EDITORIAL: More compassion needed in energy projects discourse

Very few people go around cheering when their neighbour’s house catches fire yet, increasingly, that’s what seems to be happening in the ever ongoing issues surrounding oil and pipelines. As protests continue, the rhetoric is being dialled to 11 with less and less sympathy for others.

When Teck pulled their proposal to build a new mine in Alberta, environmental organizations were quick to claim victory. When the Alberta appeal court, ruled the federal carbon tax was unconstitutional this week, it wasn’t hard to find similar responses from the other side of the aisle. Certainly, there’s far worse rhetoric out there than cheering a “win.” We’ve received phone calls and comments that are clearly inflammatory, racist or otherwise problematic.

Regardless of what it may look like, everyone’s on the same team here; we’re all on team Canada, even if we disagree about the best way forward.

As a country, neither the cancellation nor approval of a project is a “win.” In fact, there is no winning at all. If a pipeline gets cancelled, it may be good from a number of perspectives which can include everything from environmental to reconciliation. However, it generally also means fewer jobs and less money coming in.

Any of these projects are too complicated, with too many positives and negatives to be as black and white as winning and losing. Consequently, when environmentalists come out cheering for the cancellation, it sends a message to Alberta workers that they’re not important; that it doesn’t matter that from their perspective, economically speaking, their “house is on fire.”

On the other hand, when proponents cheer when a pipeline goes ahead, it sends a message to pipeline opponents that they don’t care about B.C. coasts, the environment or reconciliation, that it doesn’t matter that, environmentally speaking, their “house is on fire” (as Greenpeace Canada put it).

Even if there really are separate teams, there’s an incredible amount of unsportsmanlike behaviour going on. When we teach kids how to play sports, we teach them to shake hands afterwards. In particularly sportsmanlike moments, you’ll even see players from the winning team consoling upset opponents. In the fight over energy projects, there’s no shaking hands. Rather when one “team” wins, you’ll often see them kick the other team while they’re down or twist the knife around for good measure.

Maybe next time before you post something or say something, you should ask yourself if you’d be okay with your son or daughter saying it to the other team during their minor hockey game.


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