The Way I See It!
Green Shift or the Green Shaft?
CPS Election Analysis 2008 - Week 4
Don Currie – Editor, FOS

The Liberal, NDP and Green parties have proposed variants of an environmental plan for Canada not an energy plan for Canada.
Discussion of an energy plan for Canada has been derailed. Green Shift has become the Green Shaft.
The Harper Conservatives sell-out of Canada’s strategic energy reserves to the USA on behalf of the profit goals of a handful of Canadian and US energy investors has been lost in the fog of electoral baffle gab about what is the least painful way to make Canadian workers and farmers and consumers pay for the environmental crimes of a handful of private, mainly foreign owned oil and gas companies. Harper loves it.
A blanket of environmental guilt has been cast over all Canadians for the crimes of corporate Canada. The theory of collective responsibility for global warming has been seized upon with glee by corporate polluters to conceal their primary responsibility for climate change. The Harper Conservatives play this game with consummate cynicism, opening up endless ways for big oil and their client politicians to prevaricate and pose as leaders in environmental responsibility.
The whole charade can be stopped and the real struggle for a people’s energy plan can begin by the whole left, the organized labour movement and the environmental movement entering together into the struggle for nationalization and public ownership of all of Canada’s energy and natural resources. To their credit the only party to put that core issue squarely is the Communist Party of Canada in the Peoples Energy Plan for Canada.
Pleading with profiteers to reform themselves is futile. Why should we believe that a class of profiteers and their political minions that foment wars in the Middle East and Central Asia for oil will cease to pollute the atmosphere in Canada if it makes profit? Knowledge of the destructive power of nuclear energy did not stop the USA from dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The credibility of the environmental movement is weakened by evading the hard realities of capitalist ownership of the means of production and its fundamental law the drive for maximum profit. Enlightenment about the causes of global warming, even when it is based on good science, will not change the profit system. A political struggle for power over the ownership and control of the resources that belong to the people can. That is what sovereignty means. The environmental movement has a big role to play in that struggle precisely because they have correctly identified the consequences of the problem.
Correctly identifying the consequences of global warming is an achievement of the environmentalist movement that has rocked the establishment but it is not enough. The solution must be political not propagandist. The energy resource and its production in all of its forms must be taken out of the hands of private owners and returned to the people. With the help of science and technology the people will take stewardship and solve the problem. If we don’t believe that then we accept the assurances of corporate power and their contrite promises to reform themselves. That is a belief that the polluters can be persuaded to cease polluting. Such a belief establishes a harsh dividing line in perception between workers and environmentalists and that line needs to be approached without fear, discussed and erased before we can move on.
The first approach to the line must be to cast aside the fears and prohibitions about discussing nationalization? Only a nationalized energy resource sector can be compelled to stop selling out the resource to the USA and to use it to provide low cost energy to all of Canada. Unless that is done the expansion of the economy and the creation of Canadian jobs assuring the future development of the country is cast in doubt. Workers will never support the de-industrialization of the country. Surpluses can be exported but only after Canadian needs are assured first.
The Parkland Institute and others have argued convincingly on the urgency of the need to assure the long term strategic energy needs of Canadian consumers, Canadian industry, Canadian cities, transportation and agriculture. It cannot be denied that science is making progress on how the production of fossil fuels can continue and even expand while at the same time reducing pollutants below Kyoto targets. Instead of pouring scorn on that kind of science it needs to be taken up by the left, and not left to the Gwyn Morgan’s “Green silver bullets just postpone the hard realities” and that crowd, examined for what is manifestly true, and what is deceitful and self serving, exposed and rejected. Workers labouring in polluting industries (and who doesn’t) need the help of honest pro-people science. We need scientists that stand with the working people. Any above class elitist paternalistic stance is not helpful.
The industry must be transformed not eliminated. The problem is that for decades it has been privately owned and that ownership must be changed. Either that is true or we agree to continue to condemn the whole country to economic backwardness and decline. Energy is the fundamental factor in economic growth. Proposals to combat global warming based on eliminating 40 to 50% of energy production in Canada is a non-starter and a massive rejection of reality. It is a formula for perpetuating NAFTA, SPP, deep integration and lowering Canada to the status of underdevelopment and complete dependency on the US economic system.
Instead of talking about nebulous “green jobs” we need urgently the help of science and technology to develop a concrete plan for hundreds of thousands of new high tech and skilled trade’s jobs that will result from the construction of publicly owned east-west pipelines to serve Canadian needs first. The extension of low cost publicly owned energy to the entire country requires a plan based on a nation-building vision of Canada and its capacity for economic development and growth. That includes providing energy to the poverty stricken north, to the farmers, to the transportation industry and to the manufacturing sector of the east. Millions of Canadians depend on natural gas, a dwindling resource to heat homes and the Harper Government has plans to sell it all to the USA. That is a betrayal of this country and its people and we must have the courage to say so.
Retrofitting all existing oil and gas processing plants in the tar sands, (in their present form, correctly identified by the environmental movement as an ecological disaster) to reduce all forms of particulates to acceptable levels, work to clean up the oil patch and restore the health of the Athabasca requires technological definition as to how it can provide employment for years. That is the way to win not only the enlightened leadership of the labour movement, who by the way are way ahead of the “think tanks” but also the rank and file energy sector workers who are in the trenches of the work place, on the front lines of construction, production and delivery of the product. They will not support moratoriums that eliminate their jobs. They have rights too.
It is time the environmental movement listens to the labour movement and not just the other way around. A corner must be turned. Unity cannot be built solely on the theories and policies of environmentalism. Unity must be built on the needs of the working people of Canada. Everyone wants to live in a clean environment. Seventeen million Canadians live by wages and salaries and farm income. They don’t have sinecures and those that do need to think calmly and deeply about what the consequences of their well meaning proposals mean for the livelihood and well being of millions.
The labour movement has made a start. There are important things to be learned from what they are saying. Dave Coles of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada is calling for a national energy policy that ends the sell-out to the USA and calls for a plan to direct energy production to Canadian needs and save at least 18,000 jobs. Is anyone on the left listening to him? Gil McGowan President of the Alberta Federation of Labour and affiliates published Black Gold Clear Vision and presented its proposals opposing the Kinder Morgan pipeline to take raw bitumen to the USA for processing, an answer to the Stelmach regime during the last Provincial Election. Their work is pointing to solutions for workers and must be studied closely.

Labour must lead not merely be led. An energy plan for Canada is a Working People’s Plan or it is more of the same old same old. The defeat of Harper is a step… but a necessary one to get us on the path of the real struggle, public ownership and control of the energy sector.