I have been watching the political chess game where protesters and governments are battling for the hearts and minds of the general public. Lets stand back so we can see the bigger picture.
Yes the courts have spoken agreed. But Canada has had a long history of objection and civil disobedience. We learned in the early years of the twentieth century, immediate reaction and the use of the police breaking up demonstrations often makes matters worse. Three events in Canada come to mind.
Cape Breton police attempted to break a mine union strike and demonstration. The company was also attempting to break the miners union. There was a violent clash and William Davis was killed. Public opinion sided with the miners and in June there is a Provincial Holiday called William Davis Day.
The second one was the Winnipeg Riot. When the unions called for a general strike in 1919 thirty thousand workers left their jobs. Many of the stories I heard put the blame on the police. It left a stain on the legacy of Canada no matter which side people were on.
Then there was the Oka Crisis that saw a police officer killed and a long armed standoff that is still a source of friction to this day. It started as a land dispute between a community in Quebec and the Mohawk Nation, it dragged on in the summer for 78 days.
With this bit of background lets view the current situation with a more focused eye.
When you look at what started this it is not hard to see why the Federal Government is keeping its powder dry. There is a land dispute, a court injunction, a police action, considerable support from the environmentalist community, and a measure of public opinion that could turn on a dime out of other pent up grievances.
Right now there are two major battles going on that many have either not considered or don’t see as part of the equation. After reading this you may disagree but please at least think about it.
In BC when police dismantled the barricade. The reaction was the ugly demonstration at the Parliament Building in Victoria. It has also started barricades in other provinces. The old label of paid protester has already started. The problem is those who could join the protests are not paid protesters they are dedicated to the cause of eliminating fossil fuels. They don’t care about the jobs, or the economy. They want to end the use of fossil fuels. So do most people but between now and the end of the century. The truth is we need oil at the moment.
What is the progression of this? The government does not want to see the environmental movement join the current protesters in the tens of thousands. If that happens a court order or injunction will mean nothing there will be so many of them we will be able to paper our walls with them.
If this were to happen with protesters in sufficient numbers there could be blocked rail, blocked roads, airports, and even financial institutions and corporate offices. After all they shut down the BC Parliament Buildings. Even if the army was used the damage done would see investment dollars dry up.
Using a heavy hand or even force will only widen the hostility the government wants to prevent. Any rash move no matter how tempting, could damage our international reputation with investors and at the same time embolden those who are now determined to stop the flow of oil, or stop the flow of overall investment coming in to the country.
Unfortunately many only see a tiny fraction of how out of control this thing can get if larger elements of the protest movement decide to enter the fray in sizable numbers.
This thing is a long way from over if we go down the wrong path. In recent years we have seen people combine their grievances and create chaos, Hong Kong is but the latest example.
My sincere hope is cooler heads will prevail, even in the face of escalating blockades and demonstrations.