Linda McQuaig is a long-time opponent of Alberta oil sands, her comments surprised no one
As a political centrist who supports both oil and gas and clean energy technologies, I’m often in the middle of these “fossil fuels vs. renewables” debates. Frankly, the eco-activists and the energy boosters both deserve to be labelled “snowflakes” – someone who is delicate, fragile, sensitive and melts the moment heat is applied, according to the onlineslangdictionary.com. Both sides snivel about the other, as if only their position has any political legitimacy. Dr. Patrick Moore, supposedly a co-founder of Greenpeace and now a high profile climate denier, has even called for Canadian pipeline opposition to be a crime. And in this column, I call out eco-activist Seth Klein for whining about criticisms of Linda McQuaig’s criticisms of the Alberta oil sands during the 2015 federal election.
OMG, you guys, why are critics so MEAN to Linda McQuaig? She’s just telling the truth about leaving the oil sands in the ground, OK?
This, readers, is the sad state of Canadian political discourse.
I’m referencing a recent and widely circulated op-ed in The Star by Seth Klein, B.C. director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, entitled “In our politics, telling the truth gets you in trouble.”
Klein’s thesis is that the Toronto NDP candidate’s recent comment that “a lot of the oilsands oil may have to stay in the ground if we’re going to meet our climate change targets” is gospel and should not ever, under any circumstances be challenged or disagreed with.
“McQuaig was attacked from all sides for committing the great sin of telling the truth in an election campaign,” Klein wrote.
“But the McQuaig episode is illustrative of a larger problem: namely, that our politics do not allow for serious — and truly honest — discussion of the most pressing issues of our time.”
Now hang on right there.
Discussion requires at least two sides, for and against. If there’s only one side then you’ve got an echo chamber.
Klein’s resentment of challenges to McQuaid reminds me of the trend on American campuses, driven by students according to Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt in the Sept. issue of The Atlantic, to “scrub campuses clean of words, ideas, and subjects that might cause discomfort or give offense.”
Apparently, junior professors and teaching assistants are being turned into college administrators because they dare – gasp! – to teach ideas that differ from the students’ accepted worldview.
Unlike the political correctness movement during the 1980s and 1990s, which sought to widen the debate about diversity, “the current movement is largely about emotional well-being. More than the last, it presumes an extraordinary fragility of the collegiate psyche, and therefore elevates the goal of protecting students from psychological harm,” argue Lukianoff and Haidt, who perfectly describe Klein and his fellow travelers.
Klein’s goal is not to engage in serious discussion, as he would have us believe, but to narrow that discussion to an agreed upon truth: “…acknowledging that a new global climate treaty is coming, that it will require that Canada leave much of its oil, natural gas and coal reserves in the ground, and that in anticipation of this eventuality Canada must invest extensively in renewables and green infrastructure that will allow us to leap into this transition. There are a lot of jobs in this necessary future, and these should be championed, instead of simply pointing to the jobs that will (and must) disappear.”
Let’s thank Linda McQuaig for injecting the oil sands into the Canadian election. McQuaig is a long-time journalist and environmental activist whose views about the oil sands are well known. She did her job as an NDP candidate by raising the issue.
The job for the rest of us is to engage with her in substantive debate.
The good news is that the Canadian public square is not an echo chamber and there are plenty of Canadians with a different view than Klein and McQuaig who are happy to engage in a serious and honest discussion of the oil sands and national energy policy. Many of them even come armed with facts and data and stuff.
Seth Klein is welcome to join the debate – assuming he can manage to get past Canadians disagreeing with him.