Sudbury showed way for oil sands on environment – by Gerry Labelle and Cathy Orlando (Sudbury Star – February 22, 2013)

The Sudbury Star is the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper.

On Feb. 17, at least 10,000 people rallied in Washington, D.C., to protest against the Keystone XL pipeline, which if built, will carry bitumen oil from Alberta’s oil sands to Texas.

For the first time in its 120-year history, the Sierra Club used non-violent civil disobedience to protest against the Keystone XL pipeline.

Just two weeks prior to the Keystone XL protests, both of us were in our own homes listening to the radio. Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi was discussing the oil sands on CBC’s The House with Evan Solomon. Nenshi commented that the narrative had been hijacked on the oil sands. Independently, we were both flabbergasted when Nenshi was questioned about who had “hijacked” the oil sands narrative and Nenshi could not provide an answer. Mayor Nenshi, this is what happens when you quote the party line (read: oil industry) without back-up information.

John Bennett of the Sierra Club Canada also spoke about the oil sands on the same radio episode. The key reason the Sierra Club is opposing the oil sands is because of climate change.

It might behoove Nenshi to take advice from Sudburians. Thirty years ago, Sudbury was the single largest producer of an air pollutant, sulfur dioxide. Like carbon dioxide from fossil fuels, sulfur dioxide from Sudbury’s natural resource was causing significant problems way beyond our provincial and national borders via acid rain impacts.

Today, our mining industry and community thrives and acid rain has been vastly reduced.

How did Sudbury achieve this result? There was multi-stakeholder communication and the acid rain problem was mitigated. Politicians created policies that protected the environment and the community. For the acid rain problem, politicians lived up to the social contract. That contract is the belief that politicians only exist to serve the will of the people, and the people are the source of all political power enjoyed by politicians .

Of late the social contract has been damaged by omnibus bills (C38 and C45), strained relations with First Nations, weakening or complete vapourization of scientific institutions and the failure of Ottawa to enact effective climate legislation, both nationally and internationally.

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