Debaters Ezra Levant (left) and Ben West (right), and moderator Charlie Smith (centre) at the Rio Theatre in Vancouver Thursday night

Fight Night at the Rio: Ethical Oil vs. Tar Sands Environmental Disaster


I was on hand last night at the Rio Theatre in Vancouver for the highly-touted debate between Best West, Healthy Communities Campaigner for the Wilderness Committee, and Ezra Levant, author of the new book “Ethical Oil: The Case for Canada’s Oil Sands.”

The event was a reprise of sorts of the recent throw-down in Calgary between Levant and Andrew Nikiforuk, author of “Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent.”  Despite the rather serious subject matter at hand – the future of the Alberta Tar Sands, climate change, and the relative ethics of dirty oil – the events were enlivened with an air of theatre, replete with a Vegas Fight Night motif.

The Vancouver event was taken in by a nearly packed house – and the crowd got right into the action, often catcalling Levant, the clear antagonist of the evening. Early on, Levant used a pre-packaged but clever come-back to a heckler to introduce his basic thesis: “I love the heckling,” he told the crowd, “because it proves how free we are. If we were in Russia, you wouldn’t be heckling for long before the FSB came and got you.” He concluded, “That’s Canada: the fair-trade coffee of the world’s oil industry.”

Whether you agree with Mr. Levant’s argument – essentially that Alberta Tar Sands oil is the lesser of two evils when compared with the black stuff from Saudi Arabia or the Sudan – or not, he deserves some credit for walking into territory hostile to climate change denying, Milton Friedman-loving types. The “People’s Republic of East Van,” as it was introduced, is a long way from Fort MacMurray.

I was there more to see Levant than Ben West, a friend and colleague with whom my own views are naturally more aligned than his opponent, the Tar Sands apostle. I always appreciate good oratory – and Mr. Levant is certainly capable int that department – and I was curious to hear firsthand how he frames his defence of the Tar Sands.

Levant is a Calgary-educated lawyer and conservative political activist who founded the right-wing magazine and now exclusively online journal, The Western Standard. He has worked closely with Preston Manning and was the Conservative Party nominee for Calgary Centre who made way for Stephen Harper when he needed a solid riding in which to make his first Prime Ministerial bid. Event moderator and Georgia Straight reporter Charlie Smith elicited another round of theatrical boos for Levant when he pointed this out to the crowd in his introduction.

Throughout the evening, West, an able, witty debater himself, framed his opponent as some variation of a “hitman for the free market”. But when moderator Smith posed what I thought was the most important question of the evening – essentially what is the book and its author’s relationship  with the oil lobby – Levant claimed none whatsoever. I too had been curious about this question. Having read a few reviews of Levant’s book, I couldn’t help but note the similarity in timing and message to the broad-based multi-million dollar co-ordinated PR offensive now underway to burnish the Tar Sands – or Oil Sands as they are careful to call them – by the industry and Alberta and Canadian governments.

I think beginning with National Geographic’s stunning front cover visual exposé of the Tar Sands not quite two years ago, the world’s biggest industrial operation has been getting pummeled on the image front, to the point it now sports a big shiner, apropos the evening’s fight theme.

This coordinated effort to fight back against a deluge of bad press has included a series of ads from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) featuring Tar Sands employees playing up technological advances and minimizing their employers’ environmental impacts. My favourite is the one where the Syncrude engineer walking through a sparse patch of four foot-tall poplars informs us his company has cleaned up something like 1,000 hectares of mining grounds (out of hundreds of thousands), before pausing for an impromptu moment of remediated wilderness magic: “Look – there’s two squirrels playing on that branch!” The squirrels are, naturally, off-camera – but we’ll take his word for it.

There have also been billboard ads in New York, paid for by the Alberta tax payer, that claim, “A good neighbour lends you a cup of sugar; A great neighbour provides you with 1.4 million barrels of oil a day.” Finally, there’s the recent series of high-profile whirlwind junkets by top US lawmakers and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, all delivering the same message: “Hey, these Alberta Oil Sands ain’t that bad after all.”  The whole offensive is based on two central themes: 1. Downplaying environmental impacts, partly by up-selling technological advancements; and 2. Assuring us Alberta oil is safer than Middle East, Venezuelan, and Sudanese Oil – from a national security perspective.

These two themes, particularly the last one, are also central to Levant’s schtick – which is why Charlie Smith’s question was warranted. Did Levant get paid to do this book by CAPP or Syncrude?

According to Levant, absolutely not. He got the idea for the book, he says, following a speech to a bunch of regular folks in Alberta, concerned about the same things this Vancouver crowd was – the environment, health, jobs. He found his right-wing business angle wasn’t connecting with them, so he thought he’d try again, on a level they could relate to.

He says he got paid $40,000 by publisher McLelland & Stewart and had no contact with the oil industry whatsoever during the writing of the book (which begs the question how he was able to conduct his research). Perhaps Mr. Smith should have posed a follow-up question: “Will you accept money from the oil industry in the future?”

Mr. Levant has four major criteria for judging the ethical quotient of a given oil source: the environment, peace and conflict, economic justice, and the treatment of minorities. For each of these categories, he scores the Tar Sands comparably higher than other major oil producing nations – as he explained in often colourful language:

The bastards, dictators, misogynists, and terrorists have the oil. The Saudis brought us 9/11. Iran is using their oil profits to build a nuclear bomb. We’re the only good guys…If you give a damn about women, gay people, aboriginal people (because the Tar Sands is their biggest employer), peace, and economic justice for working people, then you should support Alberta Oil.

As for concerns raised by West and members of the audience, Levant had pat, if not convincing, rebuttals for most. He downplayed the infamous duck fatalities in tailings ponds – “I eat 50 chicken wings on a Friday night at the pub.” Dr. John O’Connor, who rang alarm bells over the health of aboriginal people in Fort Chipewyan, was dismissed as “a liar.”

Levant’s also not a big believer in man-made climate change: “Anyone who knows there was an ice age – and knows we’re not presently in one – should be able to recognize that the earth warms and cools on natural cycles.” Touché.

Finally, to tell the world’s emerging economies, such as China, that they shouldn’t embrace oil-dependant car culture as we have is, in itself, “unethical.”

Ben West hit all the right notes with his response to Levant – and kept up in the theatre and humour department, not an easy task with Levant. His closing statement took the form of a poem, framed as an intervention: “Ezra, we brought you here because you have an addiction and we want to help you…”

Put on the spot, West focused on alternatives to oil – such as conservation, clean alternate energy technologies, electrified public transit, and walkable communities. He called for an end to oil and gas subsidies – which is one of the strongest arguments against these supposed “free market” guys. And he brought it down to a local level when he suggested British Columbians have an opportunity and a responsibility to deal with the Tar Sands by stopping two major pipelines from Alberta – the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline to Kitimat, and the proposed expansion of the Kinder-Morgan pipeline to Vancouver. To this end, in his closing statement, Levant repeated his mantra, “If you kill the Enbridge pipeline, then you’re forcing China to get its oil from less ethical sources.”

Levant’s routine – regardless of his professed independence from the massive PR campaign to save the Tar Sands’ image – is basically a more entertaining, frank, and at times clever version of those CAPP commercials and Stelmach billboards.

It’s surprisingly unsophisticated and built upon a foundation of non-sequitur arguments…But George Bush got re-elected on a national security platform – a draft dodger running against a bona fide war hero, no less – after demonstrably lying about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Which goes to show you that arguments don’t need to be smart or true to work.

The fact is these people don’t have the benefit of a naturally good argument – so they must do the best with what they have. And on that front, I wouldn’t count them out. Any PR guru will tell you, pick a simple message and stick to it. And wherever possible, use fear as the primary motivator – you know, like Al Queda and Iranian nukes. Moreover, whether or not this argument works in Canada is less crucial than whether it works in the United Sates. And we’ve seen how effectively the “national security card” can be played there.

It will be interesting to see where the debate – and Levant, for that matter – goes from here. In any event, it made for an informative and entertaining battle at the Rio last night.



About Damien Gillis

Damien Gillis is a Vancouver-based documentary filmmaker with a focus on environmental and social justice issues - especially relating to water, energy, and saving Canada's wild salmon - working with many environmental organizations in BC and around the world. He is the co-founder, along with Rafe Mair, of The Common Sense Canadian, and a board member of both the BC Environmental Network and the Haig-Brown Institute.

40 thoughts on “Fight Night at the Rio: Ethical Oil vs. Tar Sands Environmental Disaster

  1. Mike, you’re largely repeating yourself here. As for your new comments, I didn’t call you a “climate change denier,” but since you brought it up, “skeptic” is euphemism you can use yourself – but don’t begrudge others for choosing their own language, or pull the holocaust card again. There’s been more then enough emotionally-charged use of that term in the context of this strain and debate and it’s both preposterous and unfair of you to insinuate someone using the term “CC denier” is drawing a comparison to “holocaust denier.” I too don’t have time to go into it here, but suffice it to say I have reams of data to challenge your contention that Tar Sands oil is only minimally less carbon-intensive than other conventional sources. Besides, most critics of the Tar Sands would contend that we need to transition away from ALL FOSSIL FUELS. As for Fish Lake – it’s a bad proposal that that threatened to destroy a fish bearing lake, important to local ecologies and indigenous people. They could have built it without destroying the lake but it would have hampered their profits. Now they come back and suggest they can build it differently after all. Taseko/Hawes/et al screwed up.

  2. I’m not a denier (I don’t think that’s appropriate word to use describing them anyways, as it’s an obvious cheap-shot attempt to associate CC skeptics with wing-nut holocaust-deniers, and thus paint them as crazy, low-life “fact” deniers; effective, but hardly honest); but I definitely believe that the science is not settled as to whether it’s anthropogenic or not. One thing I do know (factual) is that a barrel of oil from the tar sands is responsible for only about 8-14% more CO2 than a barrel of medium crude. I don’t have the space to go into it here, but although it takes about 300% more energy to process a TS barrel, that only constituents about 10% of the CO2 from that oil’s life-cycle. People have to admit that for every barrel of oil that does not come from the tar sands, it comes from elsewhere. Much like, for instance, prosperity mine (Fish lake) .. fine, stop the mine … but don’t think for a second that the world is going to use less copper … it will just come from a much dirtier and less regulated mine somewhere else in the world, with much more pollution. What ever happened the saying “Think Globally, Act Locally”. It’s a perfect example of environmental NIMBY.

  3. Mike, you too are making some enormous assumptions and hypotheses here, when peoples’ lives hang in the balance. Tar Sands apologists are going to have to come around some time to dealing with THE PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE – especially as more data comes to light on the health impacts of these operations. The onus is on people like yourself to prove there aren’t elevated cancer rates and other health impacts here, not the other way around. For my part, I don’t claim any expertize whatsoever in this area and have evidently spent less time reading and dissecting reports than you have. But I will be paying attention going forward. Given the amount of waste water these operations create – up to 1.8 Billion litres a day – and the potential for seepage from tailings ponds, as we’ve recently seen, ( ) we need to be more vigilant on this matter. And let us not forget the myriad other reasons for rethinking the expansion of the Tar Sands – including climate-change-causing carbon emissions (I seriously hope you’re not a CC-denier like Levant!), and the ecological devastation of the boreal forest.

  4. Damien,
    My contention was simply that such a claim (30-60%) is ludicrous, even for the disgusting residential schools. As for the link from straight-out-of-Edmonton, and the report, I’ve read them all …….. it appears that they’re hanging their hat on the 51 cancer cases, instead of 39 …. even though it’s well within the standard statistical anomaly (margin-of-error) for the size of study group, and concentrating on the cover-your-ass catchment “MAY PLAY A ROLE” as an absolute. Hypothetically, if the cancer rate was actually lower in a downstream community, would they then claim that the lower rate MAY be due to the upstream tar sands activity ?(I doubt it, and the analogy isn’t hypothetical at all, by the way). Personally, I expect that the fact that 16.8% of Canadians 16 & up smoke, and that 62.2% of First Nations 16 & up smoke (Health Canada) might have something to do with elevated-from-the-norm rates of cancer (and is a MUCH, MUCH more serious First Nations health issue than the tar sands could ever be) …. along with the ridiculous amounts of carbonated drinks & processed-foods consumed on reserves (relative to the general population) just might be the culprits.

  5. Mike, inaccuracy is not listed as a reason for removing postings under our comments policy – though if it were I may also have to remove your post for misquoting “ezra & others..”. The comment you cited actually claimed “5-yr mortality rates of 30%-60% in residential schools” – which is very different from suggesting declining aboriginal populations in Canada. But we’ve gotten off topic. The issue at hand is the health impacts of the Tar Sands on aboriginal peoples in and around Fort Chip. I do feel Mr. Levant and several posters on this strain have downplayed the matter – for Mr. Levant it is critical to his argument, as evidence to the contrary would undermine point #4 of his “ethical oil” criteria – “treatment of minorities”. If the health of aboriginal peoples in Alberta is being adversely affected by pollution from the Tar Sands, then Mr. Levant has a problem, which I believe he does. As another poster, Jimbo, noted here: “Levant attacks Dr. O’Connor, but conveniently ignores a 2009 Alberta Health study that found cancer rates in the community to be 30% higher than expected and that upstream oilsands industrial activity may play a role. Read more at

  6. Hi Damien,
    I understand and admire that you don’t censor your site, but when people make obviously silly and utterly false “statement-of-facts”, I would say it’s an abuse of the comments section, it does you a disservice, and should be deleted.
    Example: Eza-needs-help: “30-60% of kids were dead within five years”. How ridiculous.
    I stand by my Statistics-Canada statement that the First Nations population increased 7X while the Canadian population increased 2X …… hardly a genocide when the “victims” increase 350% faster than the “perpetrators”. Do you think if the Jewish population INCREASED from 6 million to 42 million under the Nazi’s it would still be called genocide ?
    Please, we need serious discussion on this form.

  7. My apologies…just one more comment

    The Alberta government’s Climate Change fund is run by a former CEO of Syncrude while Alberta’s Carbon Capture fund is run by a former President of Syncrude.

    According to the US Electric Power Research Inst. (EPRI), the governments of Canada (which I guess includes the governments of Alberta and Saskatchewan) have contributed $1.13 billion taxpayers dollars to carbon capture and storage pilot projects.

    Not only are taxpayers paying for these projects but they are also going to pay more for the electrical energy consumption. According to the EPRI presentation the cost per Mwh will go from $64 to $105!

    What alternatives do consumers have? Were consumers granted the opportunity to determine the future source of their energy needs? How many more coal fired power plants will be required by 2030 (Canada’s projected population to increase by 50%)? Is there enough storage capacity in the ground for all the CO2 that will be generated by additional coal fired power plants?

  8. Part 4: The case for expanding awareness of all major GHG and toxic emitting facilities in Canada (Alberta and Saskatchewan coal fired power plants) must be on the minds of ENGO’s, however, this does not mean one should take their focus off of the tar sands and the many projects proposed in both Alberta and Saskatchewan but are not yet completed.

    According to Electric Power Research Inst. the addition of post combustion capture of CO2 technology can reduce the efficiency of a coal fired power unit by 21% and reduce the net power generated by 20%.

    CO2 or a portion of that gas may be captured and stored properly however since we have an abundance of coal will this mean many more coal fired power plants are on the way? What about the other toxic pollutants released from coal fired power plants? Mercury and other toxins are released from burning coal including several other GHG’s.

    Hopefully I have added to the discussion and not confused or ambushed it. When we focused on Kyoto as the panacea we lost sight of whether or not Kyoto would have achieved what our atmosphere and planet requires to remain healthy for us and all other life on the planet.

    Levant should be ignored.

  9. Part 3: Coal fired power plants made up six of the top ten toxic polluters in Canada in 2005. Tar Sands giant Suncor was not in the top ten but the other tar sands giant Syncude was at #4, base on one of its operations at Mildred Lake, AB (Ft. McMurray Tar Sands).

    Coal fired power plants in Canada made up eight of the top ten greenhouse gas emitters in 2005. Tar sands Syncrude was #3 on the list and Suncor dropped from 4th on the list in 2004 to 6th on the list in 2005. This doesn’t mean that Suncor produced less GHG’s than 2004 though, it only means that the coal fired power plants produced more GHG’s.

    So when we focus on two of the many GHG polluters in Canada we shouldn’t ignore the other major greenhouse gas emitters and toxic polluters in Canada. It’s not just CO2 that sickens our atmosphere, our land and the people who live on the land.

    Carbon capture and storage technology reduces the efficiency of coal fired power units. Energy is required to operate the CCS equipment and this lowers the efficiency of the coal fired power units.

    To operate a “zero emission” coal fired power plant, 25% of electricity generated by the plant is used to operate the CCS equipment.

  10. Part 2: Six of the top ten GHG emitters in Canada in 2004 were coal fired power plants.

    Jim Prentice, prior to resigning his Environment Minister’s job in Ottawa, announced the phasing out of coal fired power plants, however, two years earlier, the feds announced funding for carbon capture and storage (CCS) for coal fired power plants. A pilot project was built in Estevan Saskatchewan where SaskPower has 7 coal fired power plant units. If you want to know who emitted more GHG’s than Syncrude and Suncor in 2004 it was SaskPower.

    Alberta now has a fund of over $2 billion for CCS and touts this as the answer to its GHG emission reduction strategy although the technology of storage has yet to tested in the long term. Zero emission coal fired power plants cost over $3 billion a piece and given that price tag even SaskPower passed on building one relying more on CCS.

    CCS has its critics. One such criticism is the use of CO2 pumped underground to assist in bringing up residual crude oil from “exhausted” oil fields. It is rather ironic that CO2 in a CCS system will be used to recover oil which in turn will be burned which in turn will release more CO2 which can’t be captured.

  11. Part One: If you think Alberta’s only dirty carbon emissions come from the Tar Sands think again.

    Alberta relies on coal-fired power plants for 59% of their electricity needs but with the addition of gas fired power plants over 90% of Alberta’s electrical energy production comes from burning fossil fuels.

    Alberta has an accessible reserve of 37 billion tonnes of coal and burns 32 million tonnes of coal a year to operate its coal fired power plants. It will take over 1,000 years to exhaust its coal reserves.

    As you can imagine, burning coal represents a significant portion of Alberta’s greenhouse gas emissions. According to the Pembina Institute more than 25% of all of Alberta’s greenhouse gas emissions;

    When the federal government in 2006 released a list of 324 industrial facilities and the amount of greenhouse gases each facility emits it wasn’t Suncor or Syncrude that headed the list of polluters in Canada. It was TransAlta’s Sundance coal fired power plant in Wabamun, 70 kms west of Edmonton, that led the pack.

    Syncrude ranked 3rd highest polluter of greenhouse gases in Canada and Suncor 4th. Seven of the top ten GHG emitters in Canada were in Alberta.

  12. confused:
    “If you happen to live within another culture, you should be ready to adapt to that culture. ”

    This is too funny, if the implication weren’t so sad…

    Do you realize who lived here first??

    And yes: a residential school system where 30-60% of kids were dead within 5 yrs is a genocide under the definition of the word:
    deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group

  13. Confused, you attack my work, but fail to cite a single concrete example of the “distortions” you allege. Which is because you have none. I stand by the accuracy of everything I publish – and so long as you deal in baseless generalizations and ad hominem attacks, it is you that isn’t being truthful. Go ahead and deconstruct a video of mine if you like – but publish your comments on the relevant story, as opposed to here. This strain has gone on long enough.

  14. Fort Chipewyan residents of a reason to be concerned about how oilsands development is impacting their health. Levant attacks Dr. O’Connor, but conveniently ignores a 2009 Alberta Health study that found cancer rates in the community to be 30% higher than expected and that upstream oilsands industrial activity may play a role. Read more at

  15. Damien – if you care so much for truthfulness and honesty – than please explain, why is it that your videos are propagandist in nature, and it is so easy to spot the distortions? It is one thing being an editorialist, voicing an opinion. It is wholly another matter to create propaganda. Hasn’t the lesson’s of WWII been learnt that propaganda plays to the hand of rightwing fascism and playing on people’s emotions is not only an insult to their intelligence but also a disservice to their politics.

    Just like scoundrels who maintain a necessary air of piety, I am very skeptical of those who claim “truthfulness” and who are oblivious to the facts. If you wish I will deconstruct any one of your videos – if you may.

  16. I agree with you, Nicholas, that “distortions are detrimental to any honest debate.” And also when you say, “I don’t think that the purity of a cause eliminates the responsibility of truth.” To that end I take issue with both ENGOs and corporate lobbies who distort or ignore the truth to advance their arguments. That said, the notion that environmental groups are generally less honest than the oil and gas industry is preposterous to me. The Shells, BPs, and Exxon’s of the world are true masters of deception – surpassing even Big Tobacco at this point. It’s also a matter of scale. No matter the inflated budgets of some corporate ENGOs, they pale in comparison to the billions these companies – the most profitable in the world (on the order of $30 Billion a year in PROFITS for the big ones) – have to spend on their PR. They also cleverly create fake environmental orgs, know as “astroturf” groups to manipulate the public and advance their agenda…I avoided choosing a “winner” in the debate. I think it was more interesting to hear the two arguments – particularly for me to study Ezra’s positive spin on the the Tar Sands, as I noted in my piece.

  17. Yes, fair enough. I guess I was quite guilty of spitting hairs there; should have stopped beating that dead horse a while ago (today is metaphor day).
    On the other point, I would contend quite the opposite; I’ve observed the vast majority of environmental lobby/activists (regardless of size) to find actual facts and realities extremely inconvenient and annoying; and are thus much more adapt at distortion (okay .. lying) than the clumsy multi-nationals. I’m very much a linear thinker and I find distortions detrimental to any honest debate. I don’t think that the purity of a clause eliminates the responsibility of truth. On another note, I just watched the debate again on You-Tube and I can’t imagine how any objective observer could not content that Levant has a very easy winner, hands-down. Facts, facts, facts, facts and more facts from Levant …. rhetoric and crowd-pandering from your friend Ben (& Charlie). Levant was in the lions den and he answered every question straight-forward and repudiated every single point made by West. Of course, I’m hardly objective on the subject myself. Thanks for your indulgence and correspondence. I won’t bug you any more.

  18. Nicholas, thank you for the patronizing syntax lesson. Of course I take whatever Ezra has to say with a pound of salt. However, your charge earlier that I outright implied he was being untruthful is beyond the pale. As to your questions: 1. I am an editorialist, not a reporter – I’ve never pretended to be otherwise, and made that abundantly clear within this piece; 2. I’m wary of, and have been critical in the past of large ENGO foundations; that said, of course there’s a difference between being funded by the oil industry and being funded by big environmental foundations. The difference is the intent behind the money and the truthfulness of the campaigns to which it is applied. The oil industry has a long and well-documented history of funding bogus science and PR that outright lies to the public to influence public policy so as to maximize profits from environmentally catastrophic resource exploitation. That said, I’m quite sure there are instances of corporate ENGO funding going to devious purposes that don’t serve the public interest. Naturally I am opposed to that.

  19. Damien,
    I’ve been away for a day, so one last kick-at-the-can, if you’ll oblige.
    By placing what is essentially a rider or caveat, such as “according to”, when reporting a statement from a person whom could ONLY possess 100% factual information regarding the statement (Levant would certainly know if he was accepting money from the oil industry), is an attempt to at least insinuate a possibility of untruthfulness. I sincerely believe it would be disingenuous to state otherwise. It’s nothing to be ashamed-of, we all have many personal bias(s); I’m probably more guilty than anyone on that account. It’s just that I try to read your columns as closer to “reporting” than an opinion piece (“we must be our own media”, remember ?). If I am mistaken in making this assumption, I apologize. As for my own web-site, I am much too opinionated and bias for such an item to be of any use to anyone, other than maybe a misguided ego-trip for myself.

    Just as an aside, I am curious (and I AM NOT casting dispersions !): Do you feel that there is a fundamental difference between being in the pay of “the corporate oil industry” and being in the pay of the “corporate environmental industry”.

  20. Fair comment JohnD: I also do wish that people would not throw around the term “genocide” quite so easily. The Canadian population doubled (2x) from 1951 to 2001, primarily from immigration of course; during the same period, first nations population increased seven-fold (7x), almost exclusively via birthrate and healthcare. First nations are the fastest growing segment of Canada’s established population. Our first nations certainly have many legitimate grievances, both historical and present, but lets find a more appropriate (and accurate) word than “genocide”; not doing so diminishes the meaning of the word.

  21. Re: Ezra needs help
    Considering your post, I find it difficult to believe you were even there … if you actually were, you had blinders on, and are void of objectivity. “Gitz” was a ignorant loud-mouthed bully, and attempted to pull the evening into the gutter. His ilk is detrimental to the cause. “Holocaust” has had an exclusive reference in the English language for over 60 years now, and to pretend otherwise is simply dishonest in the extreme. To heckle with, and throw the term about such as he did, was EXACTLY the definition of Jew-baiting. I was embarrassed for us.

  22. I have a question. Is there necessarily a correlation between Climate Change and AGW? The earth warms. The earth cools. Ask the Sun!

    At a transportation conference last week the speaker asked hand up those who believe climate change is man made? All hands dutifully rose except for a couple of us. Nevertheless the parking lot was full of SUV’s. The next day it snowed: it is still snowing.

    Must we oppose mining the Tar Sands only because it is changing the climate?

    What if AGW is a hoax to impose more taxes and people still raise their hands while doing absolutely nothing to clean up their act . . . what then?

    The industry is a national calamity, devastating vast natural areas and rivers: an environmental assault any government with integrity would shun.

    Any sane person would opposed the Tar sands, R of R, pipelines, tanker traffic, degradation of the air we breath, airborne detritus and 50 storey buildings planners and architects tell us are green and sustainable!

    Rallying with placards is fun but unless we practice what we preach, put our money where our mouths are, what then?

  23. “Cultural genocide” ??? WTH is this?

    To compare a manufactured grievance “cultural genocide” to anti-semitism and the Holocaust is bigotry, and shows a profound lack of understanding of politics and the historical record.

    Cultures die and are born by the minute. Read some history and get a sense of society and the human condition. If you happen to live within another culture, you should be ready to adapt to that culture. It is called tolerance, respect, and intelligence. All species adapt – except for some bigotted whiners.

  24. I must concede to Damien and he is correct.

    I must add that CSC has been one of few activist blogs that do not come down on commentors with an iron fist, when they disagree.

    Free speech is honoured here, thanks to Damien – unlike the vast majority of lefty blogs (other exceptions: Bill Tieleman and Georgia Straight).

  25. Gitz (the indigenous man) never denied the Jewish Holocaust — he was asking that Levant recognize the cultural genocide that Gitz believes Natives have been subjected to in Canada (50% TB rate and 5-yr mortality rates of 30%-60% in residential schools, and now environmental contamination that is precluding them from their cultural practices.)

    Disagree with him if you want, but Gitz was careful not to deny the Jewish Holocaust, and was in no way “Jew-baiting” as Levant claimed. Gitz very clearly wanted to keep the discussion on the topic of the environmental related cancers arising among his people.

    Indeed, Levant failed to mention that the Alberta Cancer Board found higher than expected cancer in Fort Chip (see: “Cancer Incidence in Fort Chipewyan, Alberta”, which Alberta Health Services appears to have taken off their website since this morning, strangely enough… but can be still found in “google books”)

    Contrary to “confused”, dead ducks aren’t the only thing Gitz appears concerned about. Yet rather than deal with the issues, Levant resorted to name-calling and personal attacks.

    Not that it matters much, but I thought Levant’s behaviour was disgraceful.

  26. And yet you keep returning “confused”…No censor here – and you know better, as a repeat commenter who’s yet to have a comment censored. As I’ve said before, confused indeed!

  27. Well said Nicholas Headon.

    If you wish to see lies, just visit some of the articles and videos made by people here (to remain unnamed).

    Now rears his ugly head, the censor …

  28. Anyone who defends women and gays and the powerless downtrodden and offers them jobs – is the good guy in my books. I think it is sheer bigotry to expect thousands of humans and childrens to be out of jobs and out of a decent living standard because 1% of 1% of 1% of the ducks in Alberta got killed (inadvertantly). How many are killed by pets and aboriginals and hunters, may I ask.

    On this important count, it looks like Levant won, and the bigots lost.

  29. Thank you for your comments and firsthand perspective, John. Apart from your account of the man in question’s behaviour – and I agree, from the sound of it, there are better ways to get your message across, and to moderate an event (though I have experienced a few moments like these as a moderator and they are tricky to say the least) – I was nevertheless taken aback by Ezra’s follow-up blog. Thanks for your posting though.

  30. You feel words like “according to” are loaded with insinuation?! What language would you have me use, Nicholas? Better yet, why don’t you get your own website and write the piece yourself…All things considered, I think I gave Levant a pretty fair shake. You can infer whatever you like.

  31. Damien,
    Point taken, and as such, ACCORDING to you and your PROFESSED CLAIM that I misrepresented your words below, I accept your explanation:

    – “Lavent CLAIMED none whatsoever”
    – “ACCORDING to Levant, absolutely not”
    – “regardless of his PROFESSED independence from the”

    Obviously, you weren’t trying to “insinuate” anything.

  32. Dear Damien,
    I was there, throughout the questions, and have read Levant`s blog link below, and to be frank, Levant is kinder to the man than I would have been in his place. He was an embarrassment to the proceedings and Charlie should have never let him proceed. He made a mockery of the proceedings; and is an embarrassment to the cause. Being an indigenous man (to use your words) does not give someone carte blanche to be ignorant and turn the debate into Jerry Springer. He continually used the word holocaust, trying to bait Levant, who to his credit was above it all. I disagree with most of what Levant represents and defends; but he demonstrated great restraint and maturity in this instance. You are dead wrong …… it was not Levant who was demeaning his argument.

  33. Nicholas, I assure you, absent your violating our clearly-defined comments policy in the past, we would not have censored any of your postings. We don’t do that here. I don’t review them all myself, so I can’t say with absolute certainty that none of your comments have been removed, but if they were it was strictly for the above reason. I suspect you simply encountered a technical glitch, of which I am unaware. Please feel free to email us by hitting the “contact” button if you should encounter this in the future. Our system isn’t perfect, but we’re always working to make it as seamless as possible…As to your insinuation that my piece implied Ezra was untruthful about the funding for his book, you’re off-base. I said it was a logical question to ask – especially in light of Mr. Levant’s critiques of the funding sources of environmental groups opposed to the Tar Sands – and I asked how he could conduct thorough research for his book without having ANY CONTACT with the oil industry (which is very different from receiving funding – and a logical question). But I did not in any way imply he was being disingenuous about his claims – for you to suggest so is misrepresenting my words.

  34. I really don’t know why I’m attempting (again) to post a comment from the other-side-of-the-tracks here, as I’ve never had one of my comments make it past the CSC monitor yet, as the CSC editors/censors only appear to want to publish an echo chamber (how brave) ….. but here I go (again), paddling up-stream:
    – To imply throughout the column that somehow Levant is “on -the-take” by the evils of big oil, and not take him at his word, is simply sleazy writing (not to mention the very lazy straw-man journalism displayed above … how did Bush and WMD get into this debate ?). I believe that even Rafe would contend that Levant, love-him-or-hate-him, disagree-or-agree, has always displayed an integrity and honesty beyond reproach or compromise (much like Rafe himself, I should add). Throughout his career he has never demonstrated anything but; I defy anyone to locate one instance of Levant lying; he should be taken at his word, period, full-stop.
    – Don’t ever let facts get in the way of prejudices: “out of hundreds of thousands (hectares)”; try 21,000 hectares, total.
    Well, I see I’m reaching the end of my quota here, so I’d better send this off into oblivion, never to be seen again

  35. Author’s note: I had to leave just prior to the end of the final segment – the audience Q&A. Evidently, things got a little out of hand just after my departure – and I must say, based on Ezra’s own follow-up blog today, that I probably would have characterized him differently if I had seen the exchange he describes – Suffice it to say I find Levan’t dismissal of this indigenous man from Fort Chipewyan, deeply affected by the environmental impacts of the Tar Sands – based on the race card as repugnant and intellectually dishonest. For a man of his clear oratory skill, I’m puzzled why he would see fit to sink to this level, thus demeaning his argument.

  36. “The fact is these people don’t have the benefit of a naturally good argument”

    They don’t need facts – or arguments. They use “narrative”. That is the Bush campaign used, and what the GOP – and Stephen Harper – still rely on. They know they are right and that everyone else is either delusional or a liar.

    That’s not a debate. It’s a slanging match.

  37. Levant and his ilk are grasping at straws now, deep down even they know the TAR sands are unsustainable. Good job Ben West. Thank goodness we have the wilderness committee!!

    Next time I want ringside seats!

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