Beer: Dodge’s ‘False, Frightening Narrative’ Suggests ‘People Will Die’ in Trans Mountain Protests
Opinion & Analysis
A recent opinion piece by ex-Bank of Canada governor David Dodge, asserting that killing off a few “extremists” in the Burnaby Mountain protests might be the price Canada has to pay to get the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion built, points to a “false and frightening narrative” emerging from pipeline supporters, The Energy Mix publisher Mitchell Beer suggests in a post for National Observer.
“The fevered rhetoric coming from Trans Mountain boosters is dangerous,” Beer writes. “It’s provocative. And it bears no relationship to the facts on the ground.”
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Dodge’s comments came in an interview with the Edmonton Journal, following a speech to a local business audience the week before last. “We’re going to have some very unpleasant circumstances. There are some people that are going to die in protesting construction of this pipeline. We have to understand that,” he told event participants.
“We have seen it other places, that equivalent of religious zeal leading to flouting of the law in a way that could lead to death,” he later added in a follow-up interview. “Inevitably, when you get that fanaticism, if you will, you’re going to have trouble.”
Echoing the horror the comments triggered across the climate and energy community, Beer noted that “Dodge may have been the worst, but he wasn’t the first”: Member of Parliament Pierre Poilievre (CPC, Nepean-Carleton), who first earned his reputation for exaggeration as a Harper-era cabinet minister, repeatedly referred to “violent lawbreaking protesters” in a May 30 CBC Radio interview, in which he demanded the Trudeau government clamp down on the Burnaby Mountain blockade.
The alarming new twist in pro-pipeline rhetoric had Beer asking who the real extremists are in the wake of the Trudeau government’s decision to make every Canadian an involuntary owner of an unwanted, 65-year-old pipeline:
- A “corporate descendent of the scandal-ridden Enron empire laying down an extraordinary ultimatum to three democratically-elected governments? A pundit who says pipeline opponents should be hanged for treason and offers to buy off provincial MLAs to get them to support the project? Or a municipality trying to enforce its own bylaws?”
- A “community of peaceful protesters, First Nations and municipalities, scientists and economists, millennials and seniors, all of them diligently building the evidence base against the pipeline, looking out for the safety of a large university campus located next to an expanding tank farm, applying the climate test the federal government says it wants, and following the facts to their logical conclusion? Or a Houston-based pipeliner widely accused of misrepresenting its past safety record, distorting regulatory evidence to avoid a costly route change, and even overstating the number of jobs its construction project will produce?”
- Peaceful protesters exercising their democratic right to oppose the project through non-violent civil disobedience, or “an industry hell-bent on ginning up consumption of a product that fries the atmosphere and makes the Earth uninhabitable when used as directed?”
- A clean energy industry poised to deliver thousands of stable, green jobs, or a “declining industry that is satisfied to subject Alberta to the continuing boom-and-bust job cycle of a fraught fossil economy, while doing its best to reduce its work force through the bizarrely-named process of de-manning?”
- An “established, supposedly self-sufficient fossil industry” that shamelessly enriches itself on fossil fuel subsidies, or “taxpayers who expected the Trudeau government to invest something close to that $3.3 billion to put an end to boil water advisories in First Nations communities, as the Prime Minister instructed Minister of Indigenous Services Jane Philpott to do in her October, 2017 mandate letter?”
- A “protester like Simon Fraser University biochemist Lynn Quarmby who, early in the fight for Burnaby Mountain, declared that ‘I’m going to turn around and walk up this hill and be the best citizen I can be’? Or a former senior federal official who uses his position as a public opinion leader to casually write off the lives of earnest, deeply concerned Canadian citizens?”
Dodge and Poilievre “stepped up to deliver the new storyline”, Beer writes, because “when the going gets tough, narratives matter. They determine the political space to address issues ranging from energy choices to climate strategy, job development to First Nations health. The wrong narrative sets the wrong boundaries around that political space.”
He points to the successful gas industry pushback on the federal government’s brief attempt to decarbonize the Centennial Flame as the best measure of the narratives that are defeating Canada’s efforts to meet and exceed its Harper-era carbon targets.