Council should vote ‘no’ to Ashmore’s pipeline promotion of oil sector
A graduate of the University of Toronto, Trevor Hutchinson is a songwriter, writer and bookkeeper. He serves as Contributing Editor at The Lindsay Advocate. He lives with his fiancee and their five kids in Lindsay.
Among the many items that the City of Kawartha Lakes will consider at the January 15, 2019 meeting is a motion by Ward 6 Councillor Ron Ashmore stating that the City of Kawartha Lakes should take a position in favour of oil pipelines and should promote that fact to the provincial premiers, the prime minister and to the Association of Municipalities of Ontario.
Council should say no to that motion and vote against it.
The motion, as submitted by Councillor Ron Ashmore on January 7, 2019 is in the agenda package for the meeting and reads as following:
Council Memorandum Date: January 7, 2019
To: Council From: Ron Ashmore, Councillor Ward 6
Re: Support for Canada’s Energy Sector
Recommendation That City of Kawartha Lakes Council fully support the men and women and their families in our energy sector across the country.
Rationale: The Canadian energy sector is a vital employer in the country in all provinces and territories. The energy sector provides $7 Billion in tax revenue for Canadians which helps pay for transfer payments, health care, education and infrastructure as well as a multitude of essential government programs. At present Canada imports 800 000 barrels of oil per day from foreign nations. Most of Canada’s oil is exported by rail which can be dangerous as proven by the LacMagentic accident in Quebec.
Therefore be it resolved that completing critical pipeline infrastructure is vital to the whole country economically and environmentally. Thereby we the Council of City of Kawartha Lakes fully support the completion of these pipelines and the employment and tax revenue that it will give our country.
Cc: Rt. Hon Prime Minister of Canada Provincial Premiers Association of Municipalities of Ontario
Despite the fact that I disagree with the intent and the timing of this motion, I do think that Ashmore should be commended for bringing this kind of thing forward. I think Council should, as required, take positions on matters that are outside the goings on within our city. Every candidate for mayor, when asked by the Lindsay Advocate during the last election, if local government should “speak on issues beyond its mandate for the well being of its citizens” answered yes. Provided that it’s not at the expense of the day to day work, I think council should take a stand on issues. I argued as much in a recent column on postal banking as a possible solution to the loss of rural banks.
Furthermore, I want to stress that Ashmore was generous with his time and answered, at length, every question I sent him on this issue. But in his words, “we seem to agree to disagree.”
- Saying yes to this motion is taking sides against Indigenous land protectors and the government duty to consult
They say timing is everything and right now having the city officially supporting pipelines might involve weighing in — or give the optics of weighing in — on some contentious First Nations issues. What happened this month on Wet’suwet’en land in BC should give every Canadian pause — if not shame. That traditional land is unceded — it was never sold nor negotiated by treaty. The Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs are against a pipeline going through their land.
When I asked Ashmore about this he cited some sources that properly claim there are some First Nations who are in support of pipelines. However, his claim that “in fact the media fails to report that many if not 95 per cent of the first nations want these pipelines to go through” is just not factual and avoids the complexities of First Nation law. In a nutshell, elected bands speak for reserves but hereditary chiefs speak for issues on traditional land. It is far more complicated than counting the number of band councils in favour of pipelines.
Most of us can recall all the fighting over local windmills. In parts of our city you can still see the “government back off” and “hands off my land” signs erected as certain people fought the windmills. Some of us seemed to accept that argument locally. Can we not therefore extend that right of protest to First Nations, whose ‘title’ goes back not a century or two, but millennia? Simply put: Approving this motion is tantamount to the City taking a stand against against people who are simply protecting their own land and demanding the constitutionally guaranteed right of consultation.
- Sometimes a pipeline is more than a pipeline
At this moment, pipelines seem to be the gateway drug to right-wing extremism. A recent post I saw in my Facebook feed showed a protester holding a sign that said ‘It’s more than pipelines.’ The sign then listed immigration and ‘Trudeau’ as related complaints. The ill-named Canada Yellow Vests (which beyond protesting have few values in common with their French namesakes) have been making headlines for their virulent threatening statements made by some members. The Yellow Vests Canada Facebook page — which has over 105,000 members as of this writing is clear that this is not a group interested in policy discussions about a domestic over-supply issue: “This group is to protest the CARBON TAX and the Treason of our country’s politicians who have the audacity to sell out OUR country’s sovereignty over to the Globalist UN and their Tyrannical policies. We are also against the government attempting to buy off the media in an election year and conspire with social media companies to censor our speech. We CANNOT have a free and democratic society unless WE HAVE FREE SPEECH and the ability to express it as far and wide as we wish. We are Canadian Patriots who refuse to allow this country to walk down the path of Tyranny. God Bless.”
The City of Kawartha Lakes supporting pipelines at this moment in Canadian politics would be walking into this minefield. We would be, unintentionally perhaps, held up as an example by people who fear our coming UN overlords, and those who LOVE USING ALL CAPS and hate immigration, among other things.
- If you are weighing in on Canadian politics it’s important to be strategic, and well, political.
Alberta is definitely experiencing a downturn because of their reliance on the gas and oil sector. Despite our own premier’s taking the credit for lower prices we are dealing with issues of domestic over-supply, a downturn in Chinese growth and the recent oil glut in the United States because of fracking to mention just a few. Because Alberta lacks some ability to deal with this issue — being the only province in Canada that does not have a provincial sales tax — the pipeline issue is being used to raise our national equalization program. British Columbia and Quebec, also equal provinces in our country, are largely against pipelines. Ashmore cites the $7 billion dollars a year in tax revenue that oil and gas bring (when combined with mining, oil and gas is our third largest industry). Apparently pleasing no one in the process, the federal government has spent $7.2 billion dollars — buying a pipeline and providing emergency support for the industry this year alone. Like our country occasionally, it’s a complicated issue with many moving parts.
After agriculture, our biggest industry is tourism. We are in the business of attracting other Canadians here. Should we take a stand on a complicated issue that is pitting Canadians against each other? Ashmore says that “We need to tell our fellow Canadians that we here in CKL feel for your plight and support you in the energy sector.. It’s a small gesture but it’s important. This is a more important issue than things like pot which seems to take all of our time and it was imposed upon municipalities by the federal government to deal with but that is another issue.”
Aren’t people from British Columbia fellow Canadians? And not to get sidetracked, but pot legalization was a known policy of the Liberals who received a majority government from fellow Canadians. How that was forced on municipalities is as much a provincial matter.
- And while we are on the energy sector…..
The fossil fuel industry likes to appropriate the term “energy industry” but there are other components of the energy. Since we aren’t sitting on a giant reservoir of gas or oil, our energy industry in the City of Kawartha Lakes is wind and solar. Ashmore conceded that for our sustainable energy sector “there were many jobs created when it was built” but he notes that “sometimes the solar and wind energy sector monies go to other countries even though they are clean. I live in between two solar farms here in Pleasant Point and Kennedy Bay. The owners are in Philadelphia so all of the benefit is going out of the county.” Well, for one thing that’s what happens when you don’t develop new technologies. And oh yeah, the Canadian fossil fuel industry is at least 40-50 per cent foreign owned.
- There’s climate denial in ‘them there hills.’
If you follow politics at all you will know it’s pretty clear that pipelines are being used in what is an often ugly, less-than-civil argument. This meme-based dialog is anything but. Corporate-funded platforms like Ontario Proud and Alberta Proud, which are unabashedly pro-Conservative and anti-Liberal are helping lead this charge. I have to take Ashmore at his word when he told me that he was “quite surprised” when I asked if this is a partisan motion. “Partisan is defined as: a strong supporter of a party, cause or person. I am NOT a member of any political party which allows me to be non-partisan. This is the beauty of municipal politics,” he continued.
But the pipeline issue is partisan to many and that’s what we would be stepping into by officially supporting this as a City. Furthermore, Ashmore –on his personal Twitter account — has retweeted a post by Alberta Proud that loudly trumpets “we will not be phased out.” He has also tweeted against the “crazy carbon tax” claiming “only the climate elite will benefit.” The whole idea of a carbon tax is expressly conservative. As conservative economist Christopher Ragan asked in the Globe and Mail recently, “If you’re a Conservative who opposes carbon pricing, are you really a conservative?”
What perhaps troubles me more on the motivation of this motion is Ashmore’s take on climate change. When I asked him about the issue he replied: “This is an ongoing topic that really is thrown in peoples faces all of the time. I actually agree with climate change because the climate changes everyday. Our earth is 4.5 Billion years old and we have been actually only taking climate data since 1880 (only 139 years) so it’s a pretty short time to come to any conclusions. I have to wonder what melted the ice age as there where not any internal combustion engines then. Climate change science unfortunately has been taken over by eco billionaires like Al Gore and Hollywood celebrities who are getting rich off all of their rhetoric and scare tactics. Fossil fuels will be here for many years. What’s more safe oil or radioactive bundles stored under the great lakes?”
Let’s be unequivocal. That statement is climate change denial. Period. And sorry, this is not a debate. The debate has been settled. Human activity is changing the CO2 levels in the atmosphere and that is causing a number of inter-related crises. We shouldn’t need to remind our elected official in 2018, as taken from Climate Action Network Canada, that the “earth’s atmosphere is part of a global system that keeps the temperature of the planet within a habitable range. Since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, humans have been altering the composition of the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels, including coal, oil, and gas. The resulting carbon dioxide (CO2) builds up in the atmosphere, creating the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect traps energy from the sun and raises the temperature of the Earth, and this rising temperature is what most people mean when they refer to global warming or climate change. Other important greenhouse gases include methane produced mainly by natural gas production and livestock, nitrous oxide from nitrogen-based fertilizers, and hydrofluorocarbons.”
So let’s stay out of contentious Indigenous issues. Let’s not get associated with rabid violence-spewing rhetoric. Let’s not take a stand on a divisive national issue. And let us have nothing to do with positions that are being used by some to deny the greatest threat humanity — and therefore our children — have ever faced.
While Ashmore should be commended for bringing a “big issue” forward, Council should vote no to Ashmore’s motion.