Gulliver in the Land of State-Funded Broadcasters

March 14th, 2008
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It’s difficult to say how many of our readers might have watched
what one reader described as the “mockumentary” by the CBC that ran last night,
“Tar Sands (sic), the Selling of Alberta”. A few, on the one hand, might feel
duty-bound to see what the other side is saying. An even smaller group might
consider it a kind of zoological experiment, taking a morbid fascination in the
degeneration of the leftist mind. But for many, the relentless smears just make
us mad, so we join the vast majority of Canadians in tuning out the CBC under
virtually all circumstances.

One of the hardier among us watched the program. He reports that
the overwhelming impression is simply one of bizarreness. The CBC’s team
appeared obsessed with spinning what is by any factual measure a success of
stunning, world-scale proportions as somehow bad.

Whatever the angle, aspect or measurement – it was bad. Even the
phenomenal job opportunities created for unemployed people from the other end
of Canada.
Guys raking in huge amounts of dough working 20 days on, 8 off but having to
drive a few hundred km to do so are presented as some kind of egregious social

Impressively, our reader/writer managed to divert his train of
thought from the tempting track of the enraged auto-rant, in favour of a truly
funny approach. His effort amounts to a biting satire of the traditional,
Swiftian kind.

So herewith we present “Gulliver in the Land of State-Funded

As always we looked forward to an
objective, well-balanced assessment as is par for the course with MotherCorp.
It was helpful for us to learn from the example of the Norwegians, who have
managed to squirrel away hundreds of billions of dollars from oil and gas
reserves whose development, like that of Alaska’s or Saudi Arabia’s oil
reserves, is obviously directly comparable to that of the oil sands.

We found out that we could do a whole lot better, if only we
had a state-owned company (kind of like MotherCorp!) doing most, if not all the
investment and development. Not one like Mexico’s, mind you, but perhaps
something along the lines of the Venezuelan or Russian models, whereby you can
enjoy the best of both worlds: a two-stage partnership of private investment
discovering and bringing the resources to production, followed by government
taking over and fulfilling its part of the newly rewritten bargain to make sure
that the rightful owners of the resource, average working families, get that to
which they are entitled. Apparently, we’ve been foolishly sending most of the
profits from the oil sands out of the province on the old-fashioned, misguided
notion that this is only fair since that’s where the vast majority of the
investment is coming from.

It is, however, of some concern that our intrepid documentarians
continue to use the term “tar sands”, as this is wholly inaccurate, since tar
is a man-made substance produced by the destructive distillation of organic
material, usually coal as a byproduct of coke production, whereas bitumen may
look like tar but is naturally-occurring. The producers were undoubtedly not
aware of it, but “tar” may unwittingly evoke, among some modest number of
viewers, disgusting images of dark places from hell, like the La Brea Tar Pits
in Los Angeles.

This, in turn, may raise questions on the part of U.S. consumers
about filling their tanks with gasoline from what some dispassionate observers,
making the obvious connection to “tar”, have begun to call “dirty oil” –
despite the fact that once it’s in your tank it actually provides better
combustion and fewer emissions than gasoline made from good old “conventional”
oil from forward-looking places, including some that are even now in
contemplation about letting women drive. We are certain that the documentarians
would be horrified at this unintended guilt by association.

Never mind. They smartly redeemed the term by showing us that,
while they may be dirty, at least the “tar sands” also cause severe social
dislocation and destruction of nuclear families, the protection of which has
always been a key concern at the CBC.

They also strove mightily to improve international relations,
particularly among the country to which CBCers have the strongest bonds of
affection and sensibility: the America.
This they did by portraying the relationship of Albertans as akin to that with
the “tar sands orphans”, only in reverse. We compromise both our sovereignty
and pride by sending them, each year, upwards of 0.2 percent of our precious,
non-renewable natural resource (a.k.a. “dirty oil”) while getting, in return,
only U.S. dollars (as well as technology, expertise and other trade relations,
clearly worthless). These as everyone knows, cannot be compared in usefulness
to the vast piles of sticky sand that if not shamelessly looted might have
provided an inexhaustible supply of materials with which to repair our canoes.

We were also provided with fawning footage celebrating the triumph
of Our Premier’s will in the great bestial domed capitol of the Great
Satan itself, Washington, D.C. Luckily here the keen satirical abilities
of the pro-Alberta CBC propagandists were put to use in reducing potentially
disturbing mass protests to a pathetic portrayal of dozens of earnest, chanting
individuals, many apparently just back from anti-Dihydrogen Monoxide rallies,
and some dressed in home-made rabbit-like “polar bear” costumes, who apparently
are very influential and have the ear of both Presidents-in-waiting Clinton and
Obama. In the hands of less skillful videographers it might have come across as
some kind of Million Pantomime Bear March.

The satire included a deadpan presentation of the views of a
handsome and dapper weightlifter who proclaimed that this was the way the
world is going. The layers of satire began to make our heads spin as we
attempted to unravel the various parodic claims about our increasingly
unwelcome dirty tar being at once looted, given away, over-developed and being
the recipient of hundreds of billions of valueless dollars in capital
investment and revenue. Such is the subtlety and cleverness of a pro-industry
documentary in which the constituent jurisdictions of the emerging energy
superpower also provide supportive funding for the exercise.

Sigh. Perhaps a solution might lie in funding the CBC entirely
through an endowment consisting of shares in an oil sands income trust. But no,
the true revolutionary never fails to bite the hand that feeds him.

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