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Harper Is Seizing the Wrong Century

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For Prime Minister Stephen Harper it's all about the seizing. Seizing the day, seizing the resources, seizing the protesters -- basically whatever it takes to extract any and all available hydrocarbons and sell to them to someone, somewhere.

But ultimately Harper is seizing the wrong path; he's choosing the path of a bubble economy based on oil, condemning Canadians to a long road back to yesterday's ideas and fuels.

"Seizing Canada's Moment," was the title of the Throne Speech from Harper's Conservative government this past week and it was filled with nationalistic pandering (We are honorable! We are selfless! We are smart!) and silly (You can pick and choose cable channels!) and laudable but vague promises (We will protect the environment!).

The throne speech should have been entitled "Umpteen Ways Canada Will Always be Hewers of Wood and Drawers of Water" because in reality that's what it is all about. Harper, the man who clawed his way out of Imperial Oil's mail room, is obsessed with natural resources.

"We must seize this moment," droned the Queen's representative from the throne. "The window for gaining access to new markets will not remain open indefinitely. Now more than ever, our future prosperity depends on responsible development of these resources."

More than ever we will depend on resources, despite the sun setting on any hope of selling to said markets? Does anybody else find this chilling? Yes the market for Canadian tar sands oil may well be tightening for a host of reasons. Why isn't he looking at products where the markets are expanding, say renewable fuels and related technology?

That was chilling but this was eerie: watching the Royal Canadian Mounted Police violently break up an anti-fracking protest in New Brunswick the morning after the speech. The Mounties seized their moment, shooting rubber bullets, blatantly pepper spraying men and women, sometimes inches from the face. The protesters, many from aboriginal communities, are worried about fracking coming to their neighbourhood.

"Two hundred RCMP officers are sent in with snipers the day after the speech from the throne is given and a UN rapporteur investigating Canadian violations against indigenous people has left the country," the impressive aboriginal lawyer Pamela Palmater told CBC news. "So the timing is more than coincidental."

Fracking is that super duper new method of extracting hydrocarbons by injecting a secret brew of chemicals down holes to break up rock formations. Protests are erupting all over the world about this practice and some end with jostling and arrests. But how many of these do you see ending in a violent confrontation with cars aflame as we just saw in Canada?

You can blame the protesters, as we often do in Canada, but Harper's Conservative government also bears responsibility, whether his office ordered the police to break up the protest or not. Harper is not seriously talking with anyone opposed to resource extraction, let alone our long suffering First Nations.

First Nations want to be consulted and it is abundantly clear the fight is going to get worse before it gets better because these citizens are enraged Harper has gutted rules protecting their land.

"Whether Harper fully understands all of this is unclear," argued Thomas Walkom in a recent column in the Toronto Star. "He's reputed to be a master tactician. But with a few exceptions, the prime minister has been remarkably tone deaf about Indian, Métis and Inuit issues."

It can be argued the Harper is tone deaf about a lot of issues, especially new, cleaner technologies. Countries, including powerhouses such as China, the U.S. and Germany, are embracing renewable energy and as a result innovations abound. Look at the darlings on the stock market. Google just hit $1,000 a share and is itself a clean energy innovator. There are also Tesla Motors and Solarcity, both the product of Elon Musk, a modern day Einstein.

But what do we get with Harper and his crew? A decidedly 20th century vision. You will not find a single word in the speech from the throne on solar or wind power, and certainly not a word on climate change. How can this be? Because we are intent on producing Nelson Rockerfellers, not Elon Musks. And every ounce of energy from the state will be used to bulldoze over anybody that objects. The Conservative government is all about seizing the last century.

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