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Ron James (Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail)
Ron James (Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail)

DRAWN OFF TOPIC

Comedian Ron James on oil pipelines Add to ...

Ron James stars in The Ron James Show , Fridays at 8 ET on CBC.

Where are you from?

I’m a Maritimer, born in Cape Breton, raised in Halifax. I live in Toronto.

You have no western links at all?

No. I’m a Canadian and I care about the environment. You don’t need to have a western link for that, do you?

Canada’s heritage has been as a hewer of wood and a hauler of water, a second-tier country providing resources to the big boys. What’s wrong with that? What’s wrong with piping out and selling our oil?

The folks that are trying to protect the spirit bear in an ecologically sensitive area of B.C. are not against sending energy and oil to Asia – just send it through Vancouver, where there is already a viable link. I’m not against providing energy and oil. We just have to find a balance. It can’t always be about the dollar. Don’t send it through an environmentally sensitive region with a special animal in it. It’s Canada’s rain forest. It’s amazing.

How does a Maritimer living in Toronto get so informed about spirit bears and West Coast ecosystems?

Because I’m fascinated with the country. I’ve been travelling the country non-stop for 17 years. I have a passion for it. There is nothing like a day off in B.C., or any other region in the country, where I can put my boots on and commune with the big wide open, from Gros Morne to Haida Gwaii. We’ve got it, man. Utopia beneath our feet. Don’t foul it up.

On these hikes, have you ever encountered a pipeline?

I have never encountered a pipeline, but I’ve played Fort McMurray! I’ve encountered the proletariat who make a living there and, trust me, brother, Fort McMurray on a Saturday night makes an episode of Deadwood look like church supper at the Waltons.

And the Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta’s oil sands to Texas, do you oppose that?

Of course I’m against it! There are two options now. Why don’t they move it 100 kilometres east like it has been suggested? Who would want to run a pipeline across the Ogallala water reservoir? The people there are motivated. There is a feeling that they are being manipulated and not being told the whole story. Stephen Harper can say it’s a no-brainer to run that pipeline through Nebraska. Why is it a no-brainer? Why isn’t it a no-brainer to save the lands of the spirit bear? I don’t get it.

You get the sense that some of the protesters don’t want pipelines, period. They see Big Oil as evil incarnate.

The bleeding left gets on my nerves, too. I’m a comedian. I’m an equal-opportunity slagger. Look at a commercial from the petroleum producers now. It looks like a Seventh Day Adventist ad! People need fuel. We are a fossil-fuel-based economy. People have to live and people have to work. I’m just looking for balance, man. I don’t think they’re evil, but I think their practices have left a lot to be desired.

Both sides are so entrenched and the consequences so dire: environmental catastrophe or a loss of economic prosperity. Do you see any middle ground?

You have to watch you don’t polarize the parties, but, after a while, you reach your tipping point. You see your line in the sand. You get to be 53: Pick a side! I pick my side with the spirit bear. I pick my side with the farmer trying to grow corn.

Is there any compromise out there at all?

You have to find compromise. You’ve got to bring people to the table to talk to each other. There has to be compromise, but Exxon and the situation in the Gulf with BP – they have been their own worst PR campaign, eh? After a while, you’ve got to hold their hand over the fire.

Do you despair of Ottawa’s doing the right thing? In recent years, Canada has been seen as an environmentally unenlightened country for dragging its feet on greenhouse-gas emissions targets.

I’m an optimist. You have to make your voice heard, don’t you? The country has an unhealthy deference for the status quo. Look, people have to eat, people have to provide for their families. Nobody who is protesting this denies that fact. There has to be enlightenment, and we should not be driven by the bottom line at all costs.

There are other things that matter, like quality of life. You can’t spend all your time gawking at the TV and buying stuff. Every now and then, you’ve got to take a good whiff of the big wide open. Embrace the mystery.

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