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University of Calgary opens the Enbridge Centre of Corporate Sustainability, satire dies

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When I discovered that Enbridge and the University of Calgary have partnered to launch the Enbridge Centre for Corporate Sustainability, I had to glance at my calendar. March 27. Still four days until April Fool's. It would have been a tremendous joke if they were not dreadfully serious.

Enbridge, as most readers are likely aware, is now infamous for their proposed tragedy known as the Northern Gateway pipeline. Designed to transport millions of barrels of tar sands oil to port, it threatens dozens of local watersheds and a fragile coastal ecosystem, as well as the expansion of the environmental catastrophe that is the Alberta tar sands.

However, if Enbridge first brought us the narrative plot of a pipeline tragedy, they have expanded their repertoire to comedy. Their proposed sponsorship of a supposedly independent research centre cannot but be read as a farce.

How can one take seriously the claim that the Enbridge Centre for Corporate Sustainability will advance the science and practice of balancing environmental, social, and economic considerations, when that corporate funder of that institution is involved in one of the most unbalanced development proposals in Canada.

The development of the tar sands and its related infrastructure is both a local environmental menace and a significant contributor to a global greenhouse gas emissions problem. Further, the subsidization of this development by a federal government that refuses to force the energy industry to internalize the environmental costs of tar sands oil development has radically unbalanced the Canadian economy. Tar sands development is inflating the Canadian dollar to the detriment of established Canadian export industries such as manufacturing.

The University of Calgary president, Elizabeth Cannon, has boldly proclaimed that this "ground-breaking initiative" will contribute to the development and implementation of "sustainable practices" by businesses through "the power of collaboration in fuelling innovation." Her choice of metaphors is provocative and instructive, as the centre is designed to build upon the Haskayne School of Business' established focus on "ethical" leadership, entrepreneurship, and most importantly energy.

This prioritization of the development of energy is remarkably clear in the recently leaked copy of proposed Conservative government changes to the Fisheries Act to weaken fish habitat protection. Further reforms are rumoured to streamline the environmental assessment process to remove barriers to investment and development of the tar sands.

This hardly resonates with a balanced approach -- but it does likely resonate with Enbridge designs for development, as company representatives over the past year have been regularly lobbying the government to support the development of tar sands pipelines.

Thus, it is difficult to believe Enbridge CEO, Pat Daniels, when he suggests the new Enbridge Centre for Corporate Sustainability "will provide a foundation for new business practices and decision making processes needed to develop natural resources in a responsible and sustainable manner."

This doublespeak reverses the very meaning of the term sustainability, and impoverishes our ability to name the most vital concerns regarding the future of our society and our world. As such, we must in no uncertain terms renounce the fraud that is the pairing of the term sustainability with the company Enbridge.

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