My testimony before the House of Commons natural resources committee
Earlier this month I was invited to testify before the House of Commons standing committee on natural resources.
I thought it was pretty pitiful that the only question that the opposition had for me wasn't actually for me -- it was to complain to the chairman that my testimony was being televised, because too many people would hear it. Lame. Agree with me, disagree with me, ask me straight questions, ask me curveballs, or just ignore me -- that's all fine. But to complain that too many other people might hear my ideas? Nathan Cullen, the NDP MP who made that whiny intervention, is a censorious loser. I mean, seriously, is that the best he could do?
Here's what I said -- what Nathan Cullen didn't want you to hear:
One day we might discover a fuel source with no environmental side effects that's affordable and practical; but until that day comes, we need oil. It's not just for us, but for the United States, to whom we sell 1.4 million barrels of oil sands oil every day.
Last year, for the first time, more cars were sold in China than in the U.S., and they all want to be two-car families too. The same goes for India and the rest of the developing world.
So the choice isn't oil sands oil versus some fantasy fuel of the future. It's oil sands oil versus the oil that comes from other places, mainly OPEC countries. I don't know what God was thinking when he was handing out oil, but he gave it to all the world's bastards—Saudi Arabia, Iran, Venezuela, and Nigeria. Out of the top ten countries ranked by oil reserves, Canada is the only western liberal democracy on the list.
That doesn't matter if all you care about is driving your car; it all burns the same. But what about the ethics of oil?In my book Ethical Oil—which I'd be happy to give everyone a copy of afterwards, courtesy of my publisher—I suggest four liberal values by which we should judge the morality of a barrel of oil: respect for the environment; peace; fair wages for workers; and human rights. I compare oil sands oil with OPEC oil using these four measures. I come to the conclusion that oil sands oil is the fair trade coffee of the world's oil industry.
Take the environment. Greenpeace propaganda pictures make the oil sands look like something out of the Land of Mordor in The Lord of the Rings. But in only 2% of the area, where there is 20% of the resource, is the oil close enough to the surface for it to be mined that way. The rest of it has to be obtained underground, or in situ, with methods that don't tear up the surface. They don't use any river water, and even the 2% that's mined has to be reclaimed afterwards. Already more than 60 square kilometres have been. Compare that with the 2,000 unremediated toxic oil spills in Nigeria that will never be cleaned up.
Then there's carbon dioxide. Using the Obama administration's well-to-wheels analysis, oil from the oil sands has the same carbon footprint as oil from Nigeria or Iraq, because the latter waste so much natural gas. But we have a lower carbon footprint than U.S. imports from Venezuela, and much less carbon than oil from Nancy Pelosi's own state, which is actually called “California heavy” for a reason.
So if you're concerned about carbon emissions, shouldn't we replace higher carbon oil from Venezuela and California with our lower carbon oil from the oil sands? Since 1990, the carbon footprint of the average barrel of oil from the oil sands has fallen by 38%. I can hardly wait to see where it's going to be ten years from now.
But the environment is not the only measure of ethics. What about peace?
Canada invented peacekeeping. Saudi Arabia invented 9/11. Iran is using its oil profits to build a nuclear bomb. Sudan uses its oil profits to buy weapons to prosecute the genocide in Darfur. If you multiply 300,000 murders in Darfur by 185 ounces of blood per human body, and you divide it into the number of barrels of oil exported by Sudan over the same period of time, it works out to 6.5 millilitres of blood in every damn barrel. That would fill a lipstick tube.
What about fair wages, though? Fort McMurray is Canada's wealthiest city—and the most generous, according to the United Way. The working poor there, the lowest quartile, have 77% more purchasing power than in other cities, like Edmonton. Compare that to Saudi Arabia, which uses poorly paid migrant labourers who have no civil rights; or Nigeria, where over $300 billion has been stolen by dictators from bureaucrats, leaving the country one of the poorest on earth.
Then there are human rights. The mayor of Fort McMurray is a young woman named Melissa Blake. How many women mayors are there in Saudi Arabia? There are none. It's against the law. In Iran, women are stoned to death if they're accused of adultery. Ahmadinejad says there are no gays in Iran, and you know, he's not lying, because when he finds them he kills them.
Then there's the fact that the oil sands are Canada's largest employer of aboriginal people, not only providing 2,000 direct jobs but also billions of dollars to aboriginal-owned businesses.
If you don't care about morality, then buy oil from Iran or Sudan. It's just as good as Canadian oil. But if you believe in making the world a better place, then the moral imperative is to replace unethical OPEC oil with Canadian green oil, conflict-free oil, fair wage oil, human rights oil.
The leader of the opposition says it's important to increase trade with China and India. I agree. Right now those countries are forced to buy terrorist oil, dictatorship oil, Darfur oil, because we only let Americans buy our oil right now. I love our American neighbours, but it's dangerous to have just one customer for our product. We're at the mercy of protectionism and taxes, and sometimes we're taken for granted. That's why the pipeline to the west coast makes so much strategic sense. It makes us an independent country with options.
I find it very irritating that so many of the anti-oil-sands activists are taking their funding from U.S. lobby groups like the Tides Foundation. Of course it's in America's interests that no other customers are able to buy our Canadian oil, but it's in Canada's interests that we are able to sell it to whomever we choose, and if you care about industrial ethics, it's in the world's interests too.
A lot of people are watching how Canada is handling the oil sands—not just Canadians, the American ambassador is watching too. He hopes the pipelines shut down so he can have the oil all to himself. The Saudi ambassador is watching too. Maybe they're watching together, I don't know. He also hopes the pipeline is killed, so he doesn't lose any market share in Asia, the way he's lost in the United States. But for those who love Canada, expanding the oil sands is the right thing for our country and for those who think globally and act locally, because every barrel of oil sands oil we can sell to Asia or the United States is one less barrel sold by the world's terrorists and dictators.
Here are some of the questions I was asked by the Conservative MPs on the committee:
Mr. David Anderson:Mr. Levant, in your book, do you deal with the issue of cancer rates?
Mr. Ezra Levant:Yes, I do.
John O'Connor was the doctor, from Nova Scotia originally, who rang the alarm bell really hard. He said there were six cases of this rare bile duct cancer called cholangiocarcinoma. The funny thing is as soon as he went to the media about that and Alberta Health said let's get to the bottom of this and the Alberta Cancer Board asked for his patient charts, he refused, which was startling. The chief nurse said they had to give those cancer reports; it's required by law. He stonewalled. So the College of Physicians and Surgeons launched an ethics investigation. These weren't politicians or bureaucrats. These were his fellow doctors.
Dr. O'Connor had been talking about skyrocketing cancer cases, six rare cancer cases, a 33-year-old dying of cancer. He told this story for two years. Finally, when the ethics report from the College of Physicians and Surgeons came out, they ruled he was inaccurate, that he had reported cases that did not exist: four out of these six cholangiocarcinomas did not exist. No one could find a trace of the 33-year-old who allegedly died of cancer. Instead of punishing the doctor, the college said they would put out a factual statement they could all agree on, because he'd caused so much alarm in Fort Chip. Amazingly, Dr. O'Connor refused to put out a joint statement of fact with the college. Again, I'm not talking politicians or bureaucrats; I'm talking fellow doctors who issued a ruling that he had conducted himself unethically.
When I saw Dr. O'Connor a couple of weeks ago in Calgary I asked him if he was going to appeal this ruling; they said he was a liar. He said no, he was not going to appeal it, which I think says it all right there.
Mr. David Anderson:I have another question for you.
You mentioned Tides Foundation, I think it was, in terms of funding from outside. The Rockefeller Foundation is one of the groups that organizes that. Steven Rockefeller is one of the drafters of the Earth Charter. The document says it laments that “the dominant patterns of production and consumption are causing environmental devastation, the depletion of resources, and a massive extinction of species”.
Do you have any comment on that kind of funding coming from outside our country? I would suggest it's anti-Canadian. What are the reasons for that?
Mr. Ezra Levant:Vivian Krause, who I understand has testified, has done all the research on this. But $190 million from United States lobby groups is poured into Canada to affect our domestic policy. I love the Americans, but I don't want them to tell us how to write our laws. I love them as neighbours, not as bosses. They're not the only ones. Greenpeace, which started out as a Canadian lobby group, is now a quarter-billion-dollar-a-year multinational corporation based in Europe.I really don't want foreign lobbyists telling us how to make our decisions. Let's make our decisions using Canadian values. When Americans tell us not to export oil to China, that we should stay totally dependent on them for a market, is that really in our interest? Follow the money, I say. Who is celebrating the slowdown of the oil sands? The Saudi ambassador.
Mr. David Anderson:There's more to this than just environmental issues.
Mr. Ezra Levant:Absolutely.
It's an ideological agenda. It's a foreign policy agenda. I wish that everyone from Greenpeace to the Tides Foundation to the Suzuki Foundation, which has taken $10 million from these guys, would have to register as foreign lobbyists, because they're taking foreign cash.
Mr. David Anderson:I'd like to turn it over to Ms. Gallant.
Mr. Lionel Lepine:Yes.
Mrs. Cheryl Gallant (Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, CPC):Mr. Chairman, our opposition colleagues allege the Canadian mining companies use substandard employment practices in other countries but deem it perfectly acceptable for foreign oil companies to oppress their workers in favour of Canadian oil. Even here today we hear the inaccurate juvenile slur “tar sands”, as opposed to oil sands.Mr. Levant, what's behind this contradiction? Are there outside or foreign entities influencing our legislators in some way?Mr. Ezra Levant:Some of it is Nimbyism. I think there are some folks who don't want to see any environmental side effects in Canada, but they don't mind if Nigeria has 2,000 toxic waste dumps. They don't mind if women are oppressed in Saudi Arabia because they don't have to see it.
A few weeks ago 230 ducks were killed when they sat down on our tailings ponds. Mea culpa, that's terrible. I'm not going to call it a tragedy, though, because there really is blood oil out there--300,000 Darfuris. Maybe if those 300,000 Darfuris were ducks, Tides Foundation would give a damn, but they don't. And do you know what? I think we should always improve in Canada. Frankly, I agree with some of what Mr. Cullen says about constant improvement and constant self-criticism. And I think I actually agree with Mr. Lepine on that.
But what we're seeing instead, instead of focusing on improving, this Nimbyism...the people who say they would rather buy misogynist, terrorist Saudi oil or they would rather buy Russian military dictatorship oil, invade Georgia, than have it here.... And do you know what? I discovered this after writing the book; I didn't discover it until afterwards. Half of Canada imports its oil. We're exporting the oil in the west, but folks in the Atlantic, even in Montreal.... There are tankers of OPEC oil flowing into this country. I bet you most folks in Montreal don't realize that when they turn on their car, they're burning oil from Saudi Arabia, where women aren't allowed to vote.I say let's pull the camera back and think globally and act locally. If you're okay with buying conflict oil from Sudan, go for it.