Weyburn – In 1992, the cod fishery off the coast of Newfoundland collapsed, and the federal government brought in a moratorium. For the first time in nearly 500 years if its existence, the people of Newfoundland were not allowed to fish for cod to put it on their table.
“When Mr. Crosby announced the offshore fishing was now finished, put on moratorium, there were 31,000 in-shore fishermen, that in a single moment, they were no longer allowed to fish. They were no longer allowed to jump in a dory, go out half a mile, jig a cod fish, put it on the table, and have supper,” said Rex Murphy, in the opening of his headline speech to the Saskatchewan Oil and Gas Show. That moratorium, and its impact, had gave impact on his home province, and its people. It was the oil industry in the West that was their salvation.
“It was the first time in 500 years. Just to give you an idea of how big 31,000 is with reference to the population of Newfoundland, if you had been in Toronto the next day, and I hope you weren’t, and if you picked up the Globe and Mail, and I hope even more fervently that you wouldn’t. You would see a headline, that if the same thing had happened in Ontario, 660,000 Ontarians out of work, in a single day. That’s how big the blow was,” Murphy said.
And this is where the resource industries of Western Canada came in. People who had deserted homes that they had lived in for four generations. The outports were devasted.
He recounted how, during the dustbowl of the 1930s, Newfoundlanders sent barrels of salt cod to the prairies to help people who were starving, and that 65 years later, those people had not forgotten that kindness.
“Some of the great stories of Canada are sob stories. They’re stories where the people, and just the people, somehow or other sense each others need, or desperation, and a great act of kindness comes as an impulse.”
Murphy took shots at Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna, who had recently pointed to icebergs off Newfoundland as evidence of global warming.
“Do you know what year was when the Titanic sank? 1912, I believe. It was sunk, by an iceberg. So now we know the tragedy of the Titanic was caused by some people, somewhere, who were abusing plastic straws.”
Getting down to business, he said, “Even if you already know it, it doesn’t hurt to hear it again.”
“There are things you know so well, that in a sense, you cease to think of them. They are so familiar to you, they become part of your daily consciousness, but not in any focus. It’s just they way things are, and you forget some of the most blatant considerations of your own existence.
“In this case, everyone here knows, when Newfoundland went down, it was one of the biggest crises we had had in at least 100 years. The one relief, in the darkest hour, in the great cultural industry of the fishery, the defining cultural, economic, social, settlement, the defining element of the entire nature of Newfoundland, springs from the fishery. So it was psychological, it was spiritual, it was economic.
“The only relieve of substance, that came our way, was that so men, women, old and young, some of them selling their houses, headed out west, because that was during the period when the oil industry and related industries, were at their best. And such is the nature, again, of Canadians dealing with Canadians, there were no embargos, no signs saying stay away. I estimate, over time, over 30,000 Newfoundlanders went out and stayed, in many cases, 8, 9, 10, 12 years,” Murphy recounted.
He noted that families that were about to break up due to the crash stayed together. Others that had broken up, came back together because the pressures of not having a job were gone.
“Those pressures that come on you when you are out of work, when you can’t give your daughter the price of a ticket to a small concert, when the father sits at home, and feels useless, and the mother is in a state of anxiety over the future of her children.
“Employment is not just a damn paycheque. It is the spine of most people’s existence. Outside of family life itself, and mortality, I don’t think there’s anything more savage to the human personality than someone who wishes to work and has been working, and works no more. And then they have to face the humiliations of either borowing, begging, or going on some government program. Most people guard their dignity by their own self-reliance,” he said. “And that dignity is a function that spreads throughout the entire family.”
So many came west, found work, and found their esteem. They sent money home, money to their parents.
“You will never read about it, and you’ll never see it on the television set, because it is a benign outcome of the fiendish oil industry,” Murphy pointed out.
“It was one of the great moments of confederation that all people from all over Canada were summoned to the western provinces. And people from provinces who had never intermingled before, were working on the same project, or allied projects.”
His very closest friend got 10 years of work, having previously never left his fishing town on the south coast. That morning, his friend was visiting his daughter, who had married a Saskatchewan farmer. His son was working on a rig in Mexico.
Murphy said we know these things, but we don’t think about it. “A renovation of confederation at the citizen level takes place when a major project invites the brains and the muscle of Canadians together, at a common task, and brings them in contact, with each other, from people from all parts of the country. And they learn, by contact, and common effort, that this is what we share, and that this is what we have in common. And despite what you’ve heard, it is unity first, and it is shared experience, and it is common endeavour, that constitutes the actual cement of a national feeling.”
“I cannot figure out. I do not know what processes are going on, in what strange minds, that has turned almost the entire energy of the country, especially at government level, and especially at various NGOs (non governmental organizations) and self-appointed monitors of the earth’s doom, that has made the oil industry the number one villain of the entire world.
“You wouldn’t know, but they’re up there manufacturing sarin gas. You had that moronic Neil Young, and surely there are a few strings loose on that guitar; you had him with the audacity, the insult of comparing the working of thousands of men and women, support their families, providing an essential – thee essential – commodity – energy. It is thee essential commodity of 21st century life. Doing it honestly, doing it according to the rules, and doing it in a political environment, compared to any other environment in the world – Nigeria, China, is the acme of responsible management.”
“Of all the projects in the world that Neil Young wants to downgrade and call Hiroshima – Hiroshima! That’s a slander.”
Murphy said for 20 years and more, the oilsands have been called the dirtiest oil on the planet. “If Fort McMurray goes on, the planet is doomed!” he mockingly proclaimed. “Dear God! Is it the only oil project in the world? I believe there are 1.6 billion Chinese who are putting out coal plants, three to the hour. India is not a small country. It’s investing in energy. It’s using coal. Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Latin America! There are more jurisdictions than you care to count.
“And I’ll asked this room silently, when have you heard of an equivalent protest against Venezuelan oil? Chinese coal? Nigerian oil? Why is it that the most impeccable political regime, on earth, mesmerized by the fantastic obsessions of environmentalism, does this so cleanly, and it, and it alone, has been made a campaign target, a symbol. And they have the gall to tell you that if you do this, the world is doomed! We’re in for an eco-apocalypse.
“This is garbage! It is insane garbage. I don’t see Greenpeace romping around Russia. I don’t seem them leaving long drapes over the Chinese wall. I don’t see them scuttling up the legs of rigs in Nigeria, because the pirates would be chomping at their ass from behind,” he said.
We are now living at the very peak of Canada’s development, Murphy explained. And all the technological marvels only function with a ready supply of energy.
He questioned the “jihad against pipelines.” Trans Mountain had 17 court cases, “longer than the Spanish Inquisition.”
It doesn’t take eight years to find out if there will be predictable harm of sufficient extent that the project should be denied, he noted. “Environmental review has become a tool of absolute and deliberate obstruction of every major economic activity, as it relates to most of the energies of the west. This is no longer someone speaking against something. This is a declaration of the fact.”
He asked why the politicians haven’t come here, to the west, to understand what reality is. A prime minister should recognize, he noted, “The dignity of work. The idea of investment. The idea of reliance. The satisfaction that comes from starting business, or conducting business, or hiring for business. This is the nation. I understand that. That’s the key. And I will protect the environment. But by God, I will give the economy, which is the beginning of every other thing, at least a chance to breath!”
Murphy added, “I think, if the pyramids had a national energy review, they’d still be measuring the stones.”
He questioned if the Canadian Pacific Railway would have been built in today’s political environment.
“The environmentalists have only one word, and it’s the easiest word in any language – it is no! Name one project, one, that has been proposed by a government or responsible business, just one in any province, to which environmental groups – green groups – have said yes. Just one. You can’t. They don’t.
“They are zealously, ideologically, and in my view, obsessively determined to rip the fabric of the natural economy away.”
He said politicians and oil executives are afraid to challenge them, simply on the grounds of worth.
If any other country had our abundance of resources and energy, they would thank their God.
If oil rigs were in Ontario, the oil rig would be a national monument, Murphy said.
“No city on this continent could last three days without something close to civil war – that’s not an exaggeration – if the power went,” he said.
Murphy implied that we are essentially spoiled, compared to our forebearers and the rest of the world.
“We are exempted so much from the horrors of so much, of the world, and of history, because we have built a country. And one of the things a successful country does is it ensures first the security of its citizens, and then their potential for living a reasonably full life.
“And here we are now, with certain elements in our society, attempting by their obsessive, ideological opposition to the very system that maintains them. They want to shut down the central elements, the economic foundation of the civilization that they are so happy to both exploit, and simultaneously, scorn.
“You need more courage, from your governments. You need more courage from your leaders. What you are doing – farm, oil, fish. These are the fundamentals of life. Don’t be ashamed of the industry. Don’t buy the indictments of its enemies. Don’t be the only country in the world that, for the purchase of some cheap merit badge, from the idiots of the United Nations, shuts down a viable, clean, responsible, but most importantly an essential, an essential, industry.
“People in cities have their virtues. They also have their blind spots. They do not know where things come from.”
“The attack on the industry is unjustified. The lack of defence, from general leadership, is both pathetic and has to change. Abandon any shadow of mortification or so-called shame that has been blasted into your head, that the oil industry, and associated industries, are somehow Machiavellian and evil. And especially, that the prophets, the failed prophets of ecodoom – who have predicted more non-fulfilled prophesies in the last 30 years – don’t listen to them. We should not be governing the state of the Canadian economy and the political wellbeing of all these western provinces, by the jabberings of very disreputable ideological eco-fanatics.”
And finally, he noted, “If you want hospitality, head west.”