Harper needs to act like a prime minister, says reader

There is much in the media by governments and corporations about the economic advantage of Alberta oil sands oil, and where to sell it.

On Jan. 23rd representatives of Red Deer chapter of the Council of Canadians met with Red Deer MP Earl Dreeshen. We asked questions about the lack of a Canadian National Energy Strategy. While Canada can supply the total national energy needs by extending pipelines and refinery capacity across the country giving security of supply, and value added opportunity, why does Canada East of the Great Lakes continue to depend on offshore foreign un-secured oil?

Canada has no plan to deal with an international oil shortage even though one is almost certain to hit soon. Just think about it, if Iran closes the Strait of Hormuz 40 per cent of ocean-bound oil will be shut in at one blow. Canadians, who face special conditions of long cold winters, would be immediately affected. This country imports half its oil, and a growing portion comes from OPEC countries. We are as dependent on Middle East oil as the U.S., yet have no plan to direct domestic oil to Canadians. Canada is the only country in the 27-member International Energy Agency without strategic petroleum reserves.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s reply to Peter Mansbridge in a Jan. 16th interview reveals why Canada has no oil plan. He doesn’t believe in one. Mansbridge asked, “Does it not seem odd that we’re moving oil out of Western Canada to either U.S. or new markets to Asia when a good chunk of Canada itself doesn’t have domestic oil?” Canada is the only International Energy Agency country that takes a pure corporate market stance. The other 26 members treat oil as a security issue. “Security trumps trade” – Hillary Clinton’s catchphrase after 9/11 – captures the oil issue well. It means government actions take precedence over markets to ensure that oil, the lifeblood of modern societies, flows uninterrupted. Despite its oil abundance, Canada is the most insecure International Energy Agency member. In place of Harper’s “laissez-faire, don’t-care” ideology, Canada would do well to copy the U.S. “energy security and energy independence” plan. Put Canadians first.

The International Energy Agency was set up in the 1970s to counteract the threat of the OPEC oil cartel to the industrial countries. The Paris-based agency requires that all its members have strategic petroleum reserves to deal with international oil-supply crises. It exempts net oil exporters on the assumption that its few members who are net oil exporters will supply their own people first, before exporting. Norway does this. Canada does not. Harper is abdicating his responsibility as prime minister, and talks as if he is the CEO of an oil transnational. He says Iran scares him, but refuses to bring in a plan to protect eastern Canadians. When he states, “Let the market do it”. Mr. Harper’s shirking of responsibility recklessly plays with Canadians’ economic and even physical security. Ambulances, hospitals and fire trucks don’t work without oil. Nor do the furnaces of people who heat their homes with oil, as half of Atlantic Canadians do.

CEOs of oil corporations must by law deliver profits to their shareholders. They are not charged with providing for people during international oil shortages. That’s the responsibility of prime ministers. When will Stephen Harper stop thinking as an oil CEO and start acting like he is prime minister of Canada?

Sam Denhaan

Red Deer