From the “he didn’t really say that, did he?” file we have Quebec’s premier wailing that without pipelines his people can’t get essential fossil fuels from Western Canada. He didn’t put it quite that way, of course. Rather, after just three days of a CN Rail strike, the premier famous for snorting about no social licence for dirty Alberta oil in gas-hungry Quebec said in less than five days his province would run out of propane, creating a crisis for the most vulnerable, in hospitals and nursing homes, plus farmers. Guess it’s really important to have fuel after all and that snooty virtue-signaling was just… well, what? Did he know he was lying about not wanting Alberta energy? Or was the fantasy real until he was so rudely awoken?
The satirical responses practically write themselves. Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation Alberta Director Franco Terrazzano tweeted “If only there was a way for Quebec to gets its energy from the rest of Canada without relying on trains...” while premier Jason Kenney contributed “Note to our friends in Quebec: we have technology that could help supply you with more reliable access to propane and other important fuels. #buildthosepipes”. Ha ha and duh. But there’s a deep point here that must be illuminated by this wit or we’re all in big trouble.
The progress of material civilization over the past 500 years has generated remarkable comforts and conveniences as well as providing essentials to a staggering number of human beings. But it has also allowed us to lose contact with very basic realities including where wealth, and even necessities, come from.
Imagine the premier of a large, wealthy province denouncing the very things that keep old people from freezing to death only to learn that our highly efficient “just in time” society didn’t have a week’s worth on hand? He also championed the right to strike only to learn that … again, what? What has Legault learned? Anything? (As Climate Home News laments, a surprising number of countries are still producing energy even as they pretend they’re going to stop using it. Whatever can it mean?) Or does he just believe that if he stamps his feet and whines wealth will magically appear and he can go back to prancing about an imaginary landscape filled with plenty in which oil is a plot against humanity?
Science fiction writer Philip K. Dick once said “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, it doesn’t go away.” And the reality is that Quebecers use a lot of oil and get 44% of it from Western Canada. Moreover they move it around the province in a network of some 12,000 km of pipelines. Yet the premier has been denying that his province has or needs oil and pundits and voters have been complicit in this piece of deceit or fantasy or denial.
Will any journalist even ask him, in light of this episode, whether he’s rethinking his attitude toward pipelines, Alberta energy or fossil fuels generally? Or are we all going to huddle smugly in the virtue-signaling brigade until the very minute the lights, furnace and respirator go off on us or our loved ones?