R14: Lackluster Effort to Curb Oil Spills

I’m posting on the reasons I won’t vote for Stephen Harper and his party:

Harper’s environmental record is more a joke than a strategy, as illustrated by recent developments regarding oil exploration. We’re all familiar with the major oil spills over the last decades: certainly there are one or two that we all know of, that have entered our collective knowledge as disasters of global proportions. But are we aware of how many smaller spills there have been? Example: in Alberta, anything over 2 cubic meters is reported in a database: which has tracked almost 29,000 spills over 37 years (Global News, 2913). That’s, on average, just over two spills per day. Per day. And just in one province.

Given those statistics, it’s absolutely frightening that the Harper government has established it’s most recent regulation agreement with Shell Oil. Leona Aglukkaq (Conservative MP for Nunavut) has signed off on an environmental assessment that saysShell “can have a primary capping stack in place within 12 to 21 days after a blowout off southern Nova Scotia” (CBC, 2015). The reason? Because the capping equipment would have to be brought in from Norway, Scotland, South Africa, Singapore or Brazil. Even though Canada is a major producer of oil and our fragile oceans are potentially a next source for us to exploit, we as Canadians are relying on others who are weeks away in case of an emergency.

Yet as an American parallel: our neighbours to the south require capping within 24 hours in Alaska. Same situation: capped in a fraction of the time. Canada agrees with Shell that such requirements would be “too expensive” (CBC, 2015) to be expected. When environment and expense clash, the Harper government always tends to be, well… cheap. They invest in corporate partners and the rich rather than the environment or those who live in Nova Scotia.

This is a clear example of the infamous NIMBY (not in my backyard) syndrome. Aglukkaq has argued for “improve oil spill response” (O Canada, 2013) in the Arctic and the north, around her jurisdiction of Nunavut: though, admittedly, I could find no specifics about how that response time was to be “improved”. So perhaps I’m giving her too much credit. Even at home, she seems to be more bark than bite. For Harper, however, it seems that anything he can’t see or doesn’t hear about, anything that happens under the quiet, uncomplaining ocean, is not something he’s concerned about.

I was in Arkansas (Mayflower: near Little Rock) a couple of years ago when a pipeline burst, spilling oil just a couple of miles outside the small town area (New Republic, 2013) and affecting thousands of people. It took only hours to quarantine the town and to prevent anyone from entering the spill zone. I’ll bet Mr. Harper wouldn’t want to wait three weeks if an oil leak developed on his front lawn. Yet if we were to consider the biological effect of the two: I would estimate that far fewer animals and species would be affected if an oil slick appeared on Mr. Harper’s front lawn than when compared to the biodiversity in the Atlantic off the coast of Nova Scotia. The difference? An irritated PM would get the spill dealt with immediately. Thousands of aquatic plant an animal species would just have to accept three weeks of crude pumping out: and suffer or die. From Harper’s perspective, it’s “too expensive” to be prepared for that kind of inevitability.

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