Neil Young responds to PMO's defence of oilsands

Neil Young engages in a war of words with the Prime Minister's Office in his support of the First Nations' fight against oilsands expansion.

Singer takes aim at government spokesman's suggestion that even rock stars rely on the oil industry

Neil Young vs. the PMO

9 years ago
Duration 2:45
Neil Young engaged in a war of words with the PMO today in support of the fight against oilsands expansion

When it comes to Canada's oilsands, Neil Young isn't keen to let the Prime Minister's Office have the last word.

A staunch defender of the environment and, lately, First Nations treaty rights against oilsands expansion, Young kicked off his "Honour the Treaties" tour on Sunday. The fundraising tour will support the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) and its fight against Shell Canada's Jackpine mine, approved by regulators last month, as well as other First Nations fighting oilsands projects.

In response to a CBC News query about Young's tour, PMO spokesman Jason MacDonald defended Canada's natural resource sector, saying it is a fundamental part of the country's economy, and then made sly reference to Young's "rock star" lifestyle.

That apparently didn't sit well with Young, who released a statement to say so.

"Our issue is not whether the natural resource sector is a fundamental part of the country, our issue is with the government breaking treaties with the First Nation and plundering the natural resources the First Nation has rights to under the treaties," the statement said. 

It also takes aim at MacDonald's assertion that "even the lifestyle of a rock star relies, to some degree, on the resources developed by thousands of hard-working Canadians every day."

Young questions what rock stars needing oil has anything to do with the government breaking treaties. And then he fires back.

"Of course, rock stars don't need oil," reads the statement.

He points out that he drove his electric car all the way "from California to the tar sands and on to Washington D.C., without using any oil at all," and he's a rock star.

His car's generator runs on biomass, a future fuel Young says Canada should be developing to "save our grandchildren from the ravages of climate-related disasters spawned by the fossil fuel age."

Biomass is biological material from living or recently living organisms, including plants. It can be converted into a wide range of products, including fuel. According to Natural Resources Canada, biomass energy is increasingly seen as a renewable and environmentally friendly alternative to fossil fuels. 

'There are better jobs'

When it comes to the "thousands of hard-working Canadians," Young affirms his respect for them. But, he continues, the issue is with the job they're working on. The oilsands projects are among the dirtiest on the planet, Young says.

"There are better jobs to be developing, with clean energy source industries to help make the world a safer place for our grandchildren," reads the statement.

In response to the PMO statement that the government "recognizes the importance of developing responsibly and sustainably" in continuing to "ensure that Canada's environmental laws and regulations are rigorous," Young offers two more zingers and then drops the mic. 

"When people say one thing and do another, it is hypocrisy. Our Canadian environmental laws don’t matter if they are broken."


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