When it comes to Alberta's controversial tar-sands, it's not really a fair fight when it comes to the public relations problems. Premier Stelmach is not really equipped to deal with this type of conflict. My prediction that he would make it worse it coming true. I've been watching with growing anxiety as Alberta's Government loses a propaganda war with groups like Greenpeace and others. They're losing because they chose to go down a path of misinformation, silo thinking, and spending vast amounts of public money to convince the rest of the world and our energy trading partners that everything is fine when it clearly isn't.
The latest escalation is a series of mischief events in Fort McMurray, and east of Edmonton where Greenpeace troops occupied tar sands production facilities and illegally interfered with their operations. In the latest incident 16 Greenpeace members were arrested and charged with a variety of offenses such as trespassing and mischief.
These sites are pretty hard to secure thoroughly because they are often sprawling operations. Additionally, Albertans are generally trusting people who don't feel they have to put up barbed-wire and moats around their businesses.
I don't support Greenpeace and I don't really care if their members are arrested for legitimate offenses. They have a huge legal defense fund and the arrests are the exact theatre they were looking for. One thing I do feel strongly about is that our legal system is 100% impartial and that people get due process and a fair trial.
However, for a number of reasons it seems unlikely to me that they will get fair trials for these minor offenses. For one thing the Premier may have already comprised the objectivity of the Crown Prosecutor by making silly comments on the charges after the arrest. If you want a soviet style show trial, I guess Ed is your go to guy.
This could go either way. They may get harsh sentences because the judge thinks he/she is being politically directed. Or, the charges could be thrown out.
If the charges are thrown out because of perceived political interference then I hope the frothing-at-the-mouths will correctly blame the Premier instead of so called liberal-biased-activist-judges.
Shutting down tar-sands operations is not really an option considering that it will take decades to transition to other fuels while our consumption exponentially increases every year. Given the nature of Alberta's government there may never be a plan to transition. The bus we're all traveling on may well drive over a cliff.
The answer lies in honesty, respecting science, listening to dissenters, and the most difficult issue of all, separating our Government from the undue influence of industry. I suspect none of this will happen, but our ecology is worth the try.
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