When I saw all the new items this February about BC’s Great Bear Rainforest being protected from industrial logging, I should have jumped for joy. This is what I had been working for the past three years, the very reason I wrote Spirit Bear! Friends were sending me links to articles claiming this forest that was larger than Vancouver Island would now have 85 per cent of its area permanently protected from logging! While the remaining territory would allow for commercial logging, the conditions to do so were being described as incredibly strict. So why did I have a sinking feeling in my stomach that this was merely a smokescreen being blown our way to pacify the public, whilst a far greater threat loomed large in the background?
The Great Bear Rainforest, which begins at the Discovery Islands and ends at Alaska’s Tongass Rainforest, represents the largest expanse of intact temperate rainforest on the planet. The wildlife that calls this vast forest home is diverse and includes humpback whales, sea wolves, grizzlies, and spirit bears.
Talks of protection for the rainforest began in 2000, and an official agreement was announced 10 years ago in 2006. While this may be perceived as a huge win for the environment and the communities that call the rainforest home, I find it to be a cold comfort in the wake of the now-impending free trade deal with China.
The fact is that China wants access to our oil. They have been working at it for more than a decade, now, and they are getting closer to their goals. PetroChina was Enbridge’s first partner on the Northern Gateway Pipeline in 2005, and had planned to invest heavily in the project, until delays and frustrations forced them to pull out.
Over the next few years, China invested billions in the Canadian oil patch. In 2013, Canadian oil company Nexen was purchased by Chinese state-owned oil company CNOOC for $15 billion, China’s largest-ever foreign acquisition. To seal the deal, CNOOC agreed to no mass lay-offs of existing Canadian staff, and to adhere to the highest standards of safety and regulatory compliance.
One year after the deal closed in April 2014, Nexen’s Canadian CEO was dismissed and replaced with an executive from China. The following year, 400 Canadian jobs were axed. And just this past July, CNOOC’s newest and most advanced pipeline spilled over 31,000 barrels of sand, bitumen and contaminated water into Alberta’s Muskeg river, creating one of the largest oil spill disasters in our country’s history. It seems China isn’t holding up their end of the deal.
After the Nexen takeover, Stephen Harper brought in stricter restrictions on future purchases of Canadian firms by Chinese state-owned corporations. This angered the Chinese government, who abruptly dropped negotiations on a Canada-China trade deal.
Today, that trade deal is back on the table. Framed as a ‘big economic opportunity’ for Canada by the media and our government, this deal requires a closer look. China is demanding a West Coast pipeline and an oil tanker port on the BC coast in exchange for free trade, which would allow them the opportunity to make similar deals to the Nexen purchase. China’s plan is to buy access to the rest of Canada’s oil patch, and secure pipeline and tanker routes in Canada so they will have a guaranteed trade route back to China for the oil. In effect, with this deal, our oil resources will be controlled by the Chinese government. And China will be pushing for our government to lift the restrictions on Chinese state-owned investments put in place by the former Conservative government, one of the few wise moves made by Stephen Harper during his time in office. A chilling thought considering China’s current track record with Nexen, and their long history of human rights abuses and lack of environmental stewardship. Trudeau flies to China for negotiations in less than a month.
I am personally not keen on selling our resources to China, resources that will not be limited to oil, but will also include fish, wine, pork and other consumable goods produced in Canada. While the prospect of injecting billions into our sagging economy sounds very tempting, China’s terms are clear–they want control of our resources, and the right to exploit them however they see fit. Do we really want a country like China, or any foreign country in fact, to have control over how our resources are exploited here at home? Without control, we are literally selling our country down the river. Canada won’t be Canada anymore.
We watch TV series’ such as Game of Thrones and marvel at the naked ambition and the bloodthirsty power plays made by this fictional world’s inhabitants. But I see clear parallels between the politics of their world and ours. Winter is coming to Canada. I pray that we are prepared.