Trial by Fire in Alberta

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Image by Joshua Stevens, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey, distributed under a CC-BY 2.0 license.


Last week Prime Minister Trudeau announced that the BEAST roaming the forests of Northern Alberta was under control. In a scene reminiscent of George Bush’s fly-by over New Orleans after Katrina, Trudeau flew in to Fort McMurray in a helicopter a week or so after things had cooled down, so to speak, to survey the damage. He came, he saw, he conquered the BEAST, or so it was made to appear. Trudeau was so confident that the danger had passed he spurned an offer of help from Russia, saying, “We don’t need help from other countries”. All seemed well over the weekend; the wildfires magically disappeared from our TV screens, and news reports focused, of course, on the return of people to work in the oil-sands. Suddenly however, it is being reported today, May 17th , that things have taken a drastic and unexpected turn for the worse. The CBC is reporting the evacuation of 8,000 workers, explosions and fires consuming homes in the area, and the emergency withdrawal of firefighters because it is “so dangerous out there”. Mais, qu’est-ce qu’ill se passe?

Reports suggest that the wind has changed direction; but is it really a south-westerly wind, or is it the “winds of war”? What if the collusion of the media with the Trudeau government’s narrative was designed to address strategic issues in relations with Russia, and had nothing to do with the wildfires at all? In that case, the concern was to construct a narrative that would justify the refusal of aid from Russia with whom Canada and its NATO allies are in a desperate military struggle in the Ukraine and Syria. They could not hand a propaganda victory to the Russians, no matter how desperate the needs of the people of Alberta. Isn’t it ironic that the interests of the people working in the oil fields in Canada are being sacrificed, according to this scenario, for the sake of protecting corporate interests in oil fields and pipelines abroad?   Oh well, the wildfires are pushing-up the prices of oil which is serving the interests of Canadian oil producers generally, so why rush to put them out for the sake of a few thousand workers. Offer them free lap-dances instead!

Unfortunately, the hell-fires caused by global warming, as if in divine retribution, are threatening to expose Trudeau’s prioritizing of corporate and strategic allies over the working people of Canada. They are also threatening to put the lie to Trudeau’s dismissal of Green Party Leader Elizabeth May’s attempt to draw attention to the direct connections between the tar-sands, global warming, and wildfires of this dimension. That was “not helpful”, Trudeau scolded. No, certainly not when you are in the process of spinning another media web-of-deceit to justify the theft of aboriginal lands in order to build new pipelines, that will kill more forests and caribou, intensify global warming, and set other cities and towns ablaze. But Trudeau claims, the money we make from getting our dirty oil to market will be used to help us transition to a greener economy. Oh good, because Suncorp CEO Steven Williams is already making $ 13 million per year!

Paul Bentley holds an MSc. (Econ) in International Relations from the London School of Economics, and an Ed. D. in the History and Philosophy of Education from the University of Toronto. He has worked as a History Teacher and Head of Department in Ontario High Schools for over 25 years. He is the author of Strange Journey: John R. Friedeberg Seeley and the Quest for Mental Health — Academic Studies Press.