Neil Young, the oil sands and the damage done

The real damage in the rock star’s Honour the Treaties Tour


Steve Russell/Toronto Star/ Get Stock

Neil Young and the Honour the Treaties Tour is crossing the country in support of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation’s court challenge against Shell’s proposal to expand its mining operations north of Fort McMurray.

The biggest risk I see from this tour is not that Neil Young says things which are wrong (there have been a few), that he blames Prime Minister Harper for promoting an industry that has played an important role in the policies of pretty well every Prime Minister to precede him in the past four decades (that part was pretty clear), or, least of all, that he’s a famous musician who hasn’t spent his life working on energy policy. The biggest risk I see is that all of the heat and light around the Neil Young tour will distract you from what you should do, which is to sit down, read the mine approval, and decide for yourself what you think.

A joint review panel approved (PDF) the Jackpine Expansion in July 2013, and in December, the project received cabinet approval. The most important issue here, so far over-shadowed during Neil Young’s tour, is summarized in one line in the decision letter: “the matter of whether the significant adverse environmental effects (of the project) are justified in the circumstances.”

This decision is likely to be as important for the future of the oil sands in Canada and its so-called social license as the pipelines, rail accidents and greenhouse gas policies which have been covered to a much larger degree in the media. This is a decision where your government had spelled out clearly before it the environmental risks and uncertainties of an oil sands project, in all its gory detail, and decided it was worth it or, “justified in the circumstances.”

We’ve come a long way from the days when then-Premier Ed Stelmach declared environmental damage from the oil sands to be a myth.  Around that time, in its approval of the Kearl oil sands mine, for which Phase I started last year, a Joint Review Panel concluded that, “the project is not likely to result in significant adverse environmental effects.” But, the panel evaluating Kearl raised a flag, saying that, “with each additional oil sands project, the growing demands and the absence of sustainable long-term solutions weigh more heavily in the determination of the public interest.”

We’ve now reached the point—the panel evaluating the Jackpine Mine left no doubt—where significant environmental consequences will occur in order to not (and, I kid you not, these are the words used) sterilize bitumen. Reading the Report of the Joint Review Panel (warning, it’s a slog) will be eye opening. Let me give you a couple of excerpts, in case you can’t spare the time:

  • The Panel has concluded that the Project would provide significant economic benefits for the region, the province, and Canada
  • The Project will provide major and long-term economic opportunities to individuals in Alberta and throughout Canada, and will generate a large number of construction and operational jobs.
  • The Panel concludes that the Project would have significant adverse environmental project effects on wetlands, traditional plant potential areas, wetland-reliant species at risk, migratory birds that are wetland-reliant or species at risk, and biodiversity
  • The Panel understands that a large loss (over 10,000 hectares) of wetland would result from the Project, noting in particular that 85 per cent of those wetlands are peatlands that cannot be reclaimed.
  • The Panel finds that diversion of the Muskeg River is in the public interest, considering that approximately 23 to 65 million cubic metres of resource would be sterilized if the river is not diverted
  • The Panel recognizes that the relevant provincial agencies were not at the hearing to address questions about why the Project (which seeks to divert the Muskeg River: author’s addition) is not included in the Muskeg River Interim Management Framework for Water Quantity and Quality;
  • The Panel concludes that it could not rely on Shell’s assessment of the significance of project and cumulative effects on terrestrial resources;
  • The Panel notes that a substantial amount of habitat for migratory birds that are wetland or old-growth forest dependent will be lost entirely or lost for an extended period;
  • The Panel is concerned about the lack of mitigation measures proposed for loss of wildlife habitat…that have been shown to be effective.

Don’t stop reading before you get to the good parts:

  • Although the Panel has concluded that the Project is in the public interest, project and cumulative effects for key environmental parameters and socioeconomic impacts in the region have weighed heavily in the Panel’s assessment;
  • All of the Aboriginal groups that participated in the hearing raised concerns about the adequacy of consultation by Canada and Alberta, particularly with respect to the management of cumulative effects in the oil sands region and the impact of these effects on their Aboriginal and treaty rights.

It’s these last two that have got us to where we are today—to a First Nation challenging the government in court for a decision that it made which valued bitumen over the environment and their traditional territory and for not fulfilling its constitutional duty to consult on that decision.

The decision on this project will, in all likelihood, go all the way to the top court in the land. The decision which really matters, however, will be the one you take: is it justified, in your mind, given the circumstances?


Neil Young, the oil sands and the damage done

  1. My response to the closing question is an emphatic NO.
    We need to learn to temper our pursuit of money.
    We need to stop poisoning the original inhabitants of what we call Canada. It is a continuation of the slow motion genocide that began with Columbus.
    We need to think about what we leave behind. Will there be any boreal forest or clean waterways left? Does anyone believe claims that humans can ‘reclaim’ swathes of destroyed forest? How will the planet breathe when we’ve destroyed its lungs?

    • Will the project selectively poison ‘the original inhabitants of what we call Canada’? If so how will the selection be made? Do the wet lands exist because the poisonous oil sands and peat (another carbon based fuel) stop this water from peculating into the soil? Are the existing wet land clean or are they contaminated by their water from being in contact with these materials? While the area will be changed, will the region be more or less valuable after the ‘poisonous oil’ is removed from the sands?

    • Slow motion genocide? Nonesense, aboriginal Canadians are the county’s fastest growing group!

    • Get serious… First off, look up what the Stoney First Nations did with all their “trees”…. They clear cut everything they had to grab a fast buck. Then sued the government for letting letting them do it. Yes, that’s right, the indians sued the white man for letting the indians clear cut their own land… There isn’t a single tribe near the Oil Sands that doesn’t want the land raped so long as they get a cut. The ONLY indians you hear from are the indians that don’t have a claim on the land being “raped”. So for Neil Young to get on a high horse and trumpet the “plight” of the natives, what a joke… The natives are FIRST people with their hand out when a project like is getting under way. Do your research… You AND Neil. Second, “the earth’s lungs”?? Are you grown up? The trees and deciduous bush in that area are “dead” 8 months of the year! You want to talk “earth’s lungs”? The earth’s lungs are made up most of the oceans and their “green” life. Want to protect the “earth’s lungs”? Start at the oceans and rain forests in the southern hemisphere, NOT Alberta and the oil sands, as they don’t even register a “blip” in the grand environment… Seriously, get educated….

      • Like you were “educated” to believe trees are dead 8 months of the year? Pot, meet kettle…

        • 8 months of the year the plant life in that area produce how much oxygen? Hence why I just put “dead” in quotes. For brevity. Getting up to speed, yet? Or does Neil need to sing it for you?

          • Actually, “Canada’s boreal forests, which are made up of a mix of trees, wetlands, peat and tundra, soak up as much as 22 percent of all carbon stored on the Earth’s land surface, according to the International Boreal Conservation Campaign.”

            So, assuming the IBCC is exaggerating slightly, this is still not something to be taken lightly.

            “Educate yourself…”

          • Not going to argue your point, Jobin, it’s pretty valid. That said, your point included all such forest in the entire country. Now when you take into account the area affected by the oil sands, it’s a tiny area. It’s a tiny area if you only looked at forest area in the province of Alberta. It’s a vast forest up there, and the operations at Fort Mac are pretty small in comparison.

  2. Every year, farmers drain thousands of hectares of wetlands in the prairies. Every year, thousands of hectares of farmland is turned into some form of urban infrastructure. Every year, thousands of hectares of land of all sorts are covered with cement to support windmills. You cannot develop anything without changing what is already there.

    • You’re absolutely correct. But try pointing out to the environmental zealots that each and every city in this country does FAR more environmental damage than any oil sand project ever could, and you’ll simply hear a deafening silence. The entire environmental movement is about making other people do more with less. Environmentalists love to propose solutions that only economically affect others, and never the masses.

      This is exactly why the “solutions” proposed by environmentalists never work. You could take 1% of the world’s population and force them all to live with zero carbon footprint, and all it would result in is 99% of the planet using 1% more energy.

      Wind farms? Ya, the city dwelling enviro-zealots of them, because they’re always put out in the country and only bother those stupid rural folk.

      • The environmental zealots you speak of also want to reduce the footprint of cities, reduce sprawl etc. No one thinks that zero footprint is possible, but when it comes to tradeoffs there has to be a line.

        For example, the Northern Gateway pipeline. Considered on its own it might be an obvious sign-off on the same basis that Jackpine was approved; strong environmental consequences but worth the damage in light of the benefits. When you compare it to Transmountain pipeline though and realize that the cost of building a new right of way through thousands of rivers and streams and hundreds of first nations claims (Gateway) versus adding a new pipeline to an existing right of way with much fewer issues and the same benefit you might reconsider. No one thinks we can have zero footprint, but we should try to have the least footprint possible that still meets our needs.

        • You’re wasting your logic or on that one. You can’t reason with a turnip.

        • By that I assume by your comments the needs of downtown urban tony people. I think Toronto and every other major metropolis have had far bigger environmental impacts than oilsand development ever will – and the oilsands can and will be reclaimed to become productive wildlands at some point in the not too distant future. Toronto et. al – not so much.

          • [ I think Toronto and every other major metropolis have had far bigger environmental impacts than oilsand development ever will]
            The fact that you consider that a valid comparison raises questions. On what basis are you comparing?

            I think a Buick is better than a pound of butter when knitting socks in Singapore. Without defined parameters, that makes as much sense as your claim.

            The point is that there are *far cleaner* sources of hydrocarbons (let me rephrase that, hydrocarbons with much less than 50% the environmental impact of bitumen) that can and are being utilized. Can Toronto be more efficient, like many European cities and some US ones? Absolutely, but that has zero bearing on choosing a better way to obtaining energy from bitumen.

          • Steve, thanks. That was my initial thought. I hate false comparisons like that. It’s sorta like you should support oil pipelines because you drive a car. It’s weak way to go about this discussion.

          • The real reason we need oil is because the population keeps growing. That was the basis for that comparison – resource use because of population growth is like the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about. And you think the oils sands are worse than, say, deep sea well in the Gulf of Mexico? Oil development in Venezuela? I’m sure everything in the Middle East where oil fires burned for months after the war is all cleaned up and looks like its former self, that being the Garden of Eden. Or you like biomass? Sure, lets cut down the boreal forest even faster and turn all those trees into ‘clean’ energy (Ontario is going to do that, replacing the coal it used in its Atikokan generator), How’s that ethanol corn thing working out?

          • The point being missed here is that urban centers are a necessity. They will grow as the population grows. The inevitability of losing this land does not compare to creating a wasteland that is good for nothing…literally nothing when the oil supply expires up there. Did you even read the panel concerns? This land will be unclaimable once the oil is gone.

          • It did NOT say the land will be un-reclaimed…it said this…

            “85 per cent of those wetlands are peatlands that cannot be reclaimed.”

            It is a distinction, and an important one. The land can be reclaimed, just that the peatlands cannot be returned to peatlands. But it can certainly still be reclaimed in the same fashion as other areas already reclaimed…one would never know there was any activity there at all in many of them…and who is to say that peatland would not eventually return to that area? We do not know either way. But what we do know is that the land can be returned to nature after the “cleanup” of this natural oil spill.

            Perhaps you should take a trip to the area and have a look at what those reclaimed lands look like today. Useless is hardly a word I would use. But then, I am talking from a position of someone who has actually SEEN and walked in those areas…I doubt Neil Young even looked himself. Otherwise, he would not appear as ignorant as he does with his rhetoric on the subject.

          • Read the paragraph 4 panel points below the one you are quoting…”migratory habitat,lost entirely”. There is a bitof ambiguity in the panel points. That just means the outcome will be even worse than it sounds.

          • Drain any wetland and the ‘migratory habitat’ is lost. Millions of hectares of migratory habitat has been ‘lost’. But in reality, habitats change, they aren’t lost. The change in this case is not all negative, as Mike points out. Compared to many other places,the oil sands are not exactly stellar in terms of productive capacity. And by the way, peatlands are mined all over the world (peat is ‘coal lite’), for energy or for agricultural purposes. Every one that has ever been mined, or is proposed to be mined, is ‘lost’.

          • So, after nearly 40 years of activity, how much has been signed off by Alberta Environment as reclaimed?

          • Lee, that is also a very good and clear argument for the pipeline. No one wants to talk about it because humanity is growing at a ridiculous rate — a rate we have never seen in the history of our species. That said, it does not oblige humans to provide land to encourage the sale of oil.

          • That’s a great comparison. One is temporary messing with the environment and the other is permanent. If we are to be honest about the lasting ‘footprint’, your comparison is right on.

    • The city of Los Angeles, home to Young and many of the Beautiful People was a wasteland before it became populated by the millions and their antique cars. It deserves to die a slow death from the polluting autos, because it`s ugly, always has been. The same goes for Toronto and Vancouver. It`s only purpose is to house the beautiful people who tell us all how evil we must be if we do not continue to buy oil from the Middle East.

      Fort McMurray. on the other hand, is the home of the last of the Boreal forest, where abundant wildlife chose to migrate to it`s luscious wetlands, where natural eco-zones seemed to frame the landscape, where most of the aboriginal population of the Americas seemed to be drawn to make it their home, even though it`s area was only one-trillionith of one zillion of available land, where beautiful people would jet up from their poison urban surroundings, just for a Sunday afternoon.
      Stephen Harper has chosen to kill Fort McMurray, as sure as he wants to kill every fish and every little cubby bear in Western Canada when he builds those massive pipelines that will bury the Rockies.
      Let`s hope we all get behind Young and support Middle East oil, and beautiful lines of West Virginia coal cars, and the haunting beauty of Dakota oil cars exploding in the evening sky, and,,of course, the continued expansion of our beautiful cities thankfully swallowing up nearby wasteland.

      • Neil Young’s home is NOT LA, !!!
        Neil is a Canadian, born in Toronto, and raised / grew up in Northern Ontario.
        Geesuz people, try googling a bit, maybe wiki it ?

        • Neil Young has not been a Canadian resident since the 1960s. He currently lives in California, where he has lived for many decades.

          • No but he still seems to have an affinity for Canada.

          • Goody for him.

          • My exact feelings about Conrad Black, give or take a few decades!

          • Conrad Black lives in Toronto.

          • Oh yes, but he’s not Canadian is he. He doesn’t seem to have a country to call home at all. That’s what you get when you give up your citizenship for peerage in another nation.

          • I certainly consider him more Canadian than Neil Young. Neil hasn’t lived in Canada for over 50 years. Conrad lives here and still writes about Canada.

          • Well of course you do since it fits whatever argument you are trying to make. I believe Neil still has his Canadian citizenship whereas Conrad Black does not. I know, a trifle to you. But then again, facts do appear to be of little importance to you.

          • What does it matter? Try not to get lost in such irrelivant topics. Niel Young is devoutly Canadian without question, in my opinion at least. We should be hoping for more individuals of notoriety to weigh in on such important topics. As with most controversial issues these days; whomever has the most money behind the lobby will get the bill passed. This is a crucial flaw in our “democracy”. Anyone remember James Cameron?? He was American…remember? Another wall to knock down is our propensity to forget so quickly. Very easy to do in a world so bombarded with perpetual media coverage.

        • I suppose Neil`s California Grunge look could be mistaken for a Northern Ontario trapper, though lately he`s getting dangerously close to the zombie look.

      • Er, that beautiful oil eventually winds up in someones car…you knew that, right!

        • Whose car?

          • A Chinese one most likely i imagine.

          • If clues were shoes you’d be barefoot

          • You tell us where the oil is bound cap’n? Gonna run your little smack on bitumen are we tarry jack?

          • You are a prime example of Leftist Mental Disorder, give the Canadian Mental Health Association a call, I’m sure they can direct you to the appropriate resources.

            Shell Oils partners in the project are Marathon and Chevron, figure it out genius.

          • Tell me where it’s going if it isn’t destined for Asian markets you rum soddled half wit? The whole pipeline push is for exports, either through the US or off the west coast. Hell there are reports that some of the stuff going east may eventually get exported.

          • I don’t drink Sherlock.

            Both partners are in the refining business, this oil is for US domestic consumption, via rail transport until the Keystone XL is finished being built, the southern section is getting close, just waiting for Hopey Changey to finally give approval.

            You have no clue, all you do is parrot ecotard leftwingnut talking points.

            You are barefoot.


            Take the time to edicate yurself Billy bub. Pembina may be left wing. but they are highly respected by everyone except knuckle draggers on the right.
            It turns out the market out of the gulf coast may be in Europe and S. America rather then China for now. If i can learn something new, you might too.

          • You’re an idiot…..the oil companies decide where their product is sold, not some rag tag group of leftingnutz such as Pembina Institute.

            You are genuinely clueless.

          • This comment was deleted.

          • Ahhh………poor poor and I mean poor………….. leftard parrot.

            You have no authority over anyone, you are powerless.

          • Ahh.. everyone is a lefty… no everyone is a righty…. no one canb have an opinion of their own… all shall be judged … ahhh!!

          • So? Someone is going to buy that oil, and I don’t see anyone else lining up for it. Like it or not, oil is one of our major exports. If we do not sell it to China, then who else? The US Government under Obama has made it clear they are uninterested.

            And FYI, China is NOT the only country in that region interested in our oil…India happens to be interested as well…and a few of the other developing nations in the region. But lets not let semantics get in the way of a good, and patently obvious, racist rant, right?

          • Racist!! Taken you meds today bud?

            You’re completely missing the point. How are we to meet our commitment to reduce our 2020 emissions by 20% if we continue to ramp up oilsands production? Other countries have similar commitments. Im not aruing we should shut down Fort Mac – just proceed more slowly and solve the existing environmental problems first.

          • It has racist connotations. Maybe if you worded it differently. Trade is trade. It is irrelevant who buys our oil output. I mean, Trudeau admires them. Who are we to argue? :/

            As I said, few others want to get involved. And I really do not want us tied to US controlled markets as sole source. We rode the storm of the last recession fairly well compared to many other nations. It would have been far worse if we were beholden to US market exchange solely. Opening up other markets keeps our economy going relatively steadily. THAT is the bottom line that is important to the WHOLE country. It is called JOBS. People always crying about the need for jobs. So why stand in the way of filling that public need? Or for that matter, deny outside investment since the locals cannot seem to drum up the money to build or purchase companies on the open market trade system. Lord knows the regime of Ontario took to doing the “green” option and undermined its industry by increasing energy costs to those businesses. Several prominent names this past year alone closed up shop in Ontario and cited energy and property taxes were the deciding factor.

            I honestly do not give a F#CK about our CO2 emissions. It is all mostly bogus AGW BS that much of of our nation has come to realize has been proven to be extreme exaggeration and are no longer buying the scare. 1.5-2% is what Canada contributes globally (pending source). A pittance. And the oil sands is merely a few percent of THAT, or barely a percent of total global. If you do not believe me, do the math yourself…plenty of source comparatives….here, I will get you started….

            Global total: 34.5 billion tonnes in 2012
            Canada total: 560,000,000 tonnes in 2012
            DIVIDE the second by the first…soooooo…560,000,000 divided by 34,500,000000 equals 0.01623188405797101449275362318841, or 1.62%

            The following page gives a slightly lower percentage of 1.58%, but I do not know what exact numbers they are using to do the calculation. Mostly irrelevant, the comparatives are congruent but very small difference hardly has an impact. 1.6% is a nice round number to keep it simple.


            Depending on where you look, lots of sources show older stats, not much on current. Some extrapolations of trend can be made, but are subject to bias, pending source and data sets used, and in this case, most sources I could find only cited percentages of the national contributions anyway. Either way, variations range from as low as 7-9% of the National total, which is as stated above, around 1.6% Global contribution. Do the math again. 0.016 (average) / 0.08 = 0.0013 or 0.13% of GLOBAL emissions is from the oil sands.

            It is a pittance. Even if you choose to be generous with the CO2 output, in relative terms to what the rest of the world is spitting out, the oil sands is spitting out barely a eyedropper worth into a tanker truck.

            It is called perspective of scale. You get all upset about a 20% number, but evidently are missing a critical part of the puzzle, that 20% of 1.6% is 0.0032 or 0.32%. It is BARELY a blip on any scale on the global scale. 1.6% is barely a blip itself. How about taking FAR LARGER emitters to task? Energy use for the developing nations is significant. Ask them to reduce CO2 by one percent. That would cover Canada’s output.

            Pembina I am sure will provide similar numbers. Be critical of those numbers and view where those fit in the larger math and where they derived from. I checked them, I trust the numbers, but the numbers are presented in a misleading fashion. Without context, *eyedropper in a tanker*, the number is meaningless. And our contribution to “reduce” will be ONLY symbolic and hamper our ability to do business. Ontario is learning that sad lesson as we speak.

          • It wasn’t even close to racist. Would I be racist if I pointed out half of the oil burned in US vehicles came from this country? Pointing out that oil shipped to china would end up being burned in Chinese vehicles isn’t even on the racist map.
            And spare me the loony denier twaddle. I listen to scientific opinion, not the rants of an amateur.

          • This comment was deleted.

          • I ask you Macleans, at what point are going to ban people who make these sorta comments?
            First time asking for me. How does someone flag this crap?

          • Awww….did he upset your little feelings? Called you a welfare bum? Awwwww~!

          • former welfare bum, now its a part time on call muni worker who married an Indian and lives on reserve for the tax breaks, probably has itès cheque made out in its spouses name and has it delivered to the band office.

          • You are exactly what I said you are and you yourself are the source of that info, typical lefturd cry baby.

          • Liar. I told you only that i worked for my town. You assumed the rest. My fault for feeding the troll.

          • You said part time ass wipe, plus you claimed you were kinda self employed too, youre a joke

          • I think you hurt his little feelings. ;-)

          • Oh? Providing you actual source to the EXACT same sets of data that ANY scientist would use. But I guess you would rather listen to the twaddle of Suzuki and some has been rock star who doesn’t even know what he is talking about himself.

            I guess doing that math YOURSELF is too much for you to handle, or for that matter, admit to yourself that what you have been reading in your so called “source” is wrong. Must suck to be a welfare bum.

          • You aren’t qualified period. Debate closed.

          • You cant order anybody to do anything, you powerless impotent lerftard.

          • Take a hike troll.

          • I do hike for fun and exercise.

            No one, but no one takes orders from you possibly former welfare bum.

          • What debate? I challenged and you folded like a deck of cards. I guess the math was too hard for you to accept.

          • Actually it is most of the world’s scientific community who say you don’t have a clue. I can find opinions like yours all over the net – they’re a dime a dozen.

          • Loser

          • Cretin

          • There is only one Cretin and he just turned 80.

          • Maybe you’ll figure out how to spell his name by the time your his age…i doubt i though.

      • Young lives in Rural California. And if you’ve ever been there you’d note the absence of ‘Beautiful People’. Not exactly L.A. (Which, agreed is a bit of a douchehole).

        However, your snide sarcasm, somewhat humourous though it is, tends not to address the obvious detriment (probably irreparable) these projects are doing to the land and its ecosystems (Through an incrementally accommodating regulatory apparatus and despite misgivings such would shyly point out).

        Then there’s the health of the people in the area. It’s, um, shall we say, declining. Surely this is not solely due to the miraculous abundance of chemicals and bad air. It must be the surplus of mallomars and unicorn farts they surely enjoy as a result of this beneficent extraction.

        Cities exist. Live with it. And they need petroleum as much as they need farmers (Oh, Young also supports them). But do they need this petroleum, this way? Probably a moot point, because hardly any of this extracted bitumen product will ever power an automobile in North America. Or the Americas generally. It will go to China. By rail, pipe, tanker, or some combo of these.

        Yes, Mr. Young has resorted to hyperbole (Hiroshima!). But what public commentator trying to make a point does not? Try it yourself, Skynyrd-style. Get on your gee-tar and start making a hit with “Sweet Home Alaberta”. It totally took him down before.

        • At the risk of Sean accusing me of misusing the word, I like to point out the hypocrisy of people like Young. He has a massive footprint, whether it be in LA or in the country where he has to drive more to get wherever. It`s just too easy for the entertainment tonight crowd to spew their Green Gospel at small towns like Mc. while ignoring the car wreck of a cesspool that California governments have allowed LA to become.

          Also, at the risk of being deleted, are you sure there may not be other causes of the poor health of our aboriginal community ? Check with the health workers who treat the Natives in Vancouver`s lower East Side, or most any urban community in the West, or indeed in many Reserve communities throughout the country. I`m not sure if there has been a detailed geographical study, however i`m betting there is little difference from Mc. to other places. Maybe not hypocrisy but ……….

          Having said that, It`s still a good idea to let all industry know that there pollution dept. is being watched. Since the Industrial revolution it`s been a delicate balancing act between progress and poison.

          • “it`s been a delicate balancing act between progress and poison.”

            Like there’s a choice.

            Yeah. You’re right. The CAPP ads seem to suggest that whole, little thing’s been solved. ‘Happy Face’! Look at the pretty lady cradling a pine seedling. We’re in good hands. More progress. What poison?

            As for your general statement about the health – or lack thereof – of aboriginal Canadians: Um…not sure that marginalized, urban aboriginal people on The DES are suffering from multiple, complex carcinomas, but hey, you must be down there often so know best. Plus, ‘Mc.’ and region is obviously a demographic arbiter of aboriginal health nationwide. So, there’s that. And the fact that traditional feedstock, whether fish, fowl or other is completely compromised by ‘progressive’ extraction processes has everything to do with urban addiction issues. So, yeah, let’s just admit it, them Indians…?

            C’mon, just say it. Say it. Say it! The Indians Are In Your Way. It pisses you off that they have a say. And they could probably shuck yer oyster in any constitutional challenge. No goop for you.

          • Well, I gave you a chance to concede that maybe there are far more dire conditions of poor health in the Native community than environmental concerns in a relatively small landmass in north east Alberta.
            Indeed if there were no Native addiction concerns in Urban centers or if the air and water were as clean in Fort Mc. as they must be in LA, then there would be still a massive health issue ( diabetic epidemic ) in Native communities resulting from poor leadership in families as well as in government.
            What the hell are you and Neil Young doing about the health of the 99 % of Natives that are not affected by the oilsands ?———-Nothing !

            But no, like most liberals you chose to insinuate that I must be a racist—-you guys are so predictable that you are pathetic. When you see that you are losing an argument then call the other guys names. and you wonder why your circle is getting smaller.

          • Don’t forget the other related tactic: if you disagree with a Liberal or leftie about anything, you’re a Conbot and a shill for Harper.

          • “Relatively small landmass in Northern Alberta”
            This relatively small landmass represents an area of 140,000 square kilometres which is equivalent to the Size of Florida. If that is what you call relatively small then I would hate to see big.
            This one project may not encompass the whole oil sands, but that is what people are trying to get an understanding of. How much is to be developed. What pace? Is there a plan for sustainable development?

          • Sorry for not responding to your kind reply. Haven’t got time to hang around here all day. Anyway…

            Yeah, there are numerous health concerns and dire social issues afflicting Native Canadians across the country. Don’t know what Mr. Young is doing about those, but I’ll keep my own counsel regarding such. You brought up the DES, and I responded to that ludicrous comparison. You also rightly point out the diabetes pandemic within these communities. That’s a tragedy. A very complex tragedy. That has nothing to do with extraction.

            However, the incipient health crisis in that ‘small landmass’ of which you’re on about is kind of a canary in the coal mine. It’s affecting entire ecosystems: plants, animals and people, regardless of the ‘ethnicity’ of the latter.

            Neil Young has been shown to be factually incorrect in many of his assertions, but this was about Mr. Leach’s post about Mr. Young. Also, that accusation of racism? In your imagination. If you won’t admit that these policies prioritize resource extraction over human and ecological well-being, well, you’re at odds with the report Mr. Leach cites above. It has nothing to with race and everything to with economic expediency. That’s not racism, it’s Petrocracy 101.

            Shout ‘Liberal, Lieberal, Gliberal’ all you want, But you couldn’t be less accurate. Of course, you simply want to vilify and make anyone who opposes your point of view an ‘enemy’. That’s what you do. Now, if you made a comparison with Keith Ashfield, Jim Prentice or other ‘Enemies of Anders’, you might be closer to the mark. Unfortunately, your lot has made the CPC an incredibly discomfiting place to be. And as far as that circle shrinking, you really ought to take the fingers out of your ears, and the hands off your eyes before you set your mouth free.

          • The Indians certainly haven’t complained about the millions of dollars that have been given to them in exchange for land and oil. Money ruins all and maybe Neil should be more upset about the trading of resources for cash than the exploring Canada’s natural resources.

      • This was one of the most confusing comments written here.
        First, where do you suggest the millions of people from Los Angeles, Toronto or Vancouver the beautiful move, once their cities die.
        Second, how do you figure Fort Mac is “the home of the last of the Boreal Forest”? or where “most of the aboriginal population of the Americas seemed to be drawn…”? or “where beautiful people would jet up…”?
        Third, where do you get the idea the Harper wants to kill Fort Mac? If anything it is the exact opposite.
        Fourth. Your last paragraph makes no sense at all–poetic, yes, but totally opposite of your premise — if you have one.
        With 20 positive votes yet. Has anyone really read your comments? Or were they blown away with your poetic phrasology.

    • farmers draining wetlands are bad also and need to be curbed along with runoff of pesticides and herbicides (Dow are you listening?) but don’t think that the Tar sands are an environmentally correct decision. That would play in to the myth that oil companies are doing a good job up there…and they are not. Poisoning the Athabaska river and the First Nations people around it…is genocide…whether intentional or not…and please don’t tell me about the reclamation of the land…that is total bullshit…you can’t reclaim a natural forest with a tree farm.

      • Genocide? Very strong words – over the top, in fact. And tree farms? Have you ever seen or participated in mining reclamation efforts? Obviously not.

      • Poisoning the Athabaska river and the First Nations people around it…is genocide…whether intentional or not

        Actually, the definition of the word “genocide” requires that the act be intentional. So are you really accusing Canada’s energy companies of deliberately killing aboriginals?

  3. “How will the planet breathe when we’ve destroyed its lungs?”

    Respirators. I find -ooooohoosssss- your lack of faith – ooooooshhhhoooo- in technology – ooooooohhhoooshh – disturbing….

    • On the bright side you will be able to afford a darn good respirator if you clamber aboard the oil sands express.

    • I remember my Grade 8 Science teacher (I’m 58 BTW) informing all of us that by the time we were 30 we would not be able to go outside without breathing apparatus because of the pollution – funny but that hasn’t happened and probably will not regardless of what the likes of Gore, Young, Suzuki, etc. try to convince us. That teacher was a typical demi-god in the public school system, knowing that he could influence a bunch of impressionable kids to get them to do what he wanted. Rock stars like Young are exactly the same – I pay attention to neither.
      As for the developments in the oil sands – I see that the MSM presents little or nothing on the land that has been reclaimed in the over 40 years that mining has been going on. Why is that, because I have been up there and the reclaimed land is thriving!!
      Yes, there will be impacts on First Nations, but at the same time what is the impact of doing NOTHING on First Nations community – look at any FN community with NO economic development – murder, drugs, alcohol, abuse, suicide – is that the future we all want to get behind? Even the most racist Canadian would reject that!

      • Must have been a curriculum change. I’m 60 by the way, and Appeals to Authourity are specious.

        What’s wonderful about Science is that it is able to correct, with intelligence, observation and evidence, incorrect ideas, rather than fixate on them.

        The earth will always recover.

        And the largest most difficult problem with First Nations is they have no property right to the land.


    Here’s the view of arguably the top environmental lawyer in the country. There are clearly all kinds of holes in the govt’s case.

    “Although the Panel
    has concluded that the Project is in the public interest, project
    and cumulative effects for key environmental parameters and
    socioeconomic impacts in the region have weighed heavily in the Panel’s

    This statement for instance seems to be at odds with Ms Saxe’s look at the review process.

    In addition i believe a judge later found the AB govt to have acted pretty much illegally by excluding these groups. Someone managed to get hold of internal emails showing someone high up deliberately excluded groups it didn’t want at the table. No punishment or consequences ensued to my knowledge.[ of course] I can’t find a good link to this story, so i guess there’s a chance i’ve linked two different cases.

    “A full and fair environmental assessment can give legitimacy to an unpopular decision. How much legitimacy will the Jackpine panel decision have?”

    Her last line is the money quote. Not hard to answer the question in the negative, is it? But that’s the Harper govt for you, along with its buds in the oil biz. It is bound and determined to go all the way with option stupid.

  5. Sea level rise is speeding up now, due to our terminal addiction to fossil fuels. This consequence alone will cost future coastal Canadians trillions of dollars, and turn Vancouver into a new Gulf Island. It will flood BC’s best farmland and destroy coastal communities, many of them First Nations, up and down the BC coast.

    But these “review panels” are NOT ALLOWED to connect such far-away dots.

    • This comment was deleted.

      • DPT63: Is that an opinion or a fact? All of what windship says is going to happen. So the issue is if you care, and if it matters what we do now anyway. It’s likely game over already. So, I take it you are saying bull sh!t to Richmond, Whiterock and most of Victoria for a start.

        • Let it all burn. Soon.

  6. Given what circumstances? That the oil will go bad if we don’t get it out of the ground this instant?
    That shareholders are likely to starve if…
    That Canada will go broke if…
    That we have to use it all up right now and in this way, regardless of the environmental damage, or the lip service paid to FN’s constitutional rights if…

    Given what circumstances please?

    • Canada would be a 3rd world s#%thole without healthcare, roads or schools if it didn’t happen to be sitting on a big ole heap of tar, doncha know.
      Guess we just got lucky.

      • This comment was deleted.

        • Hey, I still wear fur!

          • This comment was deleted.

          • Really, you have to insult me even for pointing out that some people still wear fur? You are thin skinned, aren’t you?

          • Rick, one of my best friends may have trapped that fur for you, on her trap line outside of Ft. Chipewyan, in an area threatened by the Jackpine expansion. Before she became one of the many deaths that the community has suffered. Have some respect.

          • Hey…you raised the point. Did a page search for “fur”. The only reference is yours. Here’s a concept: Don’t put it out if you can’t handle the flak.

            Maybe you should wear a flak jacket? I’m neither pro nor anti energy extraction, and Neil Young is an irritant to me, but some posters, yourself included, like to skirt the edges, and then get huffy when you get called on it.

          • Between your ears maybe.

          • So you don’t shave. Most apes don’t.

      • As recently as the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s,… Canada had one of the best healthcare, roads, schools,…in comparison to the rest of the world, + we actually had jobs back then, much more than we did today.

        And, we did all that, and more, WITHOUT that “big ole heap of tar” !

        • I love that the “progressives” in our society are constantly pining to take us back to the 50’s.

          If I ever get my hands on a time machine, I’ll be sure to give you all free trips back in time.

          • obviously some people are just too stoopid, or lazy to even pick up a book and read some historical “facts”, and “stats”.
            But ya, just left-click on your “Time-Machine” App, and let us know how the future looks like, for Canada, ’cause obviously most of us already know about the “past”, with the exception of maybe you ?

          • Are you the same idiot that has failed to realize that Neil Young left the country 50 years ago ?
            Jeez, get an encyclopedia over at the pawn shop.

          • Are you the same “person” who didn’t finish Grade 3 so that you can read properly. ?

            I did NOT say that Young lives in Canada,
            I said Neil Young’s home is NOT LA. which I am right.
            …wasn’t even worth the reply.

          • No, you are right. Neil Young is in California, New York City and Hawaii. He has several homes and a pretty big carbon footprint for an environmentalist but then those guys always get a walk on that don’t they?

          • LMAO Rick…..when you get it, set it to 1491, will ya’?

          • Are you a speech writer for Harper by any chance? Because you engender that same hollow, bereft of substance, smarmy response.

            Canada has moved backwards on a number of fronts, and this is well observed and discussed in a number of international business and academic publications. Maybe you don’t notice it, Rick, huge surprise there…but the world does, and Canada is approaching pariah status at this rate.

            Find a *cleaner* way of extracting and concentraing the hydrogen from bitumen. Not many are against it per-se, they’re against the *method*.

            Many people eat meat, but they have no wish for the animal to be tortured to death. There are exceptions though. Some of them boast about wearing “fur” as if that is relevant to the discussion.

          • They’re using the cleanest method available to them to extract as it is. And they’re always looking for cleaner ways. But you don’t stop all extraction just because the process isn’t currently 100% perfect.

          • Name them because I suspect they would all be left wing publications!

        • Yes but that was before left leaning governments and high taxes destroyed our manufacturing sector. Oil is manufactured by nature so you don’t have to pay a union worker 60 dollars an hour to assemble it.

          • and even “Nature” will need a few Million years to “manufacture” it, before you can “sip” it again, so your thought is give away our “crude” for pennies until we have none left.?
            I say “Refine” it ALL here as well, and sell it for much more $$$ on the barrel, more money and technology Jobs for all canadians,
            instead of your lamed-brained idea of money for YOU now, and scew any future decendents ?

          • Nobodies against refining bitumen in Canada. The problem is that nobody wants to pony up billions of dollars to build a refinery that will lose money in the long run. Why don’t you invest in a refinery?

          • Let’s change our government, take back those outrageous subsidies to the wealthiest extractivist industry on earth………..and use our tax dollars to build a public refinery. That way, we’ll all be shareholders and there might be less inclinaton to build cheap so old white folks can cash in on short term easy money.

            Radical idea I know……..but it should be occurring to a few patriotic Canadians….surely a better solution than flooding our economiy with communist dollars, ey?

          • Well that’s kinda hard since Harpo has “outsourced” all the best minds, practically dismantled our entire manufacturing and Science, and R&D sections. Our Universities are a shadow of what they once used to be -aka actual Educational futures in mind.
            We used be fairly bleeding-edge in technological development in this country.
            Anyway, how does “Refining” Oil lose money, are you daft?
            Cause if so, why is every other country willing to “refine” it for us ?
            I’ve already told you why -so that they will make a nice big profit “selling” it back to us, and the Gov’t then profits off of the canadian taxpayers.
            Until we actually (re)learn and invest in technologies, and development again, we are just a bunch of “crude-fetchers”, with no idea how we will even be able to make all this ripped-up oil-sand land livable and safe again, instead of leaving it a toxoc wasteland.

          • yes, but you still have to pay many “a union worker 60 dollars an hour” to get that Oil outa ‘da ground.

          • I do believe free trade destroyed our manufacturing sector. Brian Mulroney was the champion of free trade. I never realized before that this conservative PM ran a left-leaning gov’t!!

          • [Oil is manufactured by nature so you don’t have to pay a union worker 60 dollars an hour to assemble it.]
            Bitumen isn’t oil. Anything else to add?

        • Do you mean oil sands? because there are no tar sands in Alberta. Perhaps you could find a more literate and knowledgeable colleague to help you understand the basics of economics and why these government services are at risk now that the manufacturing sector is producing far less revenue than it was as recently as the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s.

          • Those far gone times when Ontario was sending bags o’ money to the fine, but somewhat impoverished province of Alberta? Yes, let them pass into the fond mist of time. We shall never speak of them again. Because Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia. 10-4 that.

          • It maybe coming again soon too, as Alberta is currently running a $6.8 Billion deficit. Economic prosperity from the tar sands, indeed.

          • The “bags o” money” did in fact come this way once upon a time, but the SIZE of the bags going back now are the issue! The bags we got were full of pennies, the ones we send have loonies in them! 161 Billion of them since 1961.

          • A nutbar comment begins with a question like that. OIl flows my dear, tar doesn’t………..until its refined. That’s why the Northern Gateway will carry dibit….tar diluted with light hydrocarbons….so it can be pushed through that pipe over our Canadian Rockies. Standing up as an expert and telling people we’ve got oil up there is too funny. Might have been good PR even a couple of years ago…but the word is out now…two pipes are slated for Kitimat, not one….and the second one is planning to recycle ad infinitum I guess…….the toxic dilutents used to make your ‘oilsands’ flow.

            We all know this godmachine.

        • One more point you may have overlooked. How will all the leftist have not provinces continue to pretend that they can manage their own economies without billions in transfer payments from Alberta’s oil sands?

          • It is NO more Alberta’s “oil sands” that the Great Lakes is just for Ontarians, The fact that those sandy oil beaches have been created over millions of years by “Nature” is proof.
            In either case, Albertans aren’t even the ones taking the oil outta the sands, the “multinational” Oil Corps are doin’ that ‘fer ‘ya.
            Albertans are doing/what their TOLD to do by these said “Mutinationals”, and Foreign ShareHolder Interests.
            Therefore, silly, it’s NOT Alberta’s Oil, it is ALL of Canada’s Oil, but even that is becoming debatable since we don’t know exactly how much $$$ these “Foreign” sharholders are going to rape us for yet, now do we ?
            Canada instead, should have taken it’s sweet time, and developed our own technologies to extract the “raw” from the sands, refine it ourselves,…, and finally sell it oursleves for 100% of the profit, for all canadians.
            … but NO, we simply spread-our-legs for the BIG Foreign Corporations, ohhh wow, I guess we really are just a bunch of “water-fetchers”, and now, “crude-fetchers”.

          • [It is NO more Alberta’s “oil sands” that the Great Lakes is just for Ontarians,]
            Depends on the definition of “Natural Resources”. Waterways and water are a (mostly) federal jurisdiction.

            Edit to Add: Btw, the Harpocracy have watered down the federal jurisdiction with successive changes to various Acts, not the least the Navigable Waters Protection Act, the oldest and most comprehensive Act in Canada. In the process, they have trampled on Common Law.

            Don’t get me started….

          • It’s gonna be tough. We might have to create some right livlihood jobs, bring our manufacturing home to Canada and stop living cheap off the slave labour of Bangladeshi and Haitian people. To cite just two examples. Perhaps we’ll have to produce more and consume less? Use our resources wisely to benefit Canadians present and future. But one thing is for sure.

            There is no ‘easy money’………..there is highway robbery, exploitation, greed, and a wilingness to have lots and do little…but in the end, that’s the cruelest economy of all, Butwe don’t have to choose between starving or poisoning ourselves.

            That’s two reductive and simpleminded a take on this planet’s abundance. In short, there are lots of alternatives to the present ideology of extract, refine elsewhere, off load the damages, and make a financial killing. We are not slaves to this road we’re presently on. That’s what Neil Young is trying to tell us: we do have choices and we should start making a few.

        • Sorry. Take a tour of the mining and smelting towns in northern Ontario, the manufacturing sites along the St Lawrence, and the cut forests in all the provinces.

          The wealth we have is the result of resource extraction and manufacturing.

          Of course we could all enjoy free healthcare paid for by minimum wage jobs in the tourism industry.

          • I worked for 3 years at INCO, back in the day, in Thonmpson Manitoba. I started as a labourer, explosives carrier, and left as a gunnite-machine operator.
            INCO offered to pay for my Engineering degree through University, if I would have stayed on. -That’s how “good” it was back then..
            Trust me, you could take ALL the mines, open-pitters, and smelters included, in all of Ontario, and then multiply them by 10,000, and you still won’t get the gigantic areal amount of land devastation that is goin’ on in those oil sands.
            You’re not even talking the same kind of minimg, let alone resource extraction here.
            The Politics pulled the trigger on all of this too fast in Alberta. We should have taken our time, and thought all this out, carefully, with full engineering “refinement” in mind.
            Politicains, are NOT Engineers, they’re not scientists, environmental, or otherwise, …., but they are “mental” though.

      • kcm2 posted: Hey, don’t knock it. Beats wearing furs and trying to snare your supper in -50 eh.

        I’m reposting this. I hope i removed it by accident. I’d hate to think macleans is removing stuff like this. It’s irony Macleans.

      • ALL of Canada’s hydrocarbon production, of which only a fraction (albeit sizable) is bitumen, is less than 5% of GDP. On top of that, due to many tax breaks, it contributes even less of a % of tax revenues.

  7. When are we going to get some interity and finally deal with the true cumulative impacts? NEB reviews the pipeline but not burning the oil it carries, governments of Alberta/Canada ignore Canada on top 10 per capita emissions clinging to 2% overall. We might not like to hear it but Neil is only saying it like it is.

  8. The question Neil Young is raising, and that everyone seems to want to ignore, is not whether the benefits outweigh the risks, we can all have our opinions on that, but who should get to decide.

    The benefits are mostly private and the risks are mostly public, and unevenly distributed at that. The interests of the people most affected, the traditional users of the territory, are subordinate to a process that favours development over their objections regardless of aboriginal title and treaties.

    Does anyone really believe that either government, the proponent or the review panel is acting in the interest of these people? It isn’t as if Canada has a proud history of respecting aboriginal title or fulfilling its treaty obligations, so why does it get to decide yet again what happens in their territory? Why is it even up for consideration that we trade the interests of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation for Shell and its shareholders? Canada has no obligation to Shell, but it does have an obligation to First Nations and it is failing to fulfill that obligation once again.

    • Insightfully said, and thankyou.

  9. Just checking your system, if this gets on, I’ll get on with my comment

    • Unfortunately Harper’s new environmental review laws mean, sadly, that you are not directly affected by this topic. You will receive your 10 page application in due course.

  10. Good…Thanks to Andrew Leach for writing this article…because most of us haven’t the time or the inclination to wade through long panel documents, particularly when we suspect its going to be a slam dunk for Big Oil anyway. However, as a retired English teacher, I have to love the concept of sterilizing bitumen (does that mean it won’t be able to reproduce?) and the clauses that tell the truth about the sterilizaing of the boreal forests, her wetlands and the water birds who depend on those wetlands, is valuable knowledge for all of us speaking up for a sustainable future.

    My grandson, now 11, was born loving birds………so now I know much more about them than I once did. I will support in all ways that I can the struggle to shut down an industry so freaken dumb that it thinks moving rivers, removing wetlands and extincting our feathered friends is good for the economy. The darling child who took me out to see and learn the birds will not grow old to sterilized skies. If I can help it.

    And shame on all of us for looking away for so long, while a multinational bunch of rich kids who love nothing much grabbed power and started telling us that the only good jobs in this great country of ours, are jobs that destroy what makes a country possible. Time to get our old butts off other people’;s beaches and down onto our native territory…. live up to that old song we were taught in Grade school: How does it go? Oh Canada, we stand on guard for thee?

    There’s sites where we can financially contribute to the court cases native leaders are mounting. FIND THEM AND DO THE RIGHT THING.

  11. Steralize bitumen. The funniest thing I’ve ever read.

    • What the hell does it even mean?

    • Could we sterilize our politicians?

  12. Outstanding article.

  13. This is not going to happen no matter what Harper does. Process is vital, and we didn’t follow one beyond ‘snatch and grab’….so the FN aren’t onside.

    Plus the world has moved beyond this.

    Basically attitude killed it….and will continue to trample it.

    However we’ve managed without it all this time….so it won’t make any difference.

  14. This comment was deleted.

    • Right, that’s why they’re saying no to Gateway, even though there are billions left on the table for them. Aboriginal people are among some of the poorest and yet bravest people in this country. And you, to paraphrase Obama, appear to be proud of your ignorance and stupidity.

      • This comment was deleted.

        • I’ve lived on reserve for the better part of 3 years. My wife taught there. I worked there.I There’s a reserve barely a couple of miles across the river from me right now. I don’t need any lessons from ignoramuses like you and James. The question is have you? Your opinion as fact again eh Ricky?
          There are reserves that have issues, like garbage, and there are those that don’t. The ones that do generally have problems – like upwards of 70% unemployment. Put a white community in the same situation under the Indian Act, you’d get the same problems. You’re as ignorant as James and that takes some doing.

          • So are you denying that they’re generally filthy places where nobody actually respects the environment, or are you disagreeing with that?

            It’s all well and good to “say no” to Gateway because they’re not willing to pay a large enough dollar figure. But pretending it’s because of the environment while you’re littering all over the “sacred” land while hunting various species to the brink of extinction is a bit of a stretch, no?

          • I asked you if you’ve ever been on a reserve longer then it takes to complain about the garbage?
            You seriously think littering bugs them when they see companies walk onto their land without a by your leave, leave a hell of a mess, and walk out again with 95% of the profit from their resources; and many of them still on welfare? Because that has been the history of BC for instance. It’s barely slowed down since the courts became activist. So do you think they [and i] like activist courts? You bet your ass they do. It is just about payback time for these guys. Even latter day cons like Harper can see the writing on the wall.

          • If they’re not going to respect their own land, they shouldn’t expect that anybody else will either.

          • Like you think it is their land.

          • I know you are but what am I?

          • Don’t stick your chin out like that Ricky.

          • All BS. Any company can’t just walk on reserve and set up an oil extraction facillity, or anything else for that matter. It has to go through them. Crown land bordering theirs is another issue. See the fracking issue down east. Many of these resourse companies would love to employ First Nations, but sadly, there are no qualified candidates in their community to hire. Any members with any ambition have already left to find a better path. Any that are left turn their communities into the exact situation Rick describes. You see, I too live down the road from 2 Reserves, so I can see the truth!

          • And there’s only one truth [yours] isn’t there!
            The fact is the present set up severely limits the ability of bands to either obtain financing or even make deals with resource companies without Ottawa’s approval in triplicate. Settling land claims and ditching the Indian Act is the answer – not just hiring wage earners on reserve.[ although there’s nothing wrong with that]
            As for the NB fracking issue – the band looks like they simply don’t want it. That may or may not be bad science, but it’s their right to say no.

          • you’re joking right ?

          • So you married an Indian for the tax breaks…………does you’re pay cheque from your part time on call muni job arrive on reserve in her name?

      • Many bands in Alberta are very rich.

        • So? There are rich bands in BC too. But most of the bands on the coast and interior BC are not rich. I’m sure there’s some debate in those communities about the wisdom of saying no to the oil pipeline. It looks like they wont have to choose. since they’re already gearing up for exports of LNG. Bad luck for AB. Good luck for the coast imo. AB should be content with KM going through and maybe a pipeline east. The oil boys are looking more then a little greedy.

          • Pardon me for pointing out your sweeping generalization about FN’s people being poor. I believe THIS article is about FN’s people in Alberta and many, many of the bands are not poor but to the contrary they have become rich from the same dirty oil money that you and your friends smugly look down upon. Those Alberta bands have happily taken their piece of the pie. Please do not speak for them because you have resided on one reserve in Canada. Maybe you should take a trip to The Horse Nation and see how they spend their oil money paying ex-NHL hockey players to play on their reserve team. They even had Theo Fleury there for a time. Hey it is their business how they spend THEIR cut of oil revenues but please do not start telling us or them that they are getting left out of the wheeling and dealing because they aren’t.

          • Actually I wasn’t trying to be snarky.
            As I said, so![ maybe that is just a bit snarky?]
            Good for them. But to get oil to tidewater there are a good number of poor bands that will need persuading, and most of them are far more ambivalent then the AB bands are about pipelines carrying bitumen.
            In any case you seem to have left out the Lubicon band which sits in the middle of oil country yet remains poor and constantly in court with AB over one thing or another.
            Edit: you’re conflating two different issues. Sure there are bands all over the place that have become rich by allowing oil wells on their land. I doubt if many of those BC bands would object to wells on their land either. What we’re discussing here is the unchecked development of the oil sands on their traditional territories. The scale of the environmental disruption is totally out of scale with traditional drilling in other parts of the prairies and Northern BC.

          • What I find fascinating about these conversations is how people pick and choose what environmental cause they will champion. Attacking the oil sands while ignoring coal baffles the mind. Why do you suppose environmentalists like Neil Young and Robert Redford don’t go after Canada and the US for shipping record breaking amounts of coal to China?

          • The US is currently on track to meet it’s Copenhagen target, we aren’t. Partly that is because new gas finds are replacing coal fired generators.
            If it is true that record amounts of coal is being shipped [i haven’t seen evidence for that myself] you have a good point.

    • Check out the Hobbema reserve in central Alberta. The Samson band is the richest on the planet.

      • Hobbema changed the name to Maskwacis as of Jan 1st.

        • I fled 20 years ago. W.P.Kinsella & I will still call it Hobbema.

  15. Harper isn’t going to get anywhere with this. Process is important, and all we’ve done is be grabby. So FNs aren’t onside.

    Plus the world has moved on from here.

    Mostly it’s attitude that has caused the problem, and apparently there’s no changing that.

    In any case it doesn’t matter….we’ve managed without it all this time.

    • But he is getting somewhere. The project is a go. Right now he’s trying to see it remains a go from the SCoC end too.

      • No….it’s a bureaucratic go….off to court.

    • So ignorant Emily. The FN has signed contracts with Shell allowing them to develop the mine. The FN isn’t trying to have the mine expansion shut down, they’re simply trying to get more money.

      The project is a go. You can call that “bureaucratic” if you want. It’s still a go.

      • The only place this is ‘going’ is to court.

        Over and over again.

        • And once it’s through the courts, it will be built.

          • So we’ll talk again in 20 years.

      • Rick, the ACFN has NOT agreed to the Jackpine project & filed in the Federal Court last week to prevent it. The ACFN membership has voted to oppose any development north of Firebag. This is not about money, it is about Treaty Rights, as Chief Allan & Neil have stated. Try to educate yourself about the facts, instead of spouting nonsense.

  16. Since Harper gutted our waterways and fish habitat protection he’s now given the responsibility to the oil companies to monitor it for themselves. Seeing how they want to go ahead with the Jackpine project even though the panel confirmed the environment will suffer severe and dire consequences, does not instill Canadians confidence for any future oil projects. In fact, it’s the ramming of this project down everyone’s throat that has most people so concerned.
    When one looks at how much money we could all be making growing and selling hemp for fuel it boggles the mind that this perfect plant is illegal just because it “looks” like pot! Just google “Grow hemp for fuel” and watch this amazing video on you tube. It breaks down the dollars per acre for what the farmer would make, right down to the consumer. We have thousands of miles of unused land along the shoulders and medians of our midwestern highways, flat beautiful land that would be perfect to grow and harvest hemp. It would also ensure those working in the oil sands now would have a job in growing, harvesting or manufacturing hemp for fuel or other numerous uses for this wonderful plant.

    • How many more farmers will it take to grow this hemp for fuel?

      • Since we have thousands of miles of flat unused land for growing hemp along the shoulders and medians of our midwestern highways, that would probably be enough since it’s such a high yielding plant. The great part about hemp is you can also grow it for food and use the left over for fuel. If we did grow it along the highways it would naturally soak up the carbon from the cars and also would be a cushy crash zone for any accidents.

  17. The biggest risk I see is that all of the heat and light around the Neil Young tour will distract you from what you should do, which is to sit down, read the mine approval, and decide for yourself what you think.

    You know what else has the same effect? Writing a blog post using pull-quotes out of context in a blatant effort to promote one side of the debate.

    Hypocrisy, thy name is Andrew Leach.

    • You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

      • Which word are you referring to? I use lots of words.

    • You are, as usual, bringing a wet noodle to a gun fight.

  18. To clarify because it is not obvious to outside readers the word “sterilize” in an EIA is not the same as the word “sterilize” in a kitchen or laboratory.
    “Sterilize” in an EIA means: make unavailable either temporarily or permanently. So if you allow a tailings pond to be built over a vein of bitumen then you have “sterilized” the bitumen since you can no longer mine that resource.
    If you run a clean river through the tailings (and thus pollute the river) you can “sterilize” that river both in an EIA sense (by making the water unusable due to pollution) and in a “kitchen sterilize” sense in that you would kill off all the creatures in the water.
    It is a real pity the word is used in this way as it makes for very odd and unnecessarily scary reading.

    • Thanks for the clarification.

  19. The government…
    doth protest too much, methinks on the actions of a most humble but esteemed celeb
    with a guitar. Why would this be? What was the grave error in Neil Young’s
    facts? Neil Young is being attacked for revealing a little secret hidden from
    Canadians. The pipeline is an export pipeline. The bitumen from Alberta is not
    for American consumption. There appears to be little quarrel with his tour to
    raise needed funds for the First Nation Band and his attack on this government
    singular oil and money policies but speaking the truth that the bitumen is for
    export to “China” is the crux. The government does not want Canadians thinking
    the oil is marked for foreign markets. Perhaps Canadians might not be so
    opposed with the pipeline for export to foreign markets and companies
    benefiting from tax havens if our government was transparent and the same
    government had a comprehensive plan (now not a fictional one) to lower our
    consumption on petroleum products by simple and easy practices found in Europe
    and elsewhere in countries that care about the environment. A tax on carbon
    would be wonderful too. Lastly, I find it hypocritical when political parties
    love to use outside celebs to advance a cause – e.g. Bono, Sting come to mind but
    do not accord our own Canadian celebs like Neil Young more respect. Several
    media commentators (Liberals and Conservatives) and our most esteemed media pundits and commentators did not give Neil Young the level of respect so enthusiastically reserved for foreign celebs. His impact on actual policy may be far greater than those of Bono and Sting the least of which is raising funds so the band have asay on their rights and resource development.

    • We also export excess wheat from the west and hydro from Quebec, to name a few things. Should these products also be limited to what can be consumed by us Canadians?

      • What about all of that coal that BC is shipping to China? Where is the outrage about that? Talk about a big carbon footprint! Neil Young isn’t taking that issue on because then he would have to deal with US coal fired electricity and the shipping of US coal to China. He wouldn’t want to upset his adopted homeland. He might be deported back to the cold winters in Canada.

  20. The bottom-line is, they seem to ALL agree that Canada has the 2nd largest amount of Oil, (2nd to Saudi arabia) in the world.
    Ok, if that is true, then how much of ALL this is going to show us “wealth” figures, as in, average dollar figures of profit, and for how long ?
    Also, this better be an awfully high $$$, for future Canadians, and for atleast the next 50 years,…?
    If, as this Panel also suggests, we’re going to turn an area of Canadian land the size of the northern half of Alberta, into a desloate Toxic moonscape, for the next +10 generations, then it better be darn well worth it right ?

    NOTE!: how they (Panel and/or Gov’t) have NO $$$ figures for any Canadians ???.

    BUT, I bet you anything that the largest Multinational Oil Corp in the World (Shell MultiNational) knows EXACTLY how much they are going to profit by this !, and LoL, Shell is NOT even a Canadian Oil Corp.

  21. Letting readers “judge for themselves” is a departure from the usual Andrew Leach approach wherein he peppers readers with a biased, pro-Alberta/Industry opinion. He must be a real Neil Young fan and has mellowed momentarily either for some free tickets to the Calgary show or he got lost in a bong and suddenly has an environmental heart of gold….

  22. Cumulative effects are the elephant in the room, no one wants to speak the truth about them. The Alberta government’s land use plans are showing to be unable to deal with the problem. It is now mandatory for new projects to look at cumulative effects. I read one for a new coal mine that essentially said “we will be adding to emissions but not as much as is already there.” Approved.

  23. Wasn’t his old man a columnist for the Mope and Wail? I’d listen to him.

    • Not only is this comment not funny, it doesn’t make much sense. Please, if you want to join the discusion, discuss. Put downs aren’t ideas, facts, or even opinions…they are a form of bullying….and that so many people start and finish with them says something frightening about our societies capacity for democratic discussion. You should have listened to your English teachers…they might have helped you learn how to develop an argument.

  24. Just approve it. The time to ignore these environmentalist knuckleheads is far overdo. Why did we ever start listening to them in the first place? When did this insanity start?

    Build, drill, and let’s get the economy going. People have families to feed and homes to heat, and that’s far more important than tree hugging.

    • Do you shit in your living room too, or just the kitchen?

      • Neither………..he shits in someone elses. What happens to our land base, our native people, and eventually our land, air, water doesn’t matter to him. He’s got his eye on one of those McMansions in Calgary.

  25. I used to enjoy Neil Young’s music but was distracted from it by Neil Young, self-righteous a****le that he is. Neil Young should have zero say on Canadian energy policy and the Canadian environment. I know that many of us like to point out that he’s Canadian because it makes us feel good but he’s Canadian only by birth. The shared experience and agency that is part of citizenship is lacking in Neil Young. The ego that tells him he can come down from on high and lecture Canadians when he had to be begged to accept his OC is just astounding.

    • Disagree. The liberal party of Canada had no problem bringing back Michael Ignatiefft, who hadn’t lived in Canada for over 30 years, to run for our prime minister….Neil Young is a musician and poet…….many of our best artists end up living in the states…………in part because of the niggardly attitude many Canadians…and the governments they choose, have toward the arts.

      But the lyrics tell the story. He was born and raised here and for artists, the country of their youth generally informs their art, in ways people who like to trade in insults, rather than in metaphors, seldom understand.

      As Neil said in his interview last night: “I have a right to say what I think, wherever I am”….that is a right I think he’d extend to all people in a democracy, and I for one agree with him 100%. We don’t all agree. In a democracy we cherish that dissent…….and if we have a brain and heart formed on democracy, we don’t resort to name calling and bully boy tactics when faced with ideas that threaten or challenge us.

      What’s not Canadian is a mean spirit. What’s not Canadian is lying. What’s not Canadian, are most of the multinational corporations ripping up our boreal forest. It sounds as if you disagree, but I don’t have to call you names because of that……….I can ask you to stop insulting your opponents.

  26. we have done enough damage to our habitats and our health

  27. Well, thanks to Neil, an article got written about it. Otherwise, perhaps the 4 millionth article on whether Harper will run again or not might have been written instead, or another about whether Canada has a housing bubble, which all the experts can agree either exists, doesn’t exist, is exaggerated, in underexaggerated, is a major threat to the economy, and/or is not a big deal. But hey, silly Neil, talking about things he doesn’t understand, unlike all the “experts”! :)

  28. QUOTE: “The biggest risk I see is that all of the heat and light around the Neil
    Young tour will distract you from what you should do, which is to sit
    down, read the mine approval, and decide for yourself what you think.”

    -I don’t think so. It’s because Neil has brought intense attention to this issue now that he’s named in the header of this article which is what brought me (& likely many other readers) to the McLeans site to read it just now. Perhaps McLeans is running this article because the oil sands issue is in the forefront of news at the moment
    – because of Neil.

    I’m disappointed CBC TV’s The National ran a censored version of Neil’s interview that was first broadcast on CBC’s Q radio program without the censorship.
    CBC TV removed Neil’s comments that the tar sands industrialized area could reach the size of England. They also deleted his comments that suggested tar sands expansion is largely slated for export to China. I imagine CBC caved to industry CEOs & some press reports claiming Neil was spreading falsehoods. I beg to differ. Neil was not spreading falsehoods. He speaks in a conversational manner without lawyer-ly, or a lecturing professor’s, precision of terminology. This gave Neil’s sludge sands apologist opponents an opening to willfully misinterpret what Neil said & falsely claim he was spreading falsehoods.

    The “size of England” statement is found in the “Petropolis” film Neil recommends (now viewable via the Vimeo site). A Globe piece took issue with Neil over it, not because it’s untrue, but because Neil wasn’t quite precise enough for them. Apparently, the only quibble is that it wasn’t made clear enough by Neil the potential England size sands industrialization area includes both strip mineable areas & areas that would need to be extracted via wells & pumping hot water underground. Hardly grounds for censoring Neil’s comment, surely.

    Neil’s China comments got the scissors taken to them too after critics, imo, willfully misinterpreted Neil by claiming he said bitumen oil currently goes mainly to China, not the U.S. But it should be obvious he was referring to FUTURE expansion of sands being slated for China export. The expansion is exactly what the first nations law suit Neil’s supporting is challenging in court. More deliberate misinterpretation of Neil’s comments?

    Shame on the CBC for caving to unwarranted pressure to censor some of Neil’s comments which were not false after all, but could have been stated more clearly & precisely by Neil, is all. Mothercorp’s a HOE in this case. Neil Young keeps on rockin’ in the free world with more credibility & sincerity than his sludge sands apologist opponents can offer.

    • Thanks for this……..we missed the interview last night but will pick it up off the Q site. Yes our CBC is also a victim or right wing censorship. And let’s face it, lots of conservatives and oil men are working to shut it down entirely. The last thing the prols need is a national broadcaster paid for with their tax dollars. Far more efficient to use those tax dollars to subsidize shipping raw materials to communist countries. (If we still think their ideology is anything but a cover for their rapacious money lust…the ease with which they’ve climbed into bed with China should disabuse us)

      • Good to see progressives standing up against the Red Menace. I believe that progressives like Joseph P. Kennedy and Henry Ford were also sounding similar alarm bells back in the 1930s — i.e., no truck or trade with them commies.

    • I watched the interiew on CBC but had not listened to the original broadcast on radio. Thanks for pointing out the censor on the aired CBC TV interview. I was not aware that parts of the interview were removed. Niel’s comments are accurate and his analogies were bang on. That is the problem and conundrum for the media (who have been silenced). When i first learned of the interview I saw a caption saying Peter Mansbridge was to do the interview not JG as did occur. Mansbridge may have been pulled off doing the interview for obvious reasons. It’s been so long since we had anyone talk so forthrightly and clearly about the devastation being created it was refreshing. And the comment of Hiroshima – that too was an appropriate analogy – he was making the point that the land resembles a war zone and the size is arguably as big as Labrador. Why quibble with inches. It’s as if Canadian soil has been bombed like the places we see on TV in Iraq, Iran etc etc. I am fearful for any society when the press and media are silenced, the scientist, the critics and as we have seen most of our institutions – senate, parliament, police, media, justice and now we have state paid propoganda with Harper vignettes to lull us to sleep. It is harder to silence artists of course and in most fascist regimes – these are usually the first targets. We seemed to have gotten that backward. But assuredly, the attack on Neil is to discredit him. Truth must be suppressed lest the populace be outraged and not go along. Thanks for your comment

  29. Blessings Be to Neil Young and anyone who brings light and awareness to the conditions brought on by Fossil Fuel mega death.. He’s a positive influence and a good soul ,, Step it up folks.. if you have procedure ,, follow it..

  30. Expansion over sustainability. In Alberta the growth has created so much pressure on everything from housing, infrastructure, hospitals, environment, etc. We could have slowed this growth and develop them more for the benefit of Alberta instead of giving these resources to any country who wants to exploit them. Once the the oil has been exhausted, what are we going to end up with?

  31. Anyone who follows this stuff saw the panel’s comments on their decision in the news weeks ago.

    Prof. Andrew Leach has to publish or perish and if he can get his name on an article by lifting sentences and paragraphs written by others he will, and did.

    • Macleans blogs don’t count for much in the world of publish or perish. If anything, they count against you. But, nice try.

  32. Neil Young will be broadcast on another TV interview tonight (Thursday, Jan. 16) on APTN News. (APTN = Aboriginal People’s Television Network). I highly doubt they’ll censor his comments the shameful way CBC TV’s The National did. Mothercorp’s a HOE that surrendered itself to the oil lobby who complained about Neil’s CBC radio broadcast comments, & apparently succeeded in getting some of them excised from the TV edition of the same interview.

  33. Andrew Leach has presented a fair and balanced review of this decision, however uncanny it’s resemblance is to Northern Gateway JRP decision is. It in no way says “the government is right in its decision” only that this is how the government is basing its decision. A lot of people would do well to read this well.

  34. No. It is not.

  35. I believe that our standards as Canadians are truly about maintaining our most precious resources, not destroying 10000 hectares of them to pursue money through corporate agenda. This is a Pandoras box. Once we have sold ourselves out there will be nothing left to stop further destruction. The damage is incredible up there already. The money and jobs will be long gone but the damage will linger for centuries. Does anyone think that when the last of the oil is removed from the sand that the oil companies will compensate the jobs that no longer exist? Or that they will finance the recreation of such vital wetlands? We all know the answer to this. Its simply not worth it.

  36. Andrew, you missed the most damning quote in the whole report: “Aw, f*ck it. You’re good to go.”

  37. Yes, is the easy answer to the last question you posed: is it justified, in your mind, given the circumstances?

    The courts are a tool for ongoing negotiation — good for the ACFN and their foreign supporters who hope to use that tool to damage the capacity of their Albertan oil producing competitors. Bad for every taxpayer in Canada.

    How much of a environmental disaster did the draining of the Holland Marsh cause? Perhaps that should be reclaimed? Or, Andrew, where does your house in Edmonton lie? Was that land drained? The stark words used in this report describe almost every righteous exploitation of land resources that ever happened in this country. What has been the cumulative effect of that environmental “damage” to Canada? We, who live in one of the harshest environments to man, have one of the highest standards of living combined with longest life spans in the history. Clearly, given the circumstance, this development is justified.

    Northern man, we’ve got both wheels on the track.
    It’s all going right!

  38. Neil Young uses hyperbole (exaggeration) in describing the oil sands, but hyperbole was even used by Jesus:

    Hyperbole is also a way of grabbing a reader’s or listener’s attention. Whenever a truth is in danger of becoming a cliché, the use of hyperbole can rescue it from indifference (or what J. R. R. Tolkien called “the drab blur of triteness or familiarity”8). It often does so by producing a shock effect. This seems to be the purpose for many of Jesus’ hyperboles: “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away” (Matt. 5:29); “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead” (Matt. 8:22).

    Neil Young – God’s Prophet? – John Van Sloten

  39. All things consider, I believe a large number of Canadians support the construction of the mine despite the fact there will be some habitat loss for wildlife and an environmental impact. Almost everything we do in this world results in this… from building roads to urban sprawl. People seem okay with the fact that the garbage they produce somehow “disappears” once they put it on the curb on it’s way to a unsightly landfill site… that also has an impact on the environment does it not? The oil industry is an easy target… and many of those who fire at it are the most arrogant and uninformed in our society behaving in an holier-than-thou attitude.

  40. My first trip to Fort McMurray was in 1970 to the GCOS plant which was surrounded by muskeg. To the enlightenment of the few that do not know what this is, it is swamp land that had to be drained and cleared prior to construction and extending the area could only be done in the winter when it was frozen. The few pitiful indians in the area have been well compensated for this intrusion into their nomadic existence and any dried up excuse for an entertainer would not have survived a week. This area has kept the engine of Canada moving for many years by supplying work for Canadians from all corners of our country and if the whiners don’t like the result they should be riding bicycles to prove their point.

  41. Neil Young is another celeb seeking to gain some free publicity by becoming “enviromental activist”. Hurry up and die hippy piece of filth.

    • Neil has always cared about First Nations issues and other good causes like preserving the environment, fool. Please emigrate redneck jackass.

      • Thanks for the compliment Regerino. Rather be a redneck than a brain-dead liberal like you. Maybe you and hippie Neil can jump in front of a bus together.

        • ‘Brain dead Liberal’ – what a rightwinger’s talking-point pantload! Hahaha! It’s the redneck right that nominated that ‘intellectual giant’ Sarah Palin, for Vice President! Now THAT’s a textbook example of which side of the political divide is ‘BRAIN DEAD’, you lamentable moron! Since you evidently embrace pollution, why don’t you do us all a favour and go suck up a cesspool.

  42. Aboriginal rights were granted but not defined in the Constitution of 1982. In British Columbia aboriginal land clams at one time totaled 110% of its total area. Can Aboriginals clam all of Canada as an aboriginal right?

  43. Does neil want us to turn into a california mess where laws and lawsuits by “enviromentalists” preclude the building of infrastructure and creates a gian mess like the drought in California die to not building a water system that can actrually deal with the millions of people who live there?

    Keep your environmental theories out of our law books, of course the tar sands are polluting and destroying Albertas ecology, I just wish Canada actually got to keep the oil and benefited from it, we pay more fro gasoline than countries we sell it to

  44. Stay in California Neil, your views dont make sense anywhere else

    Does neil want us to turn into a california? a mess where laws and lawsuits by “enviromentalists” preclude the building of infrastructure and creates a giant mess like the drought in California due to not building a water system that can actually deal with the tens of millions of people who live there?

    And with all the laws California is a smoggy mess


    Another celebrity hypocrite of the first order. owns a 1500 acre ranch, many cars, mostly old clsssic big gasoline burners, 4 harley davidsons, various other homes, more air travel than 1000 humans combined etc. Truly pathetic. Irrational and lacks logic of how things work and came to pass. 2 + 2 truly equal 7 in the mind of Neil “hypocrite” Young.

  46. You can make a lot of money selling your organs too. It would be fiscally irresponsible not to!

  47. It is only prudent to listen to the vast majority of climate scientists: we need to keep the fossil fuels in the ground or face major climate change. Dealing with massive climate change will be very expensive, negating the economic short-term advantages of increased fossil fuel extraction. Period.

  48. “Only when the last tree has been cut down; Only when the last river has been poisoned; Only when the last fish has been caught; Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten.” – Aboriginal proverb There is so much truth to that proverb, I see the World getting closer and closer to that every day. Very scary!!