For a Class Approach to Environmentalism

March 4, 2007

The Harper Conservatives are demagogically playing on the real fear of job loss among workers employed in the energy sector of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland-Labrador, to pitch provisions of the Clean Air Act (CLA). The CLA is designed to exempt Big Oil from their responsibility to reduce C02 emissions and meet Canada’s Kyoto obligations. Feigned concern for energy sector jobs will be used by Harper candidates in Alberta to win labour votes in the upcoming federal election.
Well meaning environmentalists, most of who do not depend on jobs in the energy sector and ancillary industries to live, have little to say about the catch twenty-two situation confronting energy sector workers and their families who will be sacrificed by insider energy investors, rather than be compelled to allocate bloated profits to genuine C02 emission reductions. The real aim of the Harper Conservatives acting for Big Oil, is to allow the energy sector investors to make money out of the mess created by unbridled exploitation of the oil sands, through the implementation of a stock market for the sale of C02 credits and to dump the costs of any environmental cleanup on the taxpayers. In the zeal for progress on reducing C02 emissions calls for the entire industry to be shut down are unsupportable from a consistent working class viewpoint. In their zeal to control green house gases the environmentalist movement would happily sacrifice the jobs of hundreds of thousands of energy sector workers.
To turn a blind eye to the stake of energy sector workers in the oil sands who come from all parts of the country is a serious weakness in the environmental strategy that play into the hands of the Harper Conservatives and their Big Oil backers. Uncritical promotion by the left of a multifarious environmental agenda rings hallow among workers whose jobs will be sacrificed to protect Big Oil profits.
The unity of the environmentalist and labour movement depends on rejecting without reservation the notion that it is OK to sacrifice worker’s jobs for a “greater good”. The labour movement is beginning to elaborate its own fight back strategy that protects jobs and protects the environment. Such proposals deserve close attention and respect and in the first place by the NDP, the Communists, and the environmentalist movement.
One of the key elements in this complex problem is to call for public ownership and control of the industry and to win science to the side of the cause of working people. The current mad uncontrolled, unsustainable profit driven pace of oil sands development is inimical to the interests of all working people. A program that protects the environment, develops the resource in a planned and scientifically based manner cannot be achieved so long as the extraction, processing, transportation and marketing of the resource remains in the hands of private investors.