The Bashing of Alberta…….a new popular sport

Late October sunset on Highway 20 , "somewhere" south of Breton, Alberta, Canada.

Late October sunset on Highway 20 , “somewhere” south of Breton, Alberta, Canada.

I sit here on January 17th, 2014 and realize there are reasons not to make a New Year’s Resolution, quite honestly because they can’t be kept. After 2013 I surely should have made a resolution to avoid controversial issues; that was the year that we fought for habitat, fought against a development, fought by-laws being broken, and a shoddy school system. Granted, if you look closely you can see small changes that happened through all the jumping up and down, but still at this point a normal person would probably just give up and hide under a rock. Truly I did try to stay hidden under my rock, but glimpses of the “Q” interview with Neil Young (by Gian Ghomeshi) last night regarding the Alberta oil sands followed by the statement by Jim Cuddy of Blue Rodeo that I read today confirmed I could no longer stay silent.

I will never understand why “celebrities” do not stick to the business they know, but they don’t. Now admittedly I might have a teeny tiny bit of my personality that could be labelled “cynical” but one does have to wonder why these two gentlemen have ventured to be vocal in the arena discussing the oil sands of Alberta. What do they have to gain? Now one of the gentlemen, Jim Cuddy, has a cross- Canada tour happening with his band Blue Rodeo, so it is pretty safe to say what he has to gain is publicity. You know what they say….”there is no such thing as bad press”. Pretty tacky. It isn’t as if the oil sands are “new” news so jumping on the bandwagon now hoping to sell a few extra concert tickets and three more t-shirts is just plain cheesy. Neil Young, who knows, but I won’t be surprised if we see a “new” “BEST OF NEIL YOUNG” album released in the coming months.

I’ve decided to tackle this post in this order, first discuss each of these two “spokes-people”, then discuss their approach, then just for fun throw some numbers at you (because statistics are the new sexy!).

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NEIL YOUNG

Let’s start with Neil Young. Let’s start with one basic fact. According to Wikipedia Neil Young has lived in California since the 1970’s. Ahem, yes you read that right. CALIFORNIA. Now last time I checked not only was California not in the province of Alberta, but it also wasn’t in the country we know as Canada. Evidently he is still a “Canadian Citizen”. Evidently by having a little blue passport with the word “Canada” on it it entitles him to toddle up north of the 49th parallel and start spewing hate against one of the more significant industries and employers of our province. Now this man jumped ship in the 1970’s. He said through his actions that I choose to live in the U.S.A.  over Canada. I choose the U.S.A. over Canada. Period. Nice patriotism dude. Yes this is a guy that truly has Canada’s back….not. He kept the passport for the ease of travel. Obvious. As everyone knows there are nice perks to travelling as a Canadian compared to travelling as an American. Ever backpack Europe?I have. It is comical to count the Americans that sew a Canadian flag on their backpacks in hopes of being treated better. Neil Young did the same by keeping his citizenship. Shameful.

“Using” his citizenship is shameful enough, but now let’s talk hypocrisy. First we will revisit that Neil Young lives in California. I just didn’t want anyone to forget that fact. Evidently there are no environmental issues in California. None. A perfect little Disney utopia. Pristine pollution free air in California so Mr. Young feels the need to come to Canada to find an environmental issue. Has anyone been to Los Angeles, taken their life in their own hands and risked breathing? Just breathing, nothing else. And don’t you just love the gobs of black snot that form inside your nose from the pollution. Memorable. But remember all the environmental issues of North America are in the oil sands of Alberta. Let me share this experience with you, in California there is this lovely (truly it is stunning, no sarcasm) little spot called Joshua Tree National Park that we visited a few years ago. As you drive through the park it is mile after mile of stunning scenery and at one spot there is a viewpoint for the San Andreas Fault. You reach the viewpoint, look off to the distance and all you can see is smog. Thick smog. Smog is pollution. Smog too is killing this earth.

A word of advice to Mr. Young…… if you want to save the earth start by solving the problems in your own backyard. Your backyard called California is a cesspool of pollution. Fix that first before spouting off in MY COUNTRY and MY PROVINCE.

(Okay I also just have to ask, what everyone thinks of Neil Young’s sense of dress? How does everyone feel about the whole buckskin and fringe jacket he has been rocking on T.V.. Now I know he is trying to work the whole aboriginal angle, but do you think that Neil Young thinks he is “blending” with the aboriginal community with his clothing choice ? Do you think that his thought process is “buckskin” is what “aboriginals” wear in “Canada”. Now we live in an area with a decent sized aboriginal population and a reserve up the highway to the north, and Neil I am sorry to say if that is your intent you have it so wrong, if you want to blend buy a hoody and a pair of jeans. Lose the buckskin, we aren’t living in a Lone Ranger movie up here in CANADA.)

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Jim Cuddy of Blue Rodeo

( link to Cuddy comment )

I find it incredibly ironic to be writing this post as only a week ago I wrote a glowing blog post about the Blue Rodeo concert held in Red Deer, Alberta. Yes I was at that concert and it was good. Remember that concert Jim? The one where you commented on the security guard doing chin ups and that he was nicely silhouetted (just a little reference that will confirm I was actually there if Mr. Cuddy happens to come across this blog post). Now Mr. Cuddy does actually live in Canada which gives some validation in having an opinion compared to Neil Young. Mr. Cuddy is also on a cross-Canada tour with his band Blue Rodeo. Yes indeedy all the way from British Columbia to Newfoundland. Anyone ever look at a map of Canada? This country is pretty big. Did you know that sometimes our country, Canada, actually takes up two whole pages in an atlas. Shocking. Want to know something even more shocking? That bus that Mr.Cuddy and his gang will be travelling on will be running on fossil fuels. FOSSIL FUEL kids …..FOSSIL FUEL. So this gentleman who decided to jump on the “Neil Young Bandwagon” of “bad fossil fuel production, evil, evil oil sands” is actually burning a massive amount of fossil fuels touring this country with his band all with the sole goal of filling his own pockets with cash. Ahem. Yep. This is a pretty big freaking country and Blue Rodeo is going to burn how many thousands of gallons (sorry, litres…metric eh?) of gas touring the country? This guy thinks he has the right to speak out against the oil sands and say they are “visually grotesque” yet burn up fossil fuel as he travels the country to promote his own fame and fortune?  What a crock of s**** (come on, I live in Alberta, we have cows here too ya know!)

Mr. Cuddy, sorry to say that no matter how well you play the harmonica you and your band are part of the problem. Your are using up a ridiculous amount of resources to tour with your band. If you are going to open your trap about your opinion on the Alberta energy sector you better be walking the talk. Tour ACROSS CANADA  is not “walking the talk”, you sir are using up a massive amount of resources and if you continue to use the resources in such a trivial way production in the oil sands needs to be increased and thus the whole of the production area expanded.

Ever hear the phrase “biting the hand that feeds you”? Pretty common phrase. Mr. Cuddy relies on “fans” to download albums, buy CD’s, attend concerts, buy t-shirts, etc. to make a living. It would be, in my opinion, Mr. Cuddy’s best interest to not offend the demographic that listens to his music. Now at the January 9th Blue Rodeo concert in Red Deer, Alberta it may just have been in Mr. Cuddy’s best interest to walk out the door of the Enmax Centrium and take a three second look at the parking lot. That three second look would have told Mr. Cuddy exactly the demographic that will pay for his music and his concerts. In three seconds Mr. Cuddy would have seen….truck…truck…truck….truck….truck…truckity truck truck truck. Not little trucks. Big “kick you ass” trucks. Mr. Cuddy would have then possibly thought “What buys these trucks?” The answer would be one simple word. OIL. Mr. Cuddy, like it or not, your audience is employed by the energy sector that you feel is so dirty and nasty. Every freaking dollar you took as profit from that concert came from the oil sands either directly or indirectly. Economies work on a trickle down effect. When the patch is booming so is EVERY other aspect of the economy. Oil money pays for houses, groceries, music lessons, a double-double at Tim Hortons and CONCERT TICKETS. By condemning the industry at Fort. McMurray you are biting the hand that feeds you.

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Statements and Approaches

I am going to begin by pasting Mr. Cuddy’s statement from http://www.bluerodeo.com  as it was his comment that prompted me to write this. In my opinion Neil Young has no credibility as he doesn’t even live in our country.

News

January 17, 2014 | « back

Jim Cuddy Issues Statement in Support of Neil Young

I believe that Neil Young is brave and articulate and very well informed about the oil sands.

Right now, Canada is at a crossroads between economics and the environment and we need to make a very, very brave choice. How much revenue are we willing to sacrifice to ensure that we have clean water, clean air and good health for the people and the planet?

To clarify, I was asked about the town of Fort McMurray, not the oil sands. My comments regarding the exaggeration of the conditions there were about Fort McMurray. The oil sands are as visually grotesque as described. Fort McMurray, on the other hand, is a thriving town whose people are directly affected by the issue of the expansion of the oil sands.

This is not a trivial issue and it is not a time for the media to do anything but provide clarity. This is an issue that is vital to all of our best interests. It is essential that we have an open dialogue about it and we force our government to listen.

Musicians and other celebrities do love the media. Everyone knows this. I do however wonder what inspired Jim Cuddy to write the statement above. Both of these musicians have taken the approach to use their popularity to be publicly  scathing of one of the largest industries in Alberta. Mr. Cuddy however is also about to receive the Order of Canada so one would expect him to have a bit more thought and a bit more tact.Class even.  It is very easy to be negative about a situation. It is easy to say bad things about the oil sands. It is easy to say they are “visually grotesque”. Easy does nothing. Easy isn’t a fix. Mr. Cuddy’s statement of  “It is essential that we have an open dialogue about it and we force our government to listen.” is pure babble. It is a P.R. line.

Mr. Cuddy , if you truly believe there is a problem get something done, don’t just talk about it. If you have an opinion that there is a problem, it is only a complaint unless you can offer a hint of a solution along side. So let’s start here. This is the point in the blog where I stop bitching about Mr. Cuddy’s statement and point to where focus should be put.

In  2011, Alberta exported about 1.3 million barrels per day (bbl/d) of crude oil to the United States (U.S.), supplying  15 percent of U.S. crude oil imports, or 7 percent of U.S. oil demand.  Total oil consumption for U.S. in  2011 was  18.9 million bbl/d.  Canada as a whole exported 2.23 million bbl/d of crude oil to the U.S., or about  25 percent of the U.S. total crude oil imports in 2011. link

Look at the above quote. If you want to stop expansion and lessen production this is the first place to start. Stop shipping to the U.S.A. . Quit feeding the American desire for fuel . Mr. Cuddy, this is where you take Mr. Young aside and say “if you truly believe this, you need to convince your countrymen to cut back their consumption by 7%”. If Mr. Young campaigned down in the U.S.A. and reduced the hunger for oil , there would not be the demand , and therefore no need for expansion of the oil sands.

October Sunset, Alberta, Canada

Now this leads us to problem number two. A decrease in production means a decrease in employment and a decrease in revenue and the trickle down effect throughout the economy. This is not an “Alberta only” problem. First of all, unemployment would affect the whole country, less contributing to income based taxes, a larger population claiming E.I. benefits, to keep everything ticking over taxes would have to increase. Can our country as a whole take the strain? Lowering production doesn’t just affect a few oil workers in Alberta, it will affect the whole country. What happens when Alberta goes from being a “have” province to a “have not”? Again are citizens of every other province willing to take on the sacrifice? Are you willing to have your own children paying 50% or more in income taxes just to keep the country running? What do you want their financial out look to be? Things to consider.

Let’s look at another statistic, this is the statistic for “Shadow Population” and specifically for the “Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo”.

Shadow Population

means, the temporary residents of a municipality who are employed by an
industrial or commercial establishment in the municipality
,for a minimum of 30 days within a municipal census year
.
The “Shadow Population” for this area breaks down as 1,755 for the urban area and 39,796 for the rural service area for a total of 41,551 people. Now I am going to break this down in plain English. There are 41,551 people from Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan…..pick a province, shipping themselves in to Fort McMurray to make a living to ship money back to their home province for their families to live. To feed their families and clothe their children and pay their rent or mortgage. I’ve known some of these families, the men usually have a wife and at least two children. The shadow population dependent on income earned  in the Fort McMurray area is in actual fact more like 166,204 (based on worker, spouse, 2 children), and this is money directly supporting the economies of provinces OTHER than Alberta. Can these provinces afford the loss?
Tough stuff. And to think a lot of celebrities come off sounding like the whole operation should be shut down. Imagine that devastation. Let’s look at this statistic next:
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So if we shut down the oil sands how do we survive? We have a massive country where goods need to be transported coast to coast. We have a cold country and use fuel for heat. Even electricity in Alberta is coming from burning coal, we have huge mines out by our cabin. Being an activist is easy, finding a solution is not.
Here are a few more statistics of interest (link) :

About 10 per cent of the oil sands workforce is Aboriginal.

In 2011, the value of contracts between oil sands companies and Aboriginal companies was over $1 billion.

How do Neil Young’s aboriginal acquaintances feel about a $1 billion loss? You should really ask him.

I could continue to throw out statistics showing beneficial aspects of the oil sands to Canadians, but I am going to cut to the chase as I am already nearing 3000 words.
snowy sunset over lake isle, alberta, canada
The FiX
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Here’s the deal. If you don’t like what is going on and complain you’d better have at least a start to a solution. So here are a few thoughts:
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1. Get on the government’s case to make green renewable energy affordable and available to the masses. We are burning coal in Alberta to make electricity. Why? We have sun. We have wind. But solar and wind power is too expensive for the average Canadian to install in their homes. We looked briefly at retrofitting our 800 square foot cabin. It would have taken us 20 years to break even on the investment. So we shelved the idea. Imagine the positive environmental impact of town after town running heat and power on sun and wind. The technology is there but the government is going to have to step up to the plate and make it affordable and accessible. It needs to become the norm and not a trendy oddity. Someone with a celebrity name could push for this. You could push for a fix. An ordinary person just comes off as a crazy tree hugger.
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2. If you are going to push for lack of expansion of the oil sands or a decrease in production you had better have an industry for the men and women to work in. Here’s the thing, for Canada to continue running we need the resource of energy in some shape or form. Even man in its most primitive form used fires made from burning wood for heat and to cook on. Energy, fuel, whatever you want to call it , is a basic human need. So keep these men and women of the oil sands in the energy sector, but a new energy sector. Start new divisions within the same corporations running the oil sands projects to create the components for clean energy. Retrain. Create a new industry up in Fort McMurray creating en mass the components for wind power and solar, plus all the technicians needed to keep the systems running. Mr. Cuddy, you are about to have the Order of Canada, you can start to push for clean energy to take over .
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snowy sunset over lake isle, alberta, canada
Conclusion
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Realistically a certain portion of Canada will have to have some dependence on the oil industry for the foreseeable future. Electric vehicles are fine for singles and couples, but not for a family…..well at least my family with 5 kids. I have trouble imagining an electric semi truck going over the Rogers Pass fully loaded. Before being openly critical one should think of how far-reaching the situation is. Instead of shouting out to the media that the oil sands are “visually grotesque”, stop and think about the negotiables and non-negotiables. The negotiables are we CAN put green energy in our homes, the technology is there, we just need government to create a situation where the price point is affordable to all Canadians. The non-negotiables are we do need fossil fuels to move goods and people from “point A” to “point B” across this vast country, and we need employment for those working at Fort McMurray; we cannot have a situation that puts these men and women out of work.
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If celebrities want to have a voice fine, but use your voice for POSITIVE ACTION rather than a complaint to the media in hopes of just some additional press.

6 thoughts on “The Bashing of Alberta…….a new popular sport

  1. I find it very cowardly of Jim Cuddy to wait until after the tickets for the Alberta concerts have been sold and after the show in Fort McMurray to make his comments. I guess he did not want to risk his own livelihood by making his views known before tickets went on sale. I suggest that he return to Ontario and drink a very large glass of Lake Erie water from the most heavily polluted province in Canada.

    • Hi Lorraine. Home is Red Deer but we have a little cabin just east of Entwistle on the north side of the Yellowhead. We spend a lot of time up there and the scenery if you flip through the blog looks a lot like the Drayton area. We do on occassion run through Drayton for a Timmies! It is a beautiful part of our country.

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