Would we suck it up: A letter to my fellow Calgarians

Dear fellow Calgarians,

I write to you because I am deeply concerned about the approach we are taking towards the Kinder Morgan pipeline and the costs that we are expecting our coasts to bear for the sake of Alberta continuing along a particular economic path. We tell Vancouver to suck it up because of national unity and underestimate what this project means for them in the process. The risk and costs of a large oil spill would be devastating for the people of Vancouver and the BC coast. An Exxon Valdez style spill is something the Lower Mainland would never recover from. This is not a question of sucking it up for national unity it is about asking other regions to bear enormous costs on our behalf. The least we could do is acknowledge this. I grew up in Calgary and have lived in Burnaby and East Van, and a number of other coastal communities. I do not feel that the response in Vancouver or Burnaby is ridiculous or extreme. Instead I feel that we are being rude and entitled. We are talking down to people we are asking to sacrifice for us. This is the way to destroy national unity.

I have been thinking of a way to demonstrate to Calgarians what we are asking Vancouver to do. We are not on the coast but a river runs through the heart of our city. The Bow is clean and clear. We have a large and cherished pathway system and set of parks. Enjoying a clean and safe river is not frivolous, it is vital. Would we ask Calgarians suck it up and risk having a large oil spill in the Bow River for jobs in Quebec or Vancouver? I sincerely doubt it. If oil flowed from Bowness through Downtown to the end of the city and onwards through the rest of Southern Alberta would it not destroy a part of who we are and ruin many lives? Would we not protest in the streets and at the very least deserve a fair consultation process like the one the Liberals promised the residents of BC and have gone back on?

Oil is important to us but it has costs. If we expect people to bear those costs we have to be real about what they are, instead of acting like it is a minor thing that is owed to us. We are not entitled to inflict the risk of damage and devastation on another region of this country if we would not bear it ourselves. I fear we are building a nation of winners and losers and we have lost the sense that the people of Vancouver are our fellow citizens who are also stakeholders in this decision.

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