As a truly nasty fight takes shape over the Northern Gateway, Mitchell Anderson writes that there was always another way. Call it the Norwegian Model -- and it contains three distinct lessons which Stephen Harper ignored:
Lesson 1: Norway built pipelines -- to Norway
Back in the early 1970s, Norwegians insisted that North Sea petroleum be processed in Norway through a pipeline controlled by their state-owned oil company Statoil. This was not just an economic advantage, but an expression of resource sovereignty. The outraged negotiators for Phillips Petroleum, who were counting on controlling the lucrative offshore pipeline themselves, called the Norwegian demand "immoral."
Building pipelines from offshore rigs to refineries on the Norwegian mainland was not merely difficult; it was considered technically impossible. Bringing petroleum ashore in the United Kingdom or continental Europe was shorter, shallower and did not require divers to descend to the bottom of the Norwegian Trench, a depth of 360 metres. But by sticking to their guns and demanding to move up the value chain, Norwegians ensured they controlled their own resource and kept the jobs and money in their own country.
Lesson 2: Norway invested in social programs
In 2012, the Norwegian government earned $46.29 per barrel of oil equivalent. In that same year, Canada and the provinces earned less than one-fifth that much. The federal government has eliminated more than 20,000 public service jobs since 2010, with more cuts planned. Alberta, which has a comparable population and petroleum production to Norway, is almost $8 billion in debt. Last year, the Fort McMurray School district voted on a proposal to shorten their work week because they couldn't afford school bus drivers five days a week. Companies investing billions in the oilsands are seeing their landlocked operations hang in the balance due to lack of public buy-in.
Meanwhile, Norway is ranked number one on both the Human Development Index and the Democracy Index, and is the second best country in the world to be a mother. (Canada ranks 11th, 12th and 18th respectively.) Norwegians enjoy free university tuition, universal daycare and 30 per cent more spending per capita on healthcare -- all of which is largely funded through public oil revenues.
Lesson 3: Norway respected First Nations
While the Sami People of the northern Norway are still subjected to considerable discrimination, they are far ahead of the deplorable situation on First Nations reserves here in Canada. The Sami have their own parliament and enjoy the same legal language rights as Norwegian speakers.
In fact, all ethnic Norwegians could be considered an unconquered First Nation, having lived in present day Norway since the end of the last ice age. Vikings, who had the same military technology and resistance to the same diseases as the rest of Europe, went on a pagan-raiding campaign throughout Christendom for 200 years. That ancient memory of land and place remains, and may be the leading reason why their country was so successful at negotiating a hard bargain with the world's most powerful industrial sector in the 1970s.
Mr. Harper ignored all of these lessons. He has turned the tar sands into a moonscape, sent our greenhouse emissions off the chart, treated our First Nations with contempt, and threatened to destroy the coast of northern British Columbia.
They say he's the smartest guy in the room. The Norwegians would disagree.