Earlier this week, Greg D’Avignon, president and chief executive officer of the Business Council of BC was interviewed on CBC's Daybreak North morning show celebrating the rise in timber sales to China and the need for a strategy to cash in on the opportunities available there, especially around energy exports. (He called fracking for shale bed gas, a process that turns huge quantities of water toxic, a sustainable and environmentally responsible source of energy.)
One of the things keeping us from “moving forward” he said, is that “thirty percent of British Columbians would oppose a cure for cancer if it came about” implying that people raise concerns about the impacts of projects like the proposed Enbridge pipeline out of some innate contrariness.
This is a common industry message. When a company (which could be from literally anywhere in the world) proposes to bring their next big thing (mine, pipeline, oil well, garbage dump) into a region, and the locals have concerns about its possible effects on the quality of life in their community – economic, environmental, social, cultural – the locals are “against development.”
However, if you look at the record, industry has been by far the biggest naysayer opposing many of the really good strategies Canadians have supported over the past years.
- Physicians and the private insurance industry opposed the introduction of provincial medical insurance.
- Oil companies opposed the removal of lead from and the reduction of sulfur in gasoline.
- Companies producing electricity from coal-fired generators opposed cutting their SO2 emissions to reduce the acid rain that was killing lakes in eastern Canada
- The tobacco industry opposed the science showing smoking carried health risks, the science showing second-hand smoke was dangerous, and the restriction of smoking in public places like airplanes and hospitals.
- Industry opposed efforts to reduce the chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) emissions that were causing holes in the ozone layer and increasing our risk of skin cancer.
- After losing the fight to stop the use of asbestos in Canada, the industry has steadfastly opposed a ban on asbestos exports.
- The food industry opposed labels telling us what their products contain, and it opposed the call for a reduction in trans-fats.
- The agriculture industry has consistently opposed increased regulations on pesticide use – as did the D’Avignon’s Business Council of BC in the province’s recent consultation on the cosmetic use of pesticides.
Mr. D’Avignon is likely right: if a cure for cancer is found, someone will oppose it. If that cure involves introducing more good strategies like the ones listed above (and doesn’t require expensive drug therapies), it will likely be a consortium of industries working the hardest to oppose that cure. In fact, they’ve been doing it all along.