Democracy in the Pits is a two-part series outlining the tarnished reputation of Canada's mining sector and the Harper government's role in supporting it. Read Part 2: How Canada Uses Foreign Aid as PR for Mining Companies.
In a recent article chronicling the demise of Canadian social democracy at the hands of the Harper Conservatives, Marianne Lenabat draws an important comparison: what the financial sector is to the United States, so are the extractive industries to Canada. The similarity isn’t just about the two sectors’ relative size or contribution to GDP, although it starts there. It’s about how each country’s respective darling industry has come to dictate government policy, even when the social harm they inflict far outweighs their economic benefits.
In both countries, the same platitudes are trotted out to justify the government’s helpless devotion: The industry is vital to the economic health of the nation. It leads the world in innovation. It creates the jobs we need to build communities of hard-working families.
In the United States, where a frenzy of speculation in the housing market spawned a global economic crisis that continues to ravage the world, the government love affair with Wall Street shows no signs of faltering. The big banks were bailed out with no significant strings attached, and the stock market is now back to record highs.
In Canada, the extractive industries enjoy a similarly cozy arrangement. The government spies on activists and meets with corporate executives to help ensure the speedy implementation of pipeline projects. The oil sands are given the green light for massive expansion, despite the indisputable fact that we need to immediately phase out fossil fuel extraction if we want to continue to enjoy a climate that remains hospitable to human life.