Canadians opening their wallets after 9/11. That comparison is not only disgraceful, it’s completely inaccurate. Canadian support for U.S. 9/11 victims was selfless; U.S. interests are paying to hurt Canadian families to maintain their monopoly on our resources.

We only have one customer, the U.S., for our precious oil and it’s in American interests to keep it that way. However, the return we’re getting in the U.S. for our oil is anything but competitive — $50 million per day lower than what we would be getting on the global market.

It’s in our national interest to find export markets beyond the U.S. for our oil. The enormous opportunity cost of being tied to a single customer due to lack of access to Asian markets means lost revenues that could have paid for Canadian healthcare, education, pensions and other important social programs.

Environmentalists give the impression that Canada’s oilsands are “the biggest carbon bomb on the planet.” They aren’t. U.S. oil production is and always has been at least double that of Canada’s. In fact, since 2008 when American foundations began funding the campaign against Canadian oil, U.S. crude production has increased by 56 per cent. If U.S. foundations and activists are so concerned about capping oil production and keeping carbon in the ground, why don’t they start at home?

Even more worrying are the veiled (and not so veiled) threats of violence coming from activists whose aim is to stop Northern Gateway and other new pipeline infrastructure at any cost.

The Georgia Straight recently quoted anti-pipeline activist Ambrose Williams saying in one breath that he doesn’t condone “sabotage and other acts of destruction” and in the next arguing that “anything like that is acceptable if the cause is just. And stopping the pipeline is a just cause.”

I keep hearing from U.S.-backed groups that Canadians oppose resource development. This is simply not true. But don’t take my word for it: look at Christy Clark’s overwhelming victory in which she received a strong mandate for responsible resource development.

Our environmental laws are among the toughest in the world and our record of compliance with those laws is beyond reproach.

As a Canadian and a Vancouver-born resident, I say it should be of genuine national concern when U.S. interests fund young Canadian activists to make a career of carrying out a U.S.-driven agenda. Of equal concern is that U.S. donors use groups like Tides Canada to obscure the original donor’s identity, making the activists’ funding hard to track.

Foreign-funded environmental organizations need to be more forthcoming with Canadians. And U.S.-based celebrities like Neil Young must recognize that their lives are made possible by fossil fuel.

Let’s act together as proud Canadians. Let’s stand up and say: “We can handle our own affairs.”

Cary Pinkowski is President and CEO of Astur Gold Corp. He is based in Vancouver.

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