Neil Young is a better Canadian than you


Full disclosure:  I drive a gasoline powered vehicle, though I doubt this acknowledgment will save me being labeled a hypocrite when I explain why an aging ex-pat rocker is the Canadian of the Year.

It wasn’t until Neil Young spoke out against the Northern Gateway Pipeline that a conversation beyond the superficial erupted about how the Alberta oil sands should be developed. The fact that it took this long begs some serious analysis about who, and what, we’re becoming as a nation.

I won’t bother arguing against developing the oil sands, because at this point everybody knows the oil is going to come out of the ground, one way or the other. Remember the Gulf of Mexico fiasco and Exxon Valdez? The oil companies claimed those catastrophes couldn’t happen, yet the same bill of goods is being sold on the Northern Gateway. There’s probably no point in raising the thorny issue of installing an environmental disaster-in-waiting on unceded First Nations territory, because anyone literate enough to read basic history can educate themselves on where our national duty lies in that regard.

So how about an appeal to our national common sense? Does anyone recall being advised to save for a rainy day?

Why don’t our politicians ever talk about saving for that rainy day?  I’m no economist, but I can’t help but wonder why the only possible course of action advanced by the federal government is getting the oil out of the ground as fast as possible so we can sell it to China. Given that most experts concede we’re nearing peak oil production and a worldwide decline is imminent, wouldn’t it make sense to consider a more far-sighted approach? Why the rush to sell our biggest resource which, 20 years from now, will be worth 10 times as much? Why so eager to spend billions of taxpayer dollars building a pipeline across pristine wilderness so we can ship raw bitumen across the ocean for Chinese workers to process? Why not talk about building refineries here so that Canadian workers could have jobs refining our own resource for the next 250 years? But that must be a truly radical idea because nobody in the national media seems willing to ask these questions. Remember how not so long ago timber was milled by local workers right here in B.C.?  These days that seems like a radical concept too.

The most disappointing thing to me about the Neil Young media backlash are the small-minded comments by pious patriots who argue, “He’s an American now, he should keep his mouth shut!”

Perhaps it’s been so long since any of us felt connected to our political so-called leadership we’ve forgotten that one of the hallmarks of democracy is the free exchange of ideas. But we live in a new Canada, one where our scientists aren’t allowed to speak publicly and the National Energy Board is now responsible for fish habitat. In the last year the country has gone from having over two million protected streams and waterways to less than 100 — does anybody really believe this is a good idea?

So the next time you feel like complaining about Neil Young, try being thankful instead. It might have been during one of those visits home Neil realized he no longer recognized the country he grew up in and wanted to do something to help. Since then he’s spent a lot of his own money and endured much abuse standing up for the Canada he believes in. What have you done?




  1. Telling your readers that Neil Young is a better Canadian than anyone else is pretty ignorant if you ask me. Why don’t you tell the members of the Canadian Forces, RCMP, paramedics, fire fighters, etc etc etc that. How is this news anyways as it’s very one sided and defensive. What have YOU done to make yourself a true Canadian, besides living here on your high horse.

  2. Dear Gary,

    Thanks for your letter. I’m genuinely flattered; it’s the closest I’ve ever come to receiving fan mail. With respect to the various points you raise, I don’t know how to respond beyond pointing you to Wikipedia:

    Hyperbole (/haɪˈpɜrbəliː/ hy-pur-bə-lee;[1] Greek: ὑπερβολή hyperbolē, “exaggeration”) is the use of exaggeration as a rhetorical device or figure of speech. It may be used to evoke strong feelings or to create a strong impression, but is not meant to be taken literally.

    As for being a TRUE Canadian I claim no special accomplishments beyond the fact I was born here, which as far as I know is the only requirement.

    Best Wishes,


  3. The suggestion that our resources in 20 years will be worth 10 times as much is absurd. Economies are doing more with less oil just like we are using less paper with email.

  4. I think Neil Young isn’t a better Canadian……….he just has the media attention, because he has a strong voice and stands up for what he believes in. He’s simply a human doing the best he can to raise awareness and funds to stand up to the corporate fascism that is influencing our so called democracy. In January 2014 Young raised funds on his ‘Honor the Treaties’ tour to help the Chipewyan people in their court cases against the biased atmosphere. While many say the oil sands aren’t that bad…..they really are……there are statistics and studies have been done…..and ignored by the government, about toxins in the Athabasca river, and about the number of people that have extremely progressive cancers that have lived in that environment for their whole lives. It’s too much money, and too much greed.

    Get up, stand up, stand up for your rights-Bob Marley

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