Sacrificing much for the national interest

Plain Rhetoric
By Bill McQuarrie
December 20, 2016 - 5:00am

KAMLOOPS — Like you, I’ve heard most of the Trans Mountain pipeline arguments from both sides. I’ve watched and listen to the pre-sanitized sound bites from the politicians as well as corporate and environmental special interest groups. And I’ve paid attention to the investment numbers, the job stats, the fossil fuel addiction numbers and the climate change forecasts.

However, last week Ottawa introduced a new and stark two-worded talking point and has been using it at every opportunity since. Suddenly pipelines are, according to James Carr, Minister of Natural Resources Canada, in the ‘national interest.’

It’s a bold statement and those two words can come with some pretty serious connotations. They are words that imply the need for sacrifices; without them, our nation’s future could be in jeopardy.

Listening to Mr. Carr reminded me of someone I met last month - someone, who along with others, has been asked to make that sacrifice on your behalf. Not, it would appear, simply in the name of oil but instead in the name of our shared national interest.

His name is, Charles Hays. He’s an assistant professor of journalism at TRU. When not teaching, he and his wife have been spending the past 12 years creating a small farm out toward Black Pines.

Called Stone Ground Farm, they have invested their capital as well as their hearts and souls, building orchards and gardens and a place to call home. Maybe even a forever home and a place that can already sustain them with enough food for each year.

The current pipeline does not run underneath their property. The right-of-way is on the other side of the road, so they were confident and secure in the knowledge that what they had worked so hard to create was theirs.  Confident, that is, until two years ago when there was a knock on their door.

It was the land agent for Kinder Morgan. Charles and his wife were to discover the right-of-way was being expanded and would now go through their orchard and necessitate the removal of every single last tree.

It was devastating news and even though it has been two years since that first knock on the door, it is something that is still difficult for him to digest let alone accept.

In all fairness to Kinder Morgan, it should be pointed out that they have worked with the Hays to try and find ways to mitigate the damage their pipeline will cause. No one from the company claims to be taking the matter lightly, but in the end both Kinder Morgan and Charles know that the orchard will have to go and there will be a pipeline buried on their property.

Last week, I again met with Mr. Hays to get an update and while we talked, I couldn’t help but think of Minister Carr’s comments about the Trans Mountain Pipeline being in the national interest.  

Spoken in the abstract, it can almost feel and sound important and weighty. Important, that is, until you are sitting in front of the people that will have to give up a very important and significant part of their lives. In this case, it’s 12 years of working towards their future lifestyle that will now be altered forever.

So when people demand the Trans Mountain Pipeline be built so they can have a construction job that will last somewhere around a year, think of Mr. Hays and all the others who will have to give up so much for you to have that short term job.  

He’s giving you the home he knows, his lifelong dream, suppressing his values and beliefs and closing his eyes, so that you can dig a hole and weld pipes for a year.

When the urge strikes to post some snide remark on social media asking how those opposed to the pipeline will heat their home without oil or natural gas, think about Mr. Hays and what he is doing so that you can stay warm in your home.

When you condemn those who are concerned about climate change and our future, think about Mr. Hays and how his orchard could have converted sunlight into food.

If you were to look into Mr. Hays’ eyes, you’d see an intelligent, environmentally aware and compassionate individual. Someone with well thought out and deeply held beliefs, acquired over years of wanting to do the right thing for the planet. He is one of those rare individuals who walks the talk.  

“In our national interest.” Such easy words to say, but could you ever walk in his shoes if you were asked to give up so much for people you don’t know and possibly don’t even like?