Opinion: Environment exposes political hypocrisy – by Harry Sterling (Vancouver Sun – September 8, 2015)


Harry Sterling, a former diplomat, was the Department of External Affairs’ representative to the International Joint Commission from 1981-83, representing the interests and views of the Canadian government on trans-boundary issues.

It seems politicians everywhere have a tendency to become somewhat schizophrenic when confronting sensitive issues that many of their constituents may strongly support or vehemently oppose.

One such increasingly contentious subject is the environment and exploitation of its resources, an issue politicians in both Canada and the United States increasingly find dividing members of their respective societies.

Such divisions can be especially sharp and heated when involving proposed economic development of untapped resources, especially if it involves offshore oil drilling or mining in pristine regions.

Both U.S. President Barack Obama and Canadian lawmakers, notably in provinces such as British Columbia, have recently found themselves increasingly confronting divisions over specific economic projects in their jurisdictions that are raising concerns regarding cross-border developments some believe could endanger their local or national interests.

Obama’s situation is an interesting example of what may happen to a political leader’s standing if he appears to be moving in the wrong direction vis-à-vis the sensitive issue of offshore oil drilling in remote regions of Alaska.

Many pro-environmentalists in Alaska and other interest groups, including some indigenous groups, were relieved by what they perceived to be the pro-environment policy of Obama that initially appeared to them to place major restrictions on granting Royal Dutch Shell approval to begin full-scale oil and gas drilling efforts in the Chukchi Sea.

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