Five anti-fracking activists speak at CV forum

Five anti-fracking activists speak at CV forum

Forum speakers, from left, Bernadette Wyton, Keith Wyton, Michael Sawyer, Damien Gillis, and Richard Wright  /  Pat Carl Photo

Five anti-fracking activists speak at CV forum


This article was updated April 3 to adjust the audience size.

The environmental and cultural dangers posed by LNG, fracking, and gas pipelines and the direct effect they may soon have on the Salish Sea, the Comox Valley, and Barkley Sound were discussed at a recent public forum at the Florence Filberg Centre. About 250 people heard the dire warnings from five anti-fracking activists.

The Watershed Sentinel magazine, the Council of Canadians, and the Glasswaters Foundation co-sponsored the forum.

Damien Gillis, a journalist and the director/producer of the award-winning documentary, Fractured Land, described fracking’s by-products, including methane, as more environmentally damaging than CO2 when LNG’s full life cycle is taken in account. LNG is worse than coal “cradle to grave,” said Gillis, who also said that economically LNG is “hanging on by a thread” with the help of the provincial government’s tax subsidies.

Following Gillis, Michael Sawyer, a self-described lone-wolf lawyer, described how he appealed the National Energy Board’s decision that opened the way for the Prince Rupert LNG pipeline. His appeal hinged on the fact that the Prince Rupert pipeline attached to a significant section of federal pipeline, which brought the pipeline’s ultimate approval under federal, not provincial, jurisdiction.

Despite the limits of both provincial and federal environmental guidelines, federal guidelines are more rigorous than provincial. Although Sawyer’s appeal of the Prince Rupert LNG pipeline occurred in 1998, it provides the framework for his current appeal to the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

Third on the forum’s agenda was Richard Wright, a spokesperson for hereditary chiefs of the Gitxsan Nation. Following the direction of hereditary chiefs in the Luutkudziiwus Territory, Wright and other band members closed their territory to LNG development by constructing Madii Lii, a camp that establishes the Nation’s control over their territory.

Part of the tactics used by provincial and federal governments is to ignore the hereditary chief system, a system of oversight in place for thousands of years, and, instead, seek permission for industrial development, such as LNG, from those not in a position to give it. This pits band members against band members. The Gitxsan Nation is also collaborating with the Wet’suwet’in in that band’s struggle with LNG.

The team of Bernadette and Keith Wyton, members of the Barkley Sound Alliance, provided background on the proposed Kwispaa site at Sarita Bay in the Port Alberni Inlet which is the endpoint of the gas pipeline which begins in Northern BC. Even though the Kwispaa project is currently on pause, the Wytons warned the project, in the future, may raise its ugly head under new management.

Negative environmental impacts of the project include the destruction of fish, fish habitats, marine vegetation, and the compromising of critical killer whale habitat, as well as gas flaring, light and noise pollution. These environmental impacts are compounded by traumatic social blowbacks, such as the construction of 2,000-bed man-camps along the pipeline route, which have been linked to spikes in local crime, such as violence against women, and drug and alcohol abuse.

A question period followed the individual presentations during which audience members were reminded that LNG gas is not extracted for the use of BC residents, but is intended strictly for export. Looking ahead, the current profitable LNG market in China may not even exist in a very few years as China extracts its own fracked gas.

Additionally, fracked gas wells have a shelf life of approximately three years, which means that many more wells will be drilled in Northern BC to meet export demands and many wells will be orphaned without remediation required of LNG.

Pat Carl lives in Comox and contributes to the Comox Valley Civic Journalism Project.


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How Alberta’s oil industry co-opted Canada

How Alberta’s oil industry co-opted Canada

Former Alberta Liberal Party leader Kevin Taft will discuss his new book in Courtenay on Sept. 13, telling the story of how the collision between climate change and the oil industry subverted the democratic process in Canada


Former Alberta Liberal Party leaders and author Kevin Taft will talk about his latest book, “Oil’s Deep State,” at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13 at the Lower Native Sons Hall in Courtenay. The event will be moderated by Campbell River filmmaker and journalist Damien Gillis.

Most Canadians believe — or want to believe — in a direct connection between casting their ballot in provincial and federal elections and the democratic process. We like to think that checking a box every four years or so determines our nation’s policies and our future.

But as Kevin Taft’s new book, “Oil’s Deep State’” reveals this isn’t necessarily so.

There are darker and deeper forces at work that, left unchecked, can have a greater influence over our political, civil service and regulatory institutions at all levels of government.

Taft writes from the perspective of an insider. He was the Alberta Liberal Party leader from 2001 to 2012, and formed the official opposition from 2004 to 2008.

His book tells the story of the collision between global warming and Canada’s oil industry and how democracy got squeezed in the middle.

And more specifically, Taft details how the Alberta NDP party, which was elected in 2015 on promises of challenging the oil industry’s dominance in the province, became the oil sands biggest promoter.

The flip-flop by Alberta’s NDP occured, Taft says, because of the “deep state” created by the powerful oil and gas industry.

Damien Gillis, a Campbell River documentary filmmaker, who will introduce Taft during his book tour stop in Courtenay on Sept. 13, says that a “deep state” occurs when political parties, government agencies, arm’s length regulators and university researchers lose their independence.

Gillis, who also co-founded the Common Sense Canadian with former Social Credit party cabinet minister Rafe Mair, says that Taft’s book charts Alberta politics from premiers Peter Lougheed through Ralph Klein, and exposes how the oil industry has co-opted Alberta’s public institutions into believing its economy is dependent on oil field royalties.

According to Taft, here’s what happened: The world became aware in the 1980s of the impact of fossil fuels on global warming and other climate changes. The oil industry feared its collapse and began a fierce lobbying campaign to save themselves.

Their efforts convinced the Stephen Harper government to pull out of the Kyoto Accord on climate change, and federal scientists were silenced, not unlike how US President Trump is now reshaping that country’s Environmental Protection Agency.

Federal Liberals and the Alberta NDP joined the oil sands bandwagon. The Alberta energy regulator was an ex oil executive and millions of tax dollars flowed to universities to rebut fossil fuels impact on climate change and create the notion that the province’s economy depended on a healthy oil industry.

In the end, the Canadian oil industry gained virtual oversight of the political mindset in Alberta and in the federal government.

And yet, Taft says, Alberta gets more revenue from gaming and liquor than oil sands revenue.

“Alberta’s oil industry is not indispensable to its or Canada’s economy,” Gillis says. “Just as BC is not dependent on forestry stumpage fees or fishing tonnage fees.”

But the public does have tools to combat a deep state when it forms, according to Gillis.

“Even when when big oil had everything lined up — a Harper majority, BC Liberals, Alberta conservatives — the public has power through the constitution, the courts, grassroots movements and First Nations support,” Gillis said.

Following Taft’s presentation in Courtenay, Gillis will moderate a question and answer period with the author.