In his increasingly reckless attack on Western Canadian energy producers and workers, the NDP’s Thomas Mulcair yesterday compared Canada’s Ethical Oil industry, employing thousands of decent and hard working Canadians, to the impoverished and corruption riddled Nigeria. Canadians everywhere implicitly understand the difference between ethically produced Canadian oil and conflict oil from corrupt, abusive OPEC regimes. Thomas Mulcair went to so far as to say Canada’s producers are following Nigeria as their model.
Mulcair’s remarks were disgraceful, all in his ploy to score political points. He has shamelessly smeared the character and morality of the hundreds of thousands of construction workers, engineers, accountants, geologists, welders, truck drivers and the hundreds of other jobs Canadians do every day to help make this country’s energy work, and our country prosper.
It is simply insulting to compare these Canadians to a regime that has been cited by Human Rights Watch for mass arbitrary killings. Unlike Nigeria’s bloody conflict oil, Canada’s ethical oil is produced without any shots being fired, or bodies piling up.
In Nigeria, corrupt officials siphon off oil industry profits. According to Nigeria’s own Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, more than $360 billion of Nigeria’s wealth has been skimmed off by embezzlement, bribes or theft. That’s why in one of the oil-richest countries in the world, nearly three quarters of the population subsists on less than a dollar a day. According to the United Nations Human Development Report, “The Niger Delta is a region suffering from administrative neglect, crumbling social infrastructure and services, high unemployment, social deprivation, abject poverty, filth and squalor, and endemic conflict.”
Compare that to Canada’s ethical oil industry that employs over 500 000 people in good, well paying jobs, with the Canadian Energy Research Institute projecting close to a million jobs in the next two decades. In Nigeria, you certainly won’t find many truck drivers making six figure incomes, as they do in Alberta
All those hundreds of billions of dollars stolen by Nigeria’s corrupt officials could have gone a long way to getting Nigerians decent access to clean water or immunization. As it is, disease and malnutrition are so serious that the average life expectancy in Nigeria is a tragic 51 years, compared to Canada’s 81 years. On the UN’s Human Development index — which measures health, education, income equality, prosperity and quality of life — Nigeria ranks among the worst on the planet (156th); Canada is sixth in the world.
Nigeria’s unethical approach has permitted thousands of oil spills, left in need of remediation, contaminating the waters and landscape with no plans to clean them up. Not to mention their industry burns off the natural gas that comes out of its oil wells in a process known as flaring that blackens the Nigerians sky with uncontrolled pollution.
Canada on the other hand maintains world class environmental standards and regulations. Industry, government and the scientific community work together, constantly striving to be better. They’re also succeeding. Per barrel carbon emissions from the oil sands are down 29% since 1990. There is also research underway to reduce other environmental impacts, like those from tailing ponds.
That’s what makes Canada’s oil sands a source of ethical oil: Thousands of Canadians working every day to do a better job; businesses that value and reward workers; and a nation that stands for the rule of law, rights, peace and stability.
You almost couldn’t propose a starker difference between two oil producers than Thomas Mulcair did in comparing Canada and Nigeria’s conflict oil regime. That vast gap doesn’t only make Mulcair’s hysterical accusations look irresponsible, they’re offensive to so many Canadians. Thomas Mulcair owes Canadians an apology.