By Stephen Dafoe
One can just imagine the righteous indignation that caused some GAP executive to join the boycott against fuels made from Alberta oil sands bitumen. There he sat sipping his fourth Starbuck’s Mocha-froca-frapachino of the day, staring at his latest billboard of one of his anorexic teenage models wearing his company’s fall product line, clothing made in China or India or Jordan by a mostly child labour force putting in up to 109 hours per week so that North American urban fashionistas can wear the latest trend.
He’d done well making the decision to poo-poo Alberta’s dirty oil. His largely Starbuck’s-drinking, environmentally conscious, trendy clientele would certainly applaud the decision and brand the company as responsible stewards of the environment and good corporate citizens of Mother Earth.
Besides, in a tough American economy it pays to shop local, and it does the country good to avoiding “Dem Der Frenchie Canadians” with their cheese- and gravy-coated freedom fries, socialized medicine and dirty oil.
It didn’t matter to the GAP executive that this entire hullabaloo was created by the ironically-named Forest Ethics group; a group who initially said Alberta’s oil sands was twice the size of England, and who later claimed a typo was the cause of the misinformation. Then they said it was as big as England, which was still wrong. But if a tree falls in the forest of ethics, does anyone really hear it?
Before the anti-Alberta media blitz, chances are Alberta was little more than an entry in a ledger column to the GAP executive and those from Walgreens, Timberland and Levi Strauss, the other companies who have recently joined the boycott.
Premiere Stelmach is upset that the boycotting US retailers took action before talking to the province first about its environmental stewardship. Perhaps Premiere Stelmach missed the frenzy during the 2008 American presidential election when then candidate Obama suggested he would actually talk to Iran as a possible method to accomplish what the US would like to see the Middle-Eastern country do. The consensus among a large segment of the US population was that you never talk to evil doers. And clearly if one listens to Forest Ethics, Alberta is rife with evil doers.
Why else would they suggest that Americans – and now the British – avoid Alberta like the plague if it were not that the province was rife with evil doers? To hear them talk, Alberta is its own axis of evil.
The anti-Alberta tourism campaign was, of course, intended to get Albertans to put pressure on their own government to fix the perceived mess in the oil-rich north. A bit like taking a child’s lunch money away to pressure him to get his father to stop wearing his muddy boots in the living room.
But the Premiere is planning to send those boycotting executives a letter, on provincial stationary no less, to get them to “Rethink Alberta.” It is what he should do, what we would expect him to do, what we would probably do if we were he.
Yet the sad reality is that in today’s world, the GAP between fact and fiction dwindles more and more each day. Truth and reality is today largely based on what one chooses to believe, and what one most often chooses to believe is the information that best fits what we already believe.
So many Americans will continue to believe that Obama is a Muslim, a socialist, the Antichrist. They’ll believe that corporatism is capitalism and that both are good for the country, even though the former has put them in the mess they’re now in. And yes, some will continue to believe that Alberta is a big open pit in the middle of the Rocky Mountains into which we poutine-eating evil doers are dumping ducks and caribou with reckless abandon, all because some slick video on YouTube or a billboard on the I-95 tells them so.
And as long as they’re looking north in righteous indignation they don’t have to look to the Gulf Coast, where, at its height, the BP Spill was about half the size of England and killing birds and fish with reckless abandon.