Canadian Oil Policy Not in the Public Interest Print
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Wednesday, 12 July 2006 04:56

Canadian Oil Policy Not in the Public Interest

Harper and Bush agendas are alike, so what are they really up to?

Straight Goods - Linda McQuaig - If ever there was a guy who looked more like a "Stephen" than a "Steve," it would be our current Prime Minister. But when you're the most powerful guy in the world, it's your call. So, to George W Bush, our Prime Minister is evidently going to be just plain "Steve." That much was established during Harper's first visit to the White House last week.

Canadian Oil Policy Not in the Public Interest

Linda McQuaig

Straight Goods
July 11, 2006
(orginally published in the Toronto Star)

Harper and Bush agendas are alike, so what are they really up to?

It's hard to know what to make of that. Michael Brown was just plain "Brownie" when he got blamed ? and then dumped ? for Washington's handling of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath.

Whether or not there's any genuine warmth between Bush and Harper ? the subject of endless media speculation ? there's a clear convergence of interests.

Both men are ideological conservatives in the Reagan-Thatcher mould. Both have their political base in the booming, oil-soaked West. Both are extremely friendly to powerful corporate interests, particularly Big Oil.

So the question isn't how well these two ideological soul mates get along, but, rather: What are they up to? With their agendas so neatly meshed, and so fully in line with that of the corporate world, who's going to defend the interests of the non-corporate world, or what used to be called "the public interest"?

One thing we know Harper and Bush are up to is further integrating our economies. Under something called the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP), they're redesigning our economies to reduce the regulatory power of government and enhance the power of business. And who better to make up the new rules than business itself?

Accordingly, last March, they turned to business leaders from the US, Canada and Mexico to come up with plans for more fully integrating our economies. The SPP process, which seeks to deepen the integration set out in NAFTA, began under Paul Martin, but has accelerated under Harper.

One key area of interest is further energy integration, something enormously appealing to US corporate interests who want to push forward the development of Alberta's oil sands and consolidate their guaranteed access to this vast resource.

SPP documents refer to the "North American energy market" and "North American energy security" ? making no distinction between Canadian and US energy supplies and security.

This is fine with both US and Canadian business interests. Of course, much of the "Canadian" energy business is US-owned. But where is the public interest in all this? Is Canadian energy security being sacrificed to ensure US energy security?

What about the environmental impacts on Canada?

Even former Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed, a Conservative, has called for a moratorium on oil sands development, questioning the environmental and social costs and whether Alberta is getting enough money from the energy companies.

It would be nice if we had a Prime Minister who would stand up for the Canadian public interest, even if that meant a little more distance between the president of the United States ? and Steve.

Linda McQuaig is an award-winning journalist and a columnist with the Toronto Star in which this column originally appeared. She is the author of All You Can Eat: Greed, Lust and the New Capitalism (Penguin paperback, $22) and her newest book, It's the Crude, Dude: War, Big Oil, and the Fight for the Planet, now available in paperback for $22, is published by Doubleday, Canada.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 12 July 2006 04:56