As Canadians have learned more in recent days about the meddling of foreign money in our national policy decisions, they've been speaking out. They've written letters to the government demanding that Ottawa stop a swarm of activist groups backed by foreign billionaires from hijacking -- as the Prime Minister himself put it -- the hearings over the Canadian Northern Gateway pipeline that would carry our oil from Alberta to B.C.
Canadians have been calling into radio shows, writing blogs, and spreading the word in their communities about the fact that this crucial decision over Canada's national energy policy is being infiltrated by what are essentially the well-paid lobbyists of wealthy and powerful foreign interests.
And it's working. First there was the Prime Minister's comments a few days ago expressing concern about "foreign money [being used] to really overload the public consultation phase of regulatory hearings just for the purpose of slowing down the process" -- a clear reference to the anti-oil activists' plans to sabotage the Gateway hearings by swamping it with an unmanageable volume of testimony.
Thousands have signed up to testify before the hearings: many of them troublemakers, several of them hired to do it by foreign interests.
This week, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver has delivered the most vigorous and bang-on criticism of this kind of interference we've heard yet from the Government. Or any government in Canada, for that matter. In an open letter to Canadians, he warns of "environmental and other radical groups" out to incapacitate Canada's ability to develop its industries: "Their goal is to stop any major project no matter what the cost to Canadian families in lost jobs and economic growth. No forestry. No mining. No oil. No gas. No more hydro-electric dams."
These groups threaten to hijack our regulatory system to achieve their radical ideological agenda. They seek to exploit any loophole they can find, stacking public hearings with bodies to ensure that delays kill good projects. They use funding from foreign special interest groups to undermine Canada's national economic interest. They attract jet-setting celebrities with some of the largest personal carbon footprints in the world to lecture Canadians not to develop our natural resources.
Finally, if all other avenues have failed, they will take a quintessential American approach: sue everyone and anyone to delay the project even further. They do this because they know it can work. It works because it helps them to achieve their ultimate objective: delay a project to the point it becomes economically unviable.
The entire letter is so good, it's well worth reading. It is almost certainly the most blunt, honest thing any senior Canadian politician has ever dared to say about the extreme-environmentalist lobby, who are so accustomed to being treated as serious, reasonable stakeholders, and given so much credit for their supposed "good intentions" that they're today on the brink of nearly paralyzing a G8 nation's energy development.
These groups lost sight of what being "reasonable" means years ago; raking in dough from rich, faraway foreigners has a way of doing that, a way of insulating you from the way real Canadian people think.
Forest Ethics, one of the extremist anti-oil groups caught using foreign money to manipulate our policy decisions, said about Alberta's oil industry last month that no substantive efforts to clean them up, or measure their pollution, makes them a socially acceptable form of energy.
Unacceptable. Period. They want them gone. These outsiders would shut our industries down, and they've got the wealth to do it. That's not reasonable. It's fanatical.
Clearly Joe Oliver sees that. And it's no wonder that it causes him great alarm: developing and diversifying Canada's economy has become a battle between average, hardworking, reasonable Canadians and slick radicalized non-Canadians with incredibly deep pockets. But it shouldn't be a battle at all. If the system is set up right, Canadians and Canadian concerns should win, automatically, every time.
The system, Oliver says, "is broken." He's right. Let's get busy fixing it before it's too late.
Follow Kathryn Marshall on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Lawsome_