Liberal northern development critic Yvonne Jones recently came to town to boost the liberal party. Here are some of my comments about what she had to say.
“You have to have respect among all the players to find proper solutions. One thing I’m discovering is they feel they are more neglected by government,” she said. “We believe part of the solution is dialogue with partners and adequate infrastructure investment.”
I agree with Yvonne here that you have to have respect among all the players. The first and foremost way we respect other people is by recognizing their right to life and liberty, by acknowledging their human rights, their property rights. If the governments is to have a role in development of the oil sands region is to first and foremost help resolve and arbitrate disputes that arise between property owners. To ensure respect we need to understand who owns what, and who the players actually are, otherwise we are creating an environment for disrespect.
The terms "the crown", "the government", "corporations", "the province" are all fictional abstractions the way we use them in common language. What is needed here is clarity. Which person or group of people own what, and how is it to be respected?
Governments fundamentally own nothing. You can’t justly own something simply by taking it through force. You may possess something but that thing you possess is not yours; it belongs to someone else. As far as I can tell the only group of people that have a just ownership claim over territory in this region are the group of people that have been hunting, trapping, and gathering food on it their whole life. Can you think of anybody else who would have a just claim?
Oil companies and governments ought to respect the property owners here and understand that they have the right to completely veto or attach any terms and conditions they want to sale or use of their land. If a requirement of development is that there shall be formed and paid for an independent neutral oversight committee that performs rigorous tests, even unreasonably rigorous tests, that ensure environmental health then that is the prerogative of the property owners. No sale if no compliance with the property owners rules.
I have been in and out of Fort Chipewyan several times this winter and have heard from people that they like the opportunity that Oil Sands development gives them but they are worried about their environment and their health. They are worried about their way of life being changed. My sense is that most of all they are concerned about being powerless to control their own destiny.
What would happen if the real property owners in this region had their property rights fully respected. What if they were allowed to make rules like any other property owner about the conduct of guests, partners or potential buyers that had an interest in their property. I suspect we would see a great deal more invested in communication, the environment, infrastructure and studying the effects human health. There would be a great deal more investment in responsible sustainable development.
Property owners are the best stewards of their own lands, this is how the problem of the commons is solved, and it is the only ethical way forward. Neither liberals, nor conservatives will consider giving property to its rightful owners. Liberals lean towards wanting all things to be commonly owned and everybody to have a say (aka socialism) and conservatives tend to favor corporate rights as if corporations are private property and not fictional entities designed to socialize risk and privatize reward (aka cronyism or even fascism). Libertarians demand real respect, respect of the life of each and every person on this planet equally, thou shalt not initiate force to solve problems, this is liberty and this leads to sustainability.
“You’ve got to ensure there’s good infrastructure and good hospitals and that responsibility lies with government,” she said. “Both federal and provincial governments have to work to ensure that those that are giving so much are getting something back.”
I wonder what a good amount of infrastructure and healthcare is? How do producers of goods and services know when the right amount of goods and services are being produced? The answer of course is that consumers stop giving them money when they are no longer useful or they are terrible at producing the goods and services the consumers want. The government takes our money, we have an involuntary relationship, we can’t withdraw our patronage and go to a competing vendor, so how on Earth will Yvonne know when she’s provided enough infrastructure for us?
According to a Fraser Institute study* families that make $234,000 per year pay over $32,000 into the healthcare system by way of taxation. That sounds like a typical Fort McMurray family to me. How much healthcare do families up here enjoy for that extraordinary price we pay? Even in the fascistic and ridiculously regulated American system you can buy a lot of premium healthcare for $32,000. (Click here for a previous article I wrote on healthcare)
Yvonne’s language is instructive. She says, “…ensure that those that are giving so much are getting something back.” Does she seriously see the government as a charity where people are donating money? Is it more accurate to say people GIVE muggers money as opposed to muggers TAKE peoples money? Do people have a choice here?
People in our region ought to be getting something back, namely the money that has been taken from us... with interest please! We don’t want you to give us back a polished turd you call infrastructure and healthcare, we just want our money back. We can look after our own infrastructure and healthcare, thanks.
Imagine what we could do with the $5 Billion per year siphoned out of this province to Quebec in the way of provincial transfer payments. How much of that money is generated by people in my region? How many seniors homes would that build? How many hospitals? How many physicians could be recruited? What on earth could the federal or provincial government offer people in this region other than to leave us alone and give us our money back.