GIESBRECHT: “Screw the west, we’ll take the rest”
Posted on July 04, 2020
Liberal organizer Keith Davey, during a 1980 election, coined the slogan “Screw the west, we’ll take the rest”. The election brought back Pierre Trudeau and his government installed the notorious National Energy Program (NEP). NEP damaged Alberta and the oil-rich west, bringing in the infamous bumper stickers: “Let the eastern bastards freeze in the dark”. Trudeau damaged more than the western economy with his cynical legislation – he seriously aggravated a longstanding suspicion in the west that the Liberal Party was more vampire than friend.
Pierre’s son is doing it again with Bill C-69. This legislation, meant to replace the then National Energy Board (NEB), adds to the existing mountain of regulations (and other obstacles) that stand in the way of oil and gas pipelines and other vital energy projects. Environmental and Indigenous “duty to consult” requirements – already onerous – will become almost impossible to meet.
But it gets worse. While the NEP was an assault on Alberta governments and taxpayers, it was not an attempt to destroy an entire industry. Bill C-69 is. The feeling is strong in the west that the Liberal Party’s extreme ideology – that the oil and gas industry must be shut down to save the world – is the real reason for C-69. Murdering the fossil fuel industry by federal legislation would cripple western Canada’s tottery economic recovery.
And worse: C-69 is also a direct assault on fundamental property rights.
The Canadian Association of Energy and Pipeline Landowners Association (CAEPLA) – Canada’s leading national grassroots property organization advocating on behalf of farmers, ranchers, and other rural landowners – promotes property rights. CAEPLA reports that under C-69, federal government inspectors would bring along “Indigenous Monitors” onto private land and without the landowner’s approval.
“Indigenous Monitors” could decide that something on a farmer’s land is archaeologically valuable to them. Through C-69, they also have the right to perform “cultural ceremonies” without the landowner’s approval. Landowners with a federally regulated energy project located on their land could find their land part of the federal government’s “Reconciliation Agenda”. “Reconciliation” sounds nice, but not if the ultimate goal of Bill C-69 is expropriation. Astoundingly this is unveiling in secret.
This secret assault on property rights should not surprise those following the current federal government’s indigenous initiatives. For example, the recent deal with unelected people, who call themselves “Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs”, is secret. Thousands of town and rural landowners might soon be horrified to find that they don’t own land (perhaps with houses, farms, and businesses) that were bought and paid for years ago, Why? Because the government chooses to call what they thought theirs to be “Wet’suwet’en land”.
The current federal government has also introduced a “Practice Directive” that prevents federal lawyers from even defending the approximately 45,000 outstanding Indigenous claims – that is if a proper defence would interfere with…..yes, there’s that “reconciliation” word again. Or, should it be spelled $Reconciliation$? And if you think that the federal government will be on the landowner’s side, think again!
C-69 is not only bad legislation; it is an unconscionable interference with property rights. If the federal government plans to change fundamental property rights it should do so openly, and give every citizen an opportunity to participate in what is in reality a constitutional debate.
Brian Giesbrecht, a retired judge, is a senior fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.