• Factivists

Wealth Over Health: Canadian government proposes $15 billion bail-out package for oil industry

Hailey Orrange writes about the harm that the proposed $15 billion bail-out package for Canada's oil and gas industry will cause.

If there’s one thing the Canadian government needs to be taking action on right now, it is the health and well-being of Canada’s most marginalized groups. Ask anyone in the country, and they will say that the rapid spread of COVID-19 has affected them in some way. Ask a working-class single mom with three kids who has just been laid off, or a person living on the streets, with no access to shelter or sanitary products, and they will say that COVID-19 could very easily drag them into a state which they will never recover from.

While poor and working-class people are struggling to get by everyday, fighting to keep a roof over their heads and food in their stomachs, being exposed to environments which leave them at a high-risk of contracting the virus, the Canadian government is busy preparing a 15 billion dollar bailout package for Canada's oil and gas industry.

There’s no question that COVID-19 has taken a toll on the economic state of many countries, and that this is a pressing issue. However, the issue that I find more pressing is maintaining the survival of all Canadians, and the action the federal government is taking to protect those who are most vulnerable. We are in the midst of not only a global health crisis, but a climate crisis that will continue to worsen if drastic action is not taken. Putting money towards saving the oil and gas industry, one that is not only contributing to the climate crisis, but ranking up debt in industry liabilities, is a decision that benefits nobody in the end. As of 2018, the Alberta Oil and Gas Industry liability had amounted to $260 billion needed to clean up toxic tailings ponds, and the cleanup of orphaned oil and gas wells and pipelines. The amount of harm that the oil and gas industry does does not justify receiving this bailout package from the government, an incredibly large amount of money that could be life-changing and life-saving for so many people who are struggling to get by during this pandemic.

The truth is, this pandemic is new for everyone. We are all learning as we go, and we are adjusting our routines and lives to make the best out of a not-so-good situation.

So what happens when you aren’t privileged enough to make those adjustments?

What do you do when you don’t have a home to self-isolate in, when you don’t have access to clean water and soap, when you don’t have a safety net of cash to catch your fall when you are laid off from your job? This is the reality of so many Canadians, yet the government continues to turn a blind eye to those suffering right in front of them, and chooses to put their money towards bailing out major corporations, instead of helping those most at risk.

Poor people, homeless people, disabled people, and Black and Indigenous people of colour are among those most heavily impacted by COVID-19, so where is their money from the government? Where are the funds that will put roofs over homeless people’s heads, and that will ensure that every single First Nations reserves in Canada has clean, running water? It is the government’s responsibility to do this, yet once again they fail to do so in exchange for supporting major corporations and destructive industries.

This bailout package is one that does not reflect the best interest of all Canadians, but rather the best interest of major corporations. We are in the midst of a global climate and health crisis, and continuing to put money towards the oil and gas industry will continue to harm both the environment and vulnerable populations.

The Canadian government time and time again has shown who they strive to protect, and the lack of action to assist vulnerable Canadians during COVID-19 has further proven what we already know: Indigenous people, poor people, and disabled people are not Justin Trudeau’s priority. Money is.

When COVID-19 has passed, and life picks back up again, the blood of those who did not survive will be on the government’s hands. Wealth over health will no longer be tolerated.

“Canada” is watching, and we don’t like what we see. The time to act is now.