WE ARE in the home stretch. Woodfibre LNG’s long regulatory process is winding down, and supporters are breathing a sigh of relief the new Liberal government in Ottawa chose not to scupper it. Of course, opponents are not giving up, and recently we have heard talk from groups like My Sea to Sky about something called ‘direct action’. The term is a bit vague, but in protest circles it essentially means doing whatever it takes to obstruct the person, group or thing you oppose from being able to act. It could involve something as simple as forming a human chain to block office building doors, or something more extreme like damaging or destroying property. I haven’t really been following LNG or MSTS lately, but a quick read through some of their postings suggests, mainly, non-violent intent. That’s good as far as that goes, but the idea that that extends into a right to actively obstruct Woodfibre LNG from constructing their plant is not.
It sure seems like the rule of law is under attack in the West. From social media lynch mobs to boycotts and, yes, direct action, we seem to be moving to a Hollywood/Disney version of morality. The premise: 1) If I believe I’m right about something, in fact, I am. 2) If someone else disagrees they are wrong. 3) My being right entitles me to do whatever I want to get my desired outcome, regardless of the impact on others.
You’ve seen it on police procedurals, like NCIS: Leroy Gibbs, breaking the rules for interrogation, hacking the CIA, etcetera. And we don’t object to that—after all, we know Gibbs will (eventually) get it right. He always does. The problem is, that’s a TV show. As viewers, we know in the end Gibbs and his team will be correct. Not so in real life—one person’s facts are another person’s opinions. This is why we opted for the rule of law—so that opposing viewpoints could be sorted out, without violence. Regulators weigh the public interest against the legal rights of a proponent and try to decide a project’s fate on its merits. As citizens of law-abiding countries, we agree to accept the system’s decisions, the alternative being chaos.
This isn’t to say ‘direct action’ isn’t ever justified. The law can be wrong, i.e. segregation. I’m sure in the minds of My Sea to Sky and environmental activists, LNG is every bit as unjust. I’m sure everyone has a law or decision made by government they strongly disagree with. Personally I hate seeing 30-40 per cent of my income disappearing in taxes every year. Can I stop paying? The line is not perfectly clear, but I think most reasonable people would say only the most egregious offences by the state warrant willful disobedience of the law. A single LNG plant, bound by western laws and standards, cannot meet that test. Opponents of LNG probably legitimately believe we are headed towards an environmental Mordor if Woodfibre is allowed to open up. But then again, opponents of the highway project over Eagleridge Bluffs felt the same way. Does any reasonable person believe they were right, in hindsight?
Before the environmental movement was hijacked by the political left, it had a fairly honourable and distinguished history, sparking action on problems like acid rain and ozone depletion. Implacable opposition to everything and the failure to choose battles will wear out its welcome with the public (and activists themselves) eventually. I think ‘direct action’, after Woodfibre has followed the legal process and received approval, will only further the caricature of environmentalists as extremists.
Opponents of LNG are of course entitled to follow their conscience and peacefully protest. But they cannot be allowed to short-circuit the proponent’s legal rights, and should be prosecuted if they do. If the law becomes subjective to everyone’s individual beliefs, we really will be living in Mordor.
Brad Hodge is a former Council candidate and local IT expert