From her new perch at the University of Calgary, former Liberal leadership hopeful Martha Hall Findlay suggests that building the Northern Gateway pipeline is really a nation building exercise. But Andrew Nikiforuk -- an Albertan of much longer standing than Findlay -- suggests that the province which now thinks of bitumen as its economic lifeblood provides a cautionary counterpoint to Findlay's claim.
Consider, he writes, what bitumen has left in its wake:
A ring of mercury now surrounds the mining operation.
Regulators have allowed industry to accrue a $20-billion public liability of toxic mining waste with a paltry billion-dollar corporate bond.
There is no plan to manage the fastest growing source of carbon emissions in the country.
Despite unprecedented changes to the hydrology of the region by steam plant operators, no effective groundwater-monitoring regime exists.
The reclamation debt is growing every year because restoring destroyed peat bogs and wetlands is almost impossible.
Every year, snow melt flushes all the dirt from oilsands air pollution into the Athabasca River.
The contamination amounts to an annual spill ranging in size from 5,000 to 13,000 barrels of bitumen.
One has to ask, is Alberta the kind of province we want to build? And do Canadians want Canada to follow the Alberta model? The Harper government has made its preferences known. And it has its reasons. Nikiforuk writes:
Revenue from the project supports a 43-year-old one party state that spends money like an entitled adolescent, saves nothing, wears a Tea Party hat and acts like a national bully. You can't find a province composed of more yes-men and yes-women than in Alberta.
Stephen Harper seeks yes men. It would be so much easier to get things done if Canadians were a nation of yes men.