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Bill C-51 could be the biggest bait and switch Canada has ever seen: opinion

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One of the biggest bones of contention between this government and Canadians has been this exaltation of Alberta’s petroleum export economy above the environment, and now even above our privacy and freedoms. This has been particularly acute in BC. But there is a moral foundation to Harper’s ambition. Alberta, or the multinational energy corporations who have heavily invested in it over the past century, is desperately seeking new markets. Being too dependent on exporting to the U.S. the industry sees China as the logical place to focus; this has been presented by the Harper Government as being in the national interest. Unfortunately those corporations, the province of Alberta and the Harper Government have to run roughshod through BC and the environment in the process.

British Columbians who are concerned about pipelines or rail transport of petroleum products feel that we assume the majority of the risk, while Alberta and multinational corporations reap the majority of the benefits. We feel that our traditional tribal lands, our eco-tourism, our sport fishing, our recreational camping, our regional economies are threatened by the potential for oil spills, dozens of which have happened in the past decade in North America.

British Columbians are rightly insulted that our own economic priorities, our culture, our environment, and our well-being is somehow not considered in calculating the national interest. What is good for Alberta is good for Canada, but what is good for B.C. is not?

It is a powerful fallacy that what is good for the environment is not good for the economy— and yet another powerful fallacy that what is good for the oil companies is good for the economy. Oil is but one sector in a diverse web of industries and entrepreneurship that makes our economy tick. But as Thomas Homer Dixon warned in his 2013 New York Times op-ed, Canadians are concerned that our country is being “twisted” into a petro-state.

I imagine the Conservative Party faithful could feel confident justifying all of this if the economy was doing well, but sadly this isn't even the case. This government has vastly increased the national debt and produced consecutive deficits as it hemorrhages tax dollars in profligate spending to remake Canada. Under Harper, economic inequality has increased. Poverty has increased. Household debt has reached record levels. Our economy is not well. And neither is our environment. And neither is the state of our democracy nor our standing in the world.

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