Evan Saugstad: No CNRL moguls in Whistler this winter


One of the late breaking news stories from 2018 was the mayor of Whistler sending a letter to Canadian Natural Resources (CNRL) demanding them to pay for costs associated with fireproofing their community, and the great response that CNRL gave back.

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My short interpretation of their response: Mr. Mayor of Whistler, don’t let our shadows darken your door; our moguls are leaving no moguls on your hills.

And, while I am at it, kudos to CIBC for cancelling the energy portion of its Whistler Investor Conference in support of all companies who said they would not attend, in support of CNRL’s stance.

What many of you may not have read, or understand, was why the mayor sent this letter. From my simple view in this flat world, he got sucked in by some very “fake” news coming from West Cost Environmental Law (WCEL). If I was to write the headline for this story, it would have read, 'West Coast Environmental Law duped local governments into writing dumb letters.'

WCEL is an environmental law and public advocacy organization based in Vancouver, and has, for several years, been pressuring local governments to write letters that demand oil and gas companies pay for costs that communities associate with climate change. 

To date, a total of 16 local governments have either sent these letters, or passed council resolutions stating they will. WCEL’s website has a complete list of these governments — most are Vancouver Island or southern coastal — and copies of some of their letters.

So, why do I call this a dumb letter? 

Whistler is likely the most hypocritical of the lot. Their mere existence depends upon cheap travel using carbon fuels to get their customers to their ski hills. If Whistler was serious about climate change and carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, they would have written an open letter to the world, as people from around the world to ski Whistler, asking or insisting that they not come, unless they can travel via a non-carbon transportation system. Instead, they asked someone else to do something.

Although I don’t have the statistics on where Whistler’s skiers originate, it's a safe bet that the vast majority are flying into Vancouver, then driving or busing to Whistler. We also know that one large source of carbon emissions occurs when we fly. I am also guilty of this, and as long as I continue living here I will be flying.

Plane and simple, it takes a lot of fossil fuel to keep an aircraft off the ground.

We know why the mayor didn’t ask the world not to come. A simple request asking that people stop visiting Whistler would have ended with council leaving town on an expedited basis.  Unfortunately, the good voters of Whistler will now have to wait four years before they can replace council with those who exbibit a bit more intelligence.

Same goes if he had asked that no more fossil fuels be consumed in Whistler. Could be a great move to reduce carbon, but not very bright politically. Incidentally, I believe it was Surerus Pipeline of Fort St John that built a larger pipeline to Whistler a few years ago, to ensure they could promise their guests the opportunity to warm their toes and roast their nuts over an open fire.

In short, it was much more politically expedient to ask someone else to address the world’s carbon issue, rather than develop a made-at-home solution.

As to reducing the fire risk? If you have too many trees and you believe they're a fire risk, I could likely find a logging company or two willing to take them off your hands, and they would likely not charge a cent if they could just get all those logs in return.

Now, to West Coast Environmental Law.

Before I get started on my rant about another dumb enviro-company, I can say they have done some very good work helping people who could not otherwise afford a good defence. But that accolade doesn’t apply to everything they do or their full climate crusade program.

On its website, WCEL writes about American cities suing oil/gas companies for climate change costs, but it doesn’t tell you that these lawsuits are now being thrown out of U.S. courts (that is what my research shows). In part, one U.S. court decision stated, “… the serious problems caused thereby are not for the judiciary to ameliorate. Global warming and solutions thereto must be addressed by the two other branches of government.” The corresponding news headline for this was, 'You can’t sue your way to a solution for global warming. So says the judge.'

It also doesn’t tell you that if we wish to burden oil and gas companies with billions more in costs that the two likely outcomes are either higher fuel prices or no fuel at all, both to which are not acceptable to the vast majority of voters and taxpayers.

WCEL do tell you that it tried to have the Union of BC Municipalities pass a resolution last fall asking that all B.C. local governments send these same letters, and it failed. From my view, it goes to show that if you do get enough politicians in the same room, you can get reasonably bright decisions as there are usually more intelligent people than dumb ones who would blindly follow poor advice from the WCEL. I know if you asked our Mayor Lori Ackerman and her council, they would tell you they have spent a lot of time and travel advocating for our gas and oil industry, and telling other communities the real story.

WCEL’s website is also dedicated in the opposition of pipeline projects, such as the defeat of the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline, the north coast ban on oil tankers, and the current fight to stop the Trans Mountain expansion. They also write about how they support aboriginal communities in opposition, but I can’t find any mention of the many aboriginal communities who support these projects and who wish to see them proceed in some way, shape, or fashion. Looks to me a case of only telling your supporters what they wish to hear and not the whole story while you ask them to donate, donate, and donate so they can keep up their barrage of ignorant campaigns.

Now, back to the climate change letter. Doesn’t it sound like President Trump’s definition of “fake” news? In short, my simple perspective of these phoney letters is that if enough are sent, some will actually begin to believe they are for real. Go figure.

Evan Saugstad lives in Fort St. John. 

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