Wednesday, March 9, 2011

How to Best Stop Natural Gas Drilling in Quebec? Give the Administrative Regions the Power to Revoke Corporate Personhood.

Like the majority of Quebecois, I feel that we are being taken for a ride when it comes to the drilling for natural gas using the controversial hydofracking process.

Essentially, a toxic mixture of water and known carcinogens are pumped into the ground under high pressure in order to fracture the shale in which the bubbles of natural gas are trapped and thereafter extracted. Trouble is what to do about the fracking fluid that escapes into the ground water and how to treat the leftover fluid that is pumped out into retaining ponds.

A government study was done in record time and is advisory in nature. This means that the government can spin the findings so to appear that it is moving forward with the necessary precautions in place. In my opinion, the citizens of the affected regions have little reason to believe that the government will act with their best interests at heart. Time and time again, the Charest-led Liberals have shown their propensity to reward their financial contributors at the expense of the public good.

If we want to see the precautionary principle put into place with regard to natural gas drilling, we will have to move the locus of decision closer to those who are at risk of having their health and the health of their children adversely affected.

The most effective way to do this is to give the citizens of an administrative region the power to control the manner in which the natural gas is to be exploited, if at all. Corporations that seek to do business within an administrative region must be able to demonstrate that their business activities advance a public good.

If not, the citizens of an administrative region should be able to revoke the corporate personhood of the business entity, thereby stripping the limited liability protection of the officers of the corporation with regard to its activities within the region. That way, the individuals involved in the management of the business assume the responsibility for the corporation's activities, both legally and financially.

Of course, for this to happen it will require the devolution of political power from the province towards its citizens by creating political entities out of the administrative regions. France, Germany, and Switzerland have such regional governments in place.

Elected regional assemblies combined with citizen initiated referendums could help to restore confidence in the democratic process since citizens would have more meaningful ways of participating in the political process that shapes the socio-economic quality of their lives.

As it stands now, we are little more than, to use former Quebec Premier Jacques Parizeau's phrase, lobsters caught in a trap. Our future is determined by those who are far off and who have little concern for our well being.

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