Social licence: “Opponents’ permission”

It’s a piece of oh-so-predictable theatre that we have seen before, as the recent headlines illustrate:

Act 1: “NEB approves Trans Mountain pipeline with 157 conditions”

Act 2: “Environmentalists, First Nations Vow Summer of Action Against Trans Mountain Pipeline”

Act 3: “Anti-pipeline activists occupy Vancouver office of Liberal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould”

And here we go again. . . .

This is not to dismiss the concerns, of activists or First Nations, or anyone else, about the impact of natural-resource developments on the environment and community.

Our Resource Works gospel is “responsible” development, which means weighing the environmental and other societal impacts of projects and industries, casting an acceptable balance, and successfully managing them.

But we do have a question about NDP MP Kennedy Stewart’s bold statement: British Columbians have spoken: Kinder Morgan does not have social licence.”

Now, how did he determine that? Where did his data come from?

There are some 4.7 million British Columbians. We doubt that the MP can claim to have heard from the 2.35 million who would make up the democratic 50%-plus-one.

He certainly didn't base his claim on the latest Abacus Data poll, which finds most British Columbians are either supportive of, or could support, all three major Canadian oil pipeline projects that are under review.

In the end, we go back to an important speech in 2014 by Brian Lee Crowley of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute. He said in part:

“Wherever there is organized opposition to new pipelines, mines, railroads, manufacturing plants or tree cutting, to mention just a few examples, the opponents repeat the mantra that such projects must obtain social licence or else they must not be allowed. . . .

“What they really mean is that change must be approved by its opponents who decide whether ‘social licence’ has been achieved, while its absence is documented by angry media releases or hand-lettered signs waved on the evening news.

“‘Social licence’ ought properly to be called ‘opponents' permission’.

“And a moment's thought reveals why such open-ended, undefined, biased and unaccountable tests can never be the basis on which civilized societies make such decisions.”


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