Objectives of statements are less clear than they appear

Liberal leadership candidate Kevin Falcon applauds the federal Red Tape Reduction Committee. No surprise there since it is a program of deception and misdirection, a specialty of Falcon, who claims he reduced red tape in British Columbia by more than one-third when he was Minister of Unregulation.

Falcon and Liberal colleagues intended through deregulation not merely elimination of inconveniences but removal of barriers protecting citizens and environment from injury and destruction. In the name of deregulation, British Columbia slashed enforcement of labour standards and eliminated or reduced inspections of water and air quality, factories, dams, elevators, ski lifts, bridges and roadways, etc. According to West Coast Environmental Law,

“The government repealed, amended or replaced a wide range of environmental statutes, as well as cutting funding to environment-related ministries. Despite promises that the changes would maintain high environmental standards, these changes severely weakened the province’s environmental regime.”

Falcon’s objective in 2001 remains unchanged in 2011. He believes in self-regulation for industry when it relates to enforcement of environmental laws and other oversight statutes. He is confident that disposal companies won’t use midnight dumping in remote places as an alternative to treating toxic waste. Oil and gas drillers won’t shortcut safety standards to speed production and reduce costs. Miners won’t pollute lands and waters. Factories will install waste treatment facilities instead of dumping into municipal sewers and streams. Industry will use environmentally friendly materials even though they work less well than those rich in volatile organic compounds. They may do all these things elsewhere but not in British Columbia where they are trusted.

Kevin is less confident in private citizens following rules voluntarily since government employs auditors and collection agents to ensure that citizens pay levies into their coffers. In fact, Liberals have been finding new ways to extract money from citizens in the form of higher carbon taxes, medical plan fees, traffic fines, property taxes and the extraordinary no-trial/no-appeal administrative assessments imposed by arresting officers who also serve as judge and jury. We couldn’t stop police from using Tasers to punish individuals. Can we trust them to use an unreviewable tool with absolute fairness? I suggest not.

Nor can we assume industrialists are good citizens all, willing to eliminate unsafe products and practices because that is the right thing to do. Companies like Enbridge may be a tiny bit careless in other areas but they will ensure that unregulated British Columbia wilderness areas stay pristine.

Stephen Harper says,

Canadian businesses spend billions of dollars each year adhering to regulations. We need to look at where and how we can reduce these costs and this red-tape burden. . . 

News reports of this ought to carry a warning:

“Objectives of these statement are less clear than they appear.”

Red tape is what Enbridge confronts now as it seeks permission for twin pipelines from Edmonton to Kitimat so that supertankers can transit dangerous northern waters to further trade in hydrocarbons, while ordinary citizens pay ever rising carbon taxes aimed at reducing trade in hydrocarbons.

Harper wants industry to improve profits through less red tape just as his government aims to eliminate corporate income taxes and ensure oil companies are not burdened by financial risks of offshore drilling. In December, the Northern Insights article ‘Don’t hold your breath’ included:

For spills under the [Canadian] National Energy Board’s jurisdiction in Arctic waters, liability is capped at $40 million. For Atlantic offshore oil areas regulated by federal-provincial offshore petroleum boards, the liability limit is $30-million. . . . an offshore oil company may invoke a “due diligence” defence to shelter itself from liability above the cap.

Actually, Kevin and Stephen, red tape and regulations should exist because they are needed.

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