Opinion: Environmentalists spring a leak on pipeline opposition

Environmentalists often show little restraint in pursuit of their self-appointed cause, whether it’s by hanging banners from the Calgary Tower and other iconic structures, or by putting marine traffic at risk with reckless manoeuvres.

Such silliness exposes themselves, and first responders, to risk, of course, but it is a tempting substitute for thoughtful conversation and reason. Why try to advance a compelling argument when you can rappel down a big building in an effort to make your point.

A coalition of 32 environmental and Indigenous groups has moved beyond such questionable theatrics, however. They are lobbying insurers to refuse to underwrite the Trans Mountain pipeline in hopes the federal government will have to carry the risks of a spill itself.

It’s one thing for such groups to accept the money of American foundations dedicated to landlocking Canadian oil, so we have no other customers for our energy, and are forced to sell it at a discount.

It is quite another thing, however, to attempt to prevent a legitimate business from buying the insurance any prudent owner would take out to protect a valuable asset. Most people recognize safeguarding against an unlikely risk is better than the alternative of being caught with no insurance at all.

Yet pipeline opponents apparently believe it’s in Canadians’ best interest that a major piece of national infrastructure should be uninsured.

It wouldn’t be Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who would have to dig into his pocket to make reparations after an improbable spill. The cost would fall on ordinary working Canadians, the type of people who upgrade insulation to make our homes more energy efficient, and health-care workers who help us live fulfilling lives.

How would burdening Canadians with the risk of a spill be a good outcome?

Or do the groups imagine Trudeau is suddenly going to stop making decisions he believes to be in the best national interest?

Do they think the decisions of duly elected officials should be supplanted by well-paid, well-connected troublemakers with nothing better to do than interfere with the functioning of essential facilities?

It’s difficult, of course, to know what gets in these people’s heads.

They would prefer Canadians impacted by an unlikely oil spill have no redress but the public purse; that there be no contingency for an accident.

They might as well appeal to insurers to stop providing coverage to airlines because of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with their industry. If a jet were to crash, well, tough luck to the families of those killed or injured.

If the coalition was ambitious, it could lobby to prevent insurance coverage for automobiles, a leading source of greenhouse gases. Then, if any collisions occurred, it would be up to the drivers to deal with the consequences.

That would teach the passengers of airlines and automobiles a lesson.

The voices of those who care passionately about our planet and offer practical solutions to protect our environment deserve to be heard. They offer important input.

But on this effort, this coalition is not only out to lunch, it shows no appetite for common sense.

David Marsden is managing editor of the Red Deer Advocate.

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