If not Civil Disobedience, what? Letters to the editor?…Rafe Mair on the necessary response to Site C Dam, Kinder Morgan

84 year-old retried librarian Barbara Grant getting arrested at Burnaby Mountain (Burnaby Mountain Updates/facebook)
84 year-old retired librarian Barbara Grant getting arrested at Burnaby Mountain (Burnaby Mountain Updates/facebook)

Beyond doubt, British Columbia must get involved in two separate and substantial actions of civil disobedience, one with Site C and the other with the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline.

Civil disobedience runs against the grain of many people but I beg you to hear me out because we have reached the point where there is nothing left for our free society to do if it seriously wants to maintain any semblance of that freedom.

Sham dictatorship

Let me state a critical axiom of democracy: It’s not important that those who dissent get their way but what is critically important, fundamentally important, is that they get to be heard in a meaningful way. The moment people are denied the right to speak their opinion freely and with a clear opportunity to convince the government that they are right, there is no democracy left but only a sham dictatorship of the elite.

Let’s examine our system and see if we meet that test and use the Kinder Morgan pipeline decision as the example.

British Columbians, I think it’s fair to say, are vehemently opposed to this; what then is the answer Premier Clark and Prime Minister Trudeau would give to those who complain that they cannot get a hearing that matters?

Why, they would be told, you have both the legislature and the Parliament of Canada and all you need do is persuade 50% +1 of either of those bodies and your complaint will be satisfied. It is at this point that I have a lot of trouble containing my anger.

We’ve been told a lot of rubbish, starting in childhood. I did a paper on this so-called system of “responsible government”, which paper has been highly praised by people who understand government. It’s easy to understand – you will be appalled at the simplicity of the methods used to steal away your democracy.

In the last federal election, it was impossible for any British Columbian to elect an MP who opposed the Kinder Morgan pipeline because the leaders of both the Liberal and Tory party supported it. Every Liberal and Tory MP were bound by party discipline to support the leader’s policy or be thrown out of caucus and the party. Think about that. Their judgment on this issue was already made for them. Even if the leader waited until after the election, his decision was also automatically that of all his MPs.

The fix is in

Now, if I am right that a majority of BC citizens oppose Kinder Morgan, of what use was their parliament? Their concerns would never be discussed, much less voted upon. Even if the Opposition were against the project, since no government MP would dare vote against it, the entire process becomes a sham, a make-believe debate and a vote where the fix is in. In fact, no longer can government be bothered and cabinet endorses the deal behind closed doors.

Since the BC government has always been in favour, over 4 million British Columbians have turned its forests, rivers, streams, land, coastline, marine line and public safety over to the tender mercies of the fossil fuel industry without any say in the matter!

And somehow it would be undemocratic to say “fuck you, we’re going to stop you, without using violence, from ravaging our beautiful province”?

In a nutshell, it’s lawful to be a thief and unlawful to try to stop him!

Media part of the problem

We are in a very different world from that even a few years ago. The people have caught onto big business and big government and know they’ve have been lying through their teeth for years. It’s taken a while but voters now realize that their vote really doesn’t mean much. Capital now owns governments – one only has to look at the situation in British Columbia to see how the fossil fuel-dominated media has not only supported the industry’s actions but meekly supports the lickspittles that make up the government. As long as the government behaves and does as it’s told then the muckrakers confine themselves to accepting large fees for making speeches before gatherings of friends of the government. It has become a pathetic sight, especially for a former cabinet minister like me who still bears the justifiable scars inflicted by Jack Webster, Marjorie Nichols, Jim Hume, Pat Burns, Gary Bannerman, Allan Fotheringham, Jack Wasserman, and the like, upon whom the public could rely to keep our feet firmly to the fire.

With respect, you the public must ask yourselves what you will do where there is an absence of any legitimate democratic process, where there is no place you can effectively voice your concerns and where the media won’t do it because they, the government and the domineering fossil fuel industry are all on the same team.

I have no hesitation in concluding that civil disobedience, properly exercised, is the only tool left to the voter to replace the meaningful vote they are supposed to have but have been cheated out of.

Next week, a look at Site C Dam.


About Rafe Mair

Rafe Mair, LL.B, LL.D (Hon) a B.C. MLA 1975 to 1981, was Minister of Environment from late 1978 through 1979. In 1981 he left politics for Talk Radio becoming recognized as one of B.C.'s pre-eminent journalists. An avid fly fisherman, he took a special interest in Atlantic salmon farms and private power projects as environmental calamities and became a powerful voice in opposition to them. Rafe is the co-founder of The Common Sense Canadian and writes a regular blog at rafeonline.com.

29 thoughts on “If not Civil Disobedience, what? Letters to the editor?…Rafe Mair on the necessary response to Site C Dam, Kinder Morgan

  1. Rafe….thank you for all your hard work in exposing the true agenda of the Liberals, both here in BC and in Ottawa.

    I don’t know if I am a conspiracy theorist or not, but I do have a real concern about the IPP’s that keep rushing the Government to approve their projects. Our local Regional District cannot even get information about proposed projects for our area. And when they do hold an information meeting for citizens, the IPP proponent does not even show up. My concern is that these IPP’s may have a more sinister side to them, and that is the control over the water for many years to come. My concern is that many of these projects will be approved for hydro power (which as we know we will mostly likely not need) and when they are not needed for the electrical output, they will ask the government with a stroke of a pen to convert their leases into water use leases so that they can, if they choose, sell the water on the open market. This has long been a concern of mine about our water resources. The IPP’s will argue that they need to recover their capital investment and that if they cannot do it by producing electricity, they will do it by selling our rivers and lake water to a thirsty world. Again, I may be out in left field with this one, but I have become so distrustful of any sort of government, that I wouldn’t put this idea out of the realm of future reality.

  2. Even at the last Kinder Morgan rally I attended, organized by BROKE, I was denied an opportunity, along with everyone else, to voice my opposition to the pipeline. Only written comments with no names attached were permitted. Then the moderator chose which written comments would be read. I walked out in disgust. That showed me how elusive our democracy can be but still how important it is to speak up for it as I’m doing now.

      1. And look where that got you! Isn’t Rafe’s definition of insanity: ‘Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”?

        1. As the song says.

          I dont care…..

          I will never ever vote for that vapid, lying opportunist.

          She deserves jail, not my vote.

  3. If we sit around waiting for a Super Hero to defend our planet and our rights there won’t be any planet or freedoms.

  4. Not just civil disobedience, though.

    Lawsuits can be very effective, especially when they invoke native rights that are supposed to be protected by treaties and the Constitution. They may be useful even if they don’t win because they force the government to argue the case in an open court.

    Pressure on local governments may also work. For example, at Burnaby Mountain I’d like to see the city police arresting anyone trying to drill holes in a park. “You have a permit from some federal agency? Tell that to the judge.”

  5. On May 9th, 2017 return a semblance of respect to BC politics. Vote no for the commission plus base pay BC Premier. The BC Liberals have had sixteen years at the helm. We can do better.

  6. I’m with you, Rafe. Just send me the date and time and I’ll be there. I’ve signed all the petitions, written all the letters, attended all the rallies, and donated whenever possible . We must do more.

  7. thanks, Rafe., for putting the truth into the public domain. Some of us are listening. I think the great Hordes of the Brainwashed don’t give a damn. Maybe when we can’t afford heat and lights because bc hydro has been totally privatized and Nestle owns every drop of our drinking water and our coastal waters and beaches and coated in heavy oil people will see that our great country has been raped and pillaged.

  8. The government has promised many things that have not happened. What is happening with amending Bill C-51, for example. Where is the electoral reform and where is the respect for indigenous people. I thought things would be different but this government is like all the others. It is controlled by corporations and it is not guided by solid moral and ethics (see $1500 to go to a fundraiser and buy the ear of a Minister) and goes whichever way seems expedient at the time. A tremendous disappointment! No wonder the Island is an NDP stronghold!

  9. Nature, animals and plants, requires ZERO from humans. Humans require EVERYTHING from nature. Yet we keep our blinders on as if water and air, agriculture can be developed in a lab and we can carry on following the Kardashians on Twitter and getting our manipeds and false eyelashes and all will be WONDERFUL. Maybe it is time we just anhilate ourselves openly, as we’ve been doing through our politics and economics, as apparently we are too STOOPID as a species. Our politicians’ actions speak louder than our politicians’ words. Dumb and dumber. Sigh…

  10. Rafe was a member of the last and only provincial government in BC to hold in depth, and open hearings into a project in BC. The Site C hearings in 82/83 were perhaps the most fair, and democratic process that has ever existed in Canada. Since then respective governments have weakened the BCUC, at first because it wasn’t necessary to have a major hearing because proponents never got that far.

    But the BC Liberals went beyond that, writing the legislation that wrote the BCUC out of the regulatory process and further weakened its mandate and ability to carry out a reliable and open process. At the same time the Provincial Liberals allowed Hydro to get away with a laughable Environmental Impact Statement/financial impact assessment for the recent Joint Review Panel into Site C. Is Mr Mair right, have we no options but massive civil disobedience?

    I would like to hear a response from our present day politicians

    1. Good luck with that. I’m sending a hard copy of Rafe’s column by snail mail to a few relevant politicians, and even then I probably won’t get a response.

    2. I expect politicians to have different notions of telling the truth and common decency- I hope I didn’t but probably did – but the all-time low was surely Christy Clark using the late premier Bill Bennett’s Memorial Service to spout the egregious falsehood that Site C was his policy that she was carrying on and would take past the “point on no return” was the made all the worse by the absence of an apology. I hesitate to beiieve, but must, that she didn’t know any better.

      I admit that I mention this out of anger but much more to show that Clark is a coward who would use a moment she was expected to show the province’s respect for a late leader to falsely claim his endorsement. I have watched a hell of a lot of BC Premiers of all political stripes but have never seen anything approaching this lack of class.

      1. And the anger is wasted, because she well knows only you and a half dozen others of us remember.

        She is just too slick for our own good.

  11. Dear Lynn Wilbur,

    I’m at a loss for the right words of appreciation for what your wrote! And, of course for Rafe Mair’s assessment of our situation and the call for recognition of it.

  12. I whole wholeheartedly agree with you Rafe Mair. Some facts are self evident. We have a preeminent moral duty to protect our only Earthly home, especially when there are folk on board, living among us, who are intent upon damaging its life support systems. There is a simple thought experiment, which I think is worth doing, to help us visualize our actual present day, dire situation quite clearly…….Imagine, if you will, that you and I are travelling with others on a human made spaceship, and we come to the realization that the ship´s life support systems are being systematically sabotaged by prominent leaders on board. What do you think we would do? Write letters. make phone calls, write a book, write comments in newspapers, do Facebook etc. etc.? Somehow I don´t think so.

    1. Well said Lynn, unfortunately, most still believe the prominent leaders are looking out for us.

      We do need more integrity driven people such as Rafe and Damien that are not scared to call a spade a spade.

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